Connecting at 30,000 Feet

This week’s blog post started at 30,000 feet. After three hours on the plane (heading from Boston to Denver), the pilot announced that we were already starting to make the turn to head back to Boston due to poor weather conditions in Denver. I was listening and watching for panic to set in around me. Who would be the first person to ignore the “fasten your seatbelt” sign and stand up in outrage? Who would press their button to call the flight attendant? Who would start swearing and scaring the small children on the plane? To my surprise, no one! I wish I had been recording the reaction, but within seconds of the pilot’s announcement everyone in my row and those in front of me had pulled out their device of choice and started logging into Wifi (thank you @Jetblue). The plotting, planning, and communicating that followed at 30,000 feet allowed everyone to remain calm and before we even landed people were talking about the next flight they booked or explaining that they contacted their family and everyone is aware of the new plan.

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I have to imagine that without wifi and without our personal devices, the plane would have been in an uproar and the poor flight attendants would have been battling booming voices just to admit that they didn’t have any answers. Thanks to the digital age, I had a calm, albeit bummed out, flight home. At one point, one passenger announced that the Denver airport’s twitter account said that the airport was actually open, but the pilot later updated everyone to let them know that with 2 inches of snow coming in every hour and low visibility, the airport had officially closed and planes were no longer allowed to land.

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Looking at Denver Airport’s twitter feed today, I’m beyond impressed with the constant updates they were providing yesterday as well as the replies they were tweeting in order to keep customers informed and happy. What a difference it makes that they were not only transparent, but doing their best to personally respond to customer concerns. In this case social media was able to improve efficiency at the airport, provide better customer service, and in general provide more, real-time awareness about ongoing issues that effected a wide range of people (employees, customers, public safety workers, taxi drivers, etc).

This experience got me thinking about the ways in which travel has improved as a result of current digital capabilities. It’s safe to say that as far as ground transportation is concerned, GoogleMaps and Waze has improved our routes and timing, reduced the number of speeding tickets some of us might have otherwise received (thank you @Waze), and planned better.

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But when it comes to air travel, what benefits now exist? We’re no longer on hold for hours at a time to make a flight reservation, confirm if our flight is on time, reschedule a flight, or to cancel reservations.

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We no longer have to print or keep track of our tickets as we can use email, a specific airline’s app, or Apple Wallet at keep our digital ticket on us at all times.

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Everything is available at a push of a button – how lucky are we? I can use Wifi, no matter where I am in the world, to find the best places to eat, popular sightseeing spots, and the best museums and hotels.

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(Seriously though, if you ever find yourself in Florence, Italy you will be doing yourself a disservice by not making a reservation at La Giostra. I had the meal of my life there!)

At 30,000 feet, travelers can make new or different travel arrangements, they can let those waiting for them on the ground know the new plan, they can send that email that just can’t wait, and they can rest at ease knowing that they can be connected if you need to be. From a customer service standpoint, when airports and airlines are connected to travelers at all points of their journey (some even before their journey begins) allows for a smoother experience for all involved.

14 comments

  1. Great post! As I flew home for Easter break, I also noticed some new ways in which travel experiences are being improved by our increasing abilities to “go social.” There was a sign in the security line at Logan that indicated that if travelers had any questions, they could tweet at @AskTSA. Had I had any concerns about whether a certain liquid was an acceptable size, I could simply have tweet a picture to this account and hopefully gotten an answer before I reached the front of the line and disrupted all the people behind me. It is also very reassuring now that certain aircrafts have Wifi on board. Those who are afraid of flying or have concerned friends or family back home can now keep in constant contact with those back home. There is less of a sense of isolation, which is certainly beneficial for all flyers.

  2. Very relevant post! I totally agree that airlines have made massive strides towards improving their online service for their customers. I would also point out that all the improvement has come very recently, and that there was a large gap in between the time when the demand for this kind of service came about and when the demand was satisfied. Another point is that not only does this enhance the customer’s experience by making everything easier, but it also helps the airlines and airports from an operations standpoint, who no longer have to deal with congestion and long lines.

  3. I loved this article! It was my favorite one that I read this week! I love how you incorporated such a real scenario and took us through your thought process. I was surprised that no one freaked out or moaned and groaned, that’s technology for you! This situation reiterates a concept I learned in Operations last week. People are more willing to wait in long lines if they are distracted, weather that be by a mirror or technology. I enjoyed how you incorporated the Denver twitter account and different ways technology has changed flying!

