- JetBlue’s purchase of Spirit Airlines provides a great opportunity to improve the budget carrier’s customer experience
- Airlines need to humanize air travel and think of their customers as people, not just dollars.
- Spirit must create a smooth experience across channels to reduce frustration and redundancies.
In what may seem like an uneven partnership, JetBlue is set to purchase Spirit Airlines.
One airline is known for its amazing customer focus, while the other is a bare-bones ultra-low-cost flier. Customer service scores find these two airlines on opposite ends of the spectrum. In 2022, JetBlue led all airlines with an ACSI score of 79 (4 points above the airline industry as a whole), while Spirit brought up the rear with a score of 63. JetBlue also tops customer satisfaction scores in many other areas, including J.D. Powers and Travel + Leisure. Spirit doesn’t even get a mention.
The acquisition comes at a rough time for air travel, when frustrated customers, canceled flights, and high ticket prices weigh the industry down. Air travel will get worse before it gets better, but the JetBlue/Spirit partnership could provide opportunities to improve Spirit’s customer experience and create a larger customer-focused airline.
Here are three CX lessons JetBlue can teach Spirit Airlines that apply to all companies.
Humanize Air Travel
The draw for many customers to Spirit Airlines is its ultra-low fares. But the price of lower fares is often getting nickel and dimed in other areas, including paying for drinks, snacks, checked bags and carry-ons, and even to print a boarding pass. The process feels formulaic and like Spirit is trying to get as much money out of each passenger instead of creating a pleasant experience.
But passengers aren’t just numbers and dollar signs; they’re people.
Every decision JetBlue makes has passengers at the center. The airline takes an empathetic stance by including perks and features people want, including live TV, spacious seating, and in-flight WiFi. Instead of scraping by with the bare minimum, JetBlue goes above and beyond to make the flying experience easier, more convenient, and more comfortable for its passengers.
There’s a reason JetBlue customers are incredibly loyal—they feel like people when they fly. They aren’t just seat assignments or dollar signs but real people.
Build a Smooth Experience Across Channels
Today’s travelers want a smooth experience in every aspect of their airline experience, from booking a flight to picking up their bags. Nothing adds frustration to a trip like struggling to access a booking confirmation or boarding pass. JetBlue’s technology-driven approach creates a smooth experience across whatever channels customers choose.
At every potential roadblock or friction point is a proactive digital solution, ranging from kiosks to intuitive apps that empower customers with self-service options. The JetBlue app prepopulates each customer’s information, preferences, and flights to save repetitive time entering the same information. JetBlue also uses a unique six-digit PNR for each customer instead of requiring people to remember and continually enter long ticket numbers.
By leading with technology, JetBlue creates more efficiency and reduces frustration and redundancies for passengers and employees.
Empower and Engage Employees
Employees always impact the customer experience, especially in air travel, when so many individual employees can make or break a person’s experience. From the gate agent to the flight attendant, passengers can sense when employees enjoy their jobs and want to serve customers versus when they’re just there to get a paycheck.
JetBlue’s goal to humanize air travel starts with an internal culture of respect, trust, and communication. Every JetBlue employee, no matter their position or seniority, is called a “crewmember” to signify their importance to the company’s overall goal: creating great air travel experiences.
Employees are encouraged and empowered to go above and beyond to help customers. Instead of being forced to follow strict rules, employees can do what they feel is right to help customers and provide a fantastic experience. Employees regularly receive training to stay updated on current issues, technology, and processes so they have the tools to do their jobs well.
In the competitive airline industry, customer experience is often the deciding factor between airlines. As JetBlue and Spirit merge into an unlikely partnership, JetBlue has an incredible opportunity to lead with CX and expand its customer-centricity to Spirit Airlines.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience keynote speaker. She was called “The Queen of Customer Experience” by Meta. Sign up for her weekly email newsletter here.