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Ontario Technoblog

Ontario Emperor technology blog.

This blog has been superseded by the mrontemp blog
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Location: Ontario, California, United States

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Joining the Wired Community to Watch Yourself Face Death

I made an observation on this in someone else's blog, but I'm not linking directly to that blog entry (I have my reasons).

Anyway, let's look at what the Lowell Sun had to say about a recent event:

Taryn Manning says watching TV at her seat as a JetBlue airliner circled the region for three hours before making an emergency landing was the most “out-of-body experience I ever had.”

The film star in Hustle & Flow was among 140 passengers as the plane, which had a crippled nose wheel, touched down safely Wednesday at Los Angeles International Airport. No one was injured.

“When we saw our plane on TV as ‘breaking news' ... it was the most surreal, out-of-body experience I ever had,”....

JetBlue airliners have satellite television monitors installed in the backs of seats. Passengers on the Burbank-to-New York flight watched their own drama unfolding on the news until just before landing....


JetBlue offers a variety of DIRECTV channels on its planes, including several news channels. But its true secret isn't the TV - it's the automation, stupid:

JetBlue, started four years ago by a duo of airline industry veterans who amassed $160 million in capital, began
JetBlue Airways President Dave Barger (right) says he and CIO Jeff Cohen have an ongoing brainstorming session about IT projects that will improve existing business processes.
with a simple plan to offer high-end customer service at low-end prices (averaging $99 each way). So while passenger-facing elements emphasize service and comfort—JetBlue boasted a new fleet of Airbus A320 planes with all-leather upholstery and seat-back TVs when it first flew in 2000—executives have invested heavily in automation, from ticket sales that stress direct-sale Web purchases to electronic tagging on bags.

"They've redefined what is expected of a startup airline," says Stuart Klaskin, a Coral Gables, Fla.-based aviation consultant. "They said, Let's completely wipe the slate clean. And from a technology standpoint and a customer service standpoint, they have done things that most other people in the airline industry have only thought about."

So far, that combination of being a late arriver and early adopter is serving JetBlue well. The airline operates at 70 percent of the cost of the biggest carriers....

In 1984, [JetBlue CEO David] Neeleman cofounded Morris Air, a Salt Lake City-based airline that became the first to offer ticketless travel, a program developed in-house. In 1993, Morris Air was snapped up for $130 million by low-cost leader Southwest Airlines, which picked up the e-ticket tack and brought Neeleman on board as an executive planning committee member. But he lasted just six months, frustrated, he says, by the lack of automation there. "When I got to Southwest, you couldn't even make a reservation on the phone. You were instructed to go to the airport to buy your ticket," Neeleman says. "And they were still using the old mainframe system they had inherited from Braniff."...

In 1984, Neeleman cofounded Morris Air, a Salt Lake City-based airline that became the first to offer ticketless travel, a program developed in-house. In 1993, Morris Air was snapped up for $130 million by low-cost leader Southwest Airlines, which picked up the e-ticket tack and brought Neeleman on board as an executive planning committee member. But he lasted just six months, frustrated, he says, by the lack of automation there. "When I got to Southwest, you couldn't even make a reservation on the phone. You were instructed to go to the airport to buy your ticket," Neeleman says. "And they were still using the old mainframe system they had inherited from Braniff." When he left the Dallas-based airline, then-CEO Herb Kelleher asked him to sign a five-year noncompete agreement....

When his noncompete pact with Southwest expired in 1998, Neeleman sold Open Skies to Hewlett-Packard for an undisclosed amount and began working on the launch of his new company. He raised capital from five previous investors in Morris Air and landed investor George Soros to boot....

Neeleman and [David] Barger made a series of decisions to simplify the business and take advantage of their IT bent.

They developed plans for point-to-point service in high-volume corridors (New York to South Florida, Seattle and L.A.-Long Beach, for example), thus avoiding the costs and business process complications associated with the hub-and-spoke system that major airlines use to reach all markets. "We didn't want to be all things to all people. We wanted to go where we could make money," Neeleman says. So no flights to Chicago yet.

They avoid travel agents (average cost: $14 per ticket). So they set up reservations agents in Utah, where work-at-home operators use voice over IP (VoIP) lines (average cost: $4.50 per ticket). There's also a big Internet reservations push on JetBlue.com (50 cents per ticket). And, of course, all ticketless travel.

They created the industry's first paperless cockpit, equipping pilots and first officers with laptops to access electronic flight manuals and make pre-flight load and balance calculations....

But in a culture so geared up for gadgets, it's also Cohen's responsibility to draw the line between cutting-edge, cool stuff and technology that actually helps pilot JetBlue's financial performance. For example, Cohen quashed wireless check-in at JFK after the airline took over an entire terminal there starting last Thanksgiving. It turned out agents could move people along faster at its 40 counters. "If it doesn't make you efficient, it's not cool," he says....

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