  4. I really loved this post! I often fly from Boston to SF and back and am always so beyond grateful when WiFi is available on the plane (and especially when it’s free)! I can only imagine how much you appreciated having WiFI once you learned that your flight had to turn back to Boston. I could not agree more that digital capabilities have completely revolutionized the travel industry. As much of a hassle that traveling can be at times, these digital capabilities make things much easier than they used to be. I hope (and think) that more digital developments will continue to make the traveling experience easier. BTW, I studied abroad in Florence and La Giostra is the most amazing restaurant!!!

  5. Nice post Sarah! I think that this a very good example of how airlines and even airports have adopted social media to their benefit. There have been so many incidents in years past where people get trapped on planes on the runway for hours with no clue what is going on and no information. It is nice to see that the airline industry has learned from these past events. Clearly the weather is something that is out of the airline industries control, but I think that using social media as you described in this post can go a long way too keep customers happy. Before Wifi on planes I am sure this event would have been a disaster.

  6. It’s funny that I’m reading this post because I feel like I have recently been talking about this exact topic! Whenever I use my GoogleMaps in the car for directions all I can picture is back in the day when people had to carry maps and hold the big map in the car trying to figure out where they were going! I just laugh when I think about that. I also think your airport example is interesting, especially because of the amount of times we have talked about in class companies failing to respond fast enough to issues on social media. The Denver airport did the opposite, effectively utilizing social media! Thanks for the insights and I’m glad people on your plane remained calm because that certainly could’ve ended poorly!

  7. I liked this post. It’s well written and spotlights an interesting issue. This is a great example of how new technology has made our lives drastically better than they were before. When these situations happened 20 years ago customers would have been much angrier. It also shows how certain organizations utilize social media to optimize their customers experiences. Good for JetBlue for being on top of things with regards to social media.

  8. Great post! It’s great how you narrate your experience of what could be a panic scenario and ended up with calmed people just because of the possibility to communicate with the outside world. It’s amazing how in a few years the world population have been more and more interconnected. What would have happened if you didn’t have wifi on board? I would imagine the families of the people travelling in your plane quite worried… Social media is the answer once again. Great customer service and great reaction.

  9. Definitely a well-written post with an engaging topic. Reminds me a lot of the frequent bus and train trips from Boston to New York. Megabus typically has some wifi, and so does Amtrak, but BoltBus and PeterPan have been known for wifi-less trips. I fly fairly often, but I guess I’m not a frequent Jetblue guy because I don’t access wifi from the air. What you highlighted seems very subtle, but I’m glad you wrote about it because its relevance is key to our class. Often we don’t consider social’s implications for our own emotions/reactions, but clearly without wifi, the plane jumps into chaos. I’m sure we will take these things much more for granted down the road as the digital world progresses. Cheers, and thank you for the read!

  10. Very uplifting thoughts on your way to denver. (that was a cannabis joke, is america ready for those yet? or are they still taboo?) I too have noticed how different the flying experience has been within the last last year, and i think we are moving in the right direction. A few months ago @babamikey and I took a flight to Tampa and it was the first time we used digital tickets rather than printed ones. We were amazed by the convenience and eco-friendliness! On top of that, wifi and outlets in the cabin? i no longer need a bottle of nyquill before i fly. Bravo

  11. Really great post. Had not even considered the wifi implications of organizing the alternative plans in flight. Really fabulous that Jetblue already makes it free. They are doing a great job in this space!

    PS. Just tweeted. Wonder if we can get @jetblue to pick up the story.

    1. Thanks, Professor Kane! I replied to your tweet and @jetblue liked it. We’ll see if they pick it up.

  12. Awesome post, I think what truly stresses people out is the lack of information. in today’s day and age, having the connection to everyone from anywhere makes things easier to handle. And the fact that planes have wifi now helps that case. When i used to travel, I would have to have the whole tripped planned ahead of time and i felt like things had to be printed out and finalized or I would be screwed. I actually just got back from a trip to Chicago where i literally had nothing planned. Booked my tickets, got a hotel when i got there, used “around me” and “uber” to bounce around and see what was worth seeing, and just went with the flow. 10 years ago you would NEVER do that.

  13. Sounds like quite the struggle. Thanks for sharing and I enjoyed your optimistic view on the situation. It was refreshing — Jetblue really has been carrying a great reputation.

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