JetBlue is getting quite a bit of criticism for its attempt to personalize seatback entertainment screens. While personalization is usually considered to be a positive, perhaps this is where it crosses the line.
JetBlue TV screens greet you by name
The screen reads “Hi, [first name]!” and then there’s a prompt asking you to confirm that this is in fact you:
- If you state that it’s not you, then the prompt disappears
- If you state that it is you, then there’s the option to enter your last name and date of birth; I suppose in theory there may be future opportunities for customization by linking your TrueBlue account, etc., though it’s not entirely clear what the benefit of this is as of now
The personalized IFE experience on the @thalesgroup AVANT platform is pretty cool. Watching Yamila up a couple rows up see that for the first time was fun. She was truly impressed. #paxex pic.twitter.com/wO2Zi7fz7N
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) April 26, 2021
@WandrMe even notes how “watching Yamila up a couple of rows up see that for the first time was fun,” which perhaps gets at the concerns that some people have.
There are dozens and dozens of responses, and they’re almost entirely negative.
Just going to note that I would really prefer if the seatback IFE didn't display my name in huge letters for my seatmates to read.
Going to guess this was not designed by a woman who's had a man try to spend the entire flight talking to her when she just wants to work. https://t.co/euYoEFRld5
— wendy knox everette (@wendyck) April 26, 2021
— Sarah (@apiary) April 28, 2021
Is this kind of personalization problematic?
We always hear airline executives talk about how they want to create a more customized experience, though suffice to say that this is probably not the type of customization people were asking for. While JetBlue is the first airline in the US to do this, it’s not the first airline globally, as Air New Zealand has similarly customized inflight entertainment in the past.
People on Twitter express a variety of concerns, though the most common seem to be:
- Women have to deal with a lot more creeps on planes than guys do, and now in addition to being stuck next to a stranger, they’re potentially going to be addressed by name
- Many people don’t go by their legal first name, whether they simply prefer to use a different name, or perhaps they’re trans and haven’t yet legally changed their name
I think those are totally valid points, and I have a few more things to add.
First of all, customization is only useful if it delivers extra value to customers, and that’s something travel brands often overlook. A computer being able to display what person is assigned what seat doesn’t impress me. What added functionality is there even with this customization?
There absolutely could be value in being able to log into your TrueBlue account through the IFE, but then it should be a voluntary move that the passenger initiates, rather than the other way around.
Given the backlash there is to this, I’m curious how you guys feel about what I’d view as much bigger privacy violations by airlines. Ultimately these screens “just” display your first name, and there’s only so much you can find out about someone that way (though again, I totally get how it can make a creep even creepier). Meanwhile what about how airlines publicly state peoples’ last names, or sometimes even full names, for everyone to hear?
- Airlines will often page passengers at the gate, sometimes stating both their first and last name twice, and then it’s pretty obvious who that person is when they walk up to the podium
- In premium cabins, flight attendants are encouraged to address passengers by name, and often you’ll get a flight attendant who talks loudly, to the point that everyone in a premium cabin could hear everyone else’s name
At a minimum I think airlines need a better solution for getting ahold of people in the terminal, because announcing someone’s full name for everyone in the area to hear seems like a real privacy violation, if you ask me.
JetBlue is getting quite a bit of backlash for displaying first names on seatback monitors for its newest aircraft. People have privacy concerns about this, which I can’t blame them for.
I think the concerns are totally valid, especially when you consider that as of now this personalization isn’t actually being used to customize the experience in a meaningful way.
What do you make of JetBlue’s seatback TV personalization — is it cool or creepy?