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JetBlue unveils high-tech terminal Oct. 22; IT as customer service tool

Joseph Eng, executive vice president of JetBlue's systems and technology, said the company will unveil its high-tech terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York Oct.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Joseph Eng, executive vice president of JetBlue's systems and technology, said the company will unveil its high-tech terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York Oct. 22.

The terminal when it launches will be the culmination of one big technology project. JetBlue's terminal at JFK, known as Terminal 5, includes:

  • 40 ticket counters and 65 e-ticket kiosks;
  • 20-lane security checkpoint with family lanes;
  • Wi-Fi throughout the terminal and later on planes in 2009;
  • And self-service options throughout the terminal.

Under the hood, however, JetBlue is looking at those terminal touch points as ways to use information to offer better customer service and drive revenue. And these touch points need to be self-service. "To be a low cost carrier it's in the value proposition to drive down costs, but it's also how customers want to interact with us. When you get to T-5 (Terminal 5) you'll be able to buy more. It's a convenience, customer service and revenue generator," said Eng.

Eng in an interview with Gartner analysts Barbara Gomolski and Patrick Meehan at the Symposium ITxpo in Orlando, spoke a lot about business alignment, which is a big topic for JetBlue. The airline has tweaked its technology org chart repeatedly and at one point had a former CIO reporting to a marketing executive. Eng was named to his role in March and reports to Russ Chew, the airline's president and operating chief. Duffy Mees, CIO of JetBlue, reports to Eng. The structure is designed to connect the business an IT at the hip.

Indeed, Eng said that as an IT leader you have to be tight with the CFO. "You need to play in that space to evaluate business cases," said Eng.

The business case for JetBlue at the moment revolves around information management. Eng wants to ultimately create a market of one for each customer. He spoke about reaching customers directly in their seats and using its DirecTV screens as an information platform. Eng acknowledged that there may be a point where privacy is an issue, but JetBlue would test the idea with customers first.

Eng noted that the entertainment screens in its seats can be a customer service tool. "I know you were on a flight, what seat and can push connecting information, gate and status to you," said Eng. But when asked if that market of one can go too far, Eng said it's possible. "It could be a privacy issue if push information to your seatback console."

A more likely change will come when JetBlue uses Wi-Fi on its planes and pushes information--connecting flights, gates, delays etc.--to customers on laptops and mobile devices.

Among other topics:

  • Eng said he isn't into a big development organization, but needs to retain talent and recruit IT workers that are more business oriented. "There's a lot buy vs. build and a lot of packaged environments," said Eng.
  • JetBlue has a new RFP out for a new reservation system. Eng said he plans to buy the system instead of build one (airlines typically build these systems). The value added connections to the system will focus on the integration with revenue management analysts at JetBlue.
  • Projects are measured on revenue generation for the business more than timelines. "In IT you can make a dramatic difference on the bottom line," said Eng.

Also see: JetBlue fiasco: A database could have made a difference

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