Monday, May 05, 2008

Research takes time

Nearly 8 weeks have passed since the last post on my blog. In 8 weeks a lot can happen, especially in this industry. My excuse is that I had to put the finishing touches on my PhD research and complete the 300 page dissertation.
The results will be slowly posted on this site. Rather than inundating readers with a barrage of new information I hope to post findings with discussions, and hopefully a debate and commentary will follow.
All the latest news-hitting headlines these past few weeks is old news, but one interesting tidbit I read about is Silverjet mobile. Silverjet, one of the last few standing business class-only airlines, based in the UK, has launched a mobile service for passengers. This feature stands out among others because it really allows passengers to manage their flight from their mobile devices. Check-in via mobiles is available from various carriers, but Silverjet allows passengers to actually book flights, select seats, and choose meals. This type of function will most likely eventually find its way into nearly all airlines as passengers feel increasingly at ease with self-service. As airlines push more and more passengers into self-service lanes this opens up the potential for carriers to provide focus on those passengers who may not be able to use such features. The elderly or handicapped spring to mind. Self-service innovations help to drive down costs and increase efficiency at airlines, however it does also open up opportunities for airlines to shower attention on those who are not able to service themselves. It is interesting that an all-business class airline, such as Silverjet, implements a self-service innovation. Luxury may not always entail a human touch. As a frequent traveler and early technology adopter I am more than happy if I am able to service myself, especially since it often feels faster and more convenient. One pet peeve is that it would be beneficial if airlines, handling companies, and security measure can one day mesh to allow a self-service baggage drop. Standing in line the other day at an airport I could not help but overhear the conversation of those in front, who had checked in at the CUSS in the airport only to end up in a 25 minute line to drop off a bag. The agent was working as fast as possible, however sometimes a human touch may lead to a slowdown.
Silverjet mobile may also bring the airline closer with its customers. It is wrong to assume that a passenger's flight ends when stepping out of the cabin on the jetway. In a passenger's mind a flight may end once the baggage is collected or once out of the airport. Some may argue that a flight is over when a passenger has forgotten about it; in other words, if a passenger has an awful experience and is fuming over their last flight then it's still not over. The airline may still have an opportunity to express empathy over a bad experience. Once the passenger has forgotten the awful experience then the airline's delayed remorse may be too little, too late. With mobile technology an airline may be able to integrate its operations with its customer relations and be sure to send that customer off with a smile, even on the way out of the baggage claim or from the airport.