The passenger experience mesh

A thought triggered by a recent flight on jetBlue. Look at the explicit arrangements or alliances the company has entered into:

– Branded inflight mapping by Google;
– Entertainment content by DirecTV, Fox, XM Radio and the New York Times (this last a particularly oddly-nested proposition, the offering’s full name being “Times On Air, presented by the jetBlue Card from American Express”);
– “Coffee” by Dunkin’ Donuts.

I’ve expressed my disappointment around the coffee issue before, of course. But here that sharp, one-note sadness blends into a larger feeling of loss – admittedly mild, but real nonetheless.

For me, anyway, one of the joys of flying in the 1970s was that everything in the cabin was slathered with the airline’s identity: forks, trays, coloring books, headphones. (This was so true that a shot in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey that strikes present-day audiences as being parodic – the one where the orbital stewardess’s Velcro booties are seen to read “PAN AMERICAN IN-FLIGHT SLIPPERS” – was merely factual, or a solid extrapolation, anyway. Too bad Stanley didn’t see deregulation coming.)

Handled properly (and miraculously, it generally was, at least in memory), this kind of branding was a major part of what made the in-flight experience what it was: sleek and optimistic, sheathed everywhere in futuristic glamour. You really did feel you were trying the “Wings of Man” on for size. Even at Tomorrowland, Goodyear and Monsanto were allocated their attractions on a one-to-one basis.

By contrast, what we’re approaching now is a state in which every potentially revenue-generating surface the airframe offers has been pimped out to the high bidder, whether or not the result is a particularly coherent proposition. It feels…like NASCAR.

2 responses to “The passenger experience mesh”

  1. Justin Baum says :

    I can’t help but feel the opposite… maybe its because I was born in the early eighties and missed out on the late 70s flying experience :)

    From a passenger standpoint I find comfort with the familiar brands who specialize in specific services. I would much rather see Google maps than Delta maps. I would much rather see XM Radio than United radio. I trust those brands are leaders in their unique areas.

    Unfortunately when you look at the in-flight services in question they do not stack up to the quality experience you might expect from those brands.

    I may have lost the plot a bit…I understand you are talking about brand experience and less about services. But they are obviously connected. Pulling in the equity of another brand etc etc

    Although, I would probably never order a coffee coolata on a flight… even if it was served to me by Michael Vale himself in the DnD uniform.

    nice post

  2. AG says :

    HAW. Yes, well, my problem isn’t with Dunkin’ qua Donuts. It’s that their swill is undrinkable.

    Or, more properly: it’s undrinkable in any mode other than extra light and sweet. Proper coffee, by contrast, whether or not it actually gets enjoyed this way, is at least in principle consumable black.

    From a passenger standpoint I find comfort with the familiar brands who specialize in specific services.

    There’s some justice in this. If nothing else, it’d make a great circa-“Don’t Worry About The Government” Talking Heads lyric.

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