Is JetBlue’s IFE Personalization Creepy?

Filed Under: JetBlue, Travel Technology

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

@WandrMe Tweeted about the JetBlue inaugural Airbus A220 flight from Boston to Tampa, noting how each screen showed the first name of the passenger assigned to that seat.

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

@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.

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.

Bottom line

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?

Comments
  1. One thing I like is that this could potentially let those in the wrong seat catch themselves before it causes a small delay in boarding. If I sit down and see “Hello, Linda”, I’d probably check my boarding pass and confirm I’m in the right seat.

  2. While I don’t see it hugely problematic, I don’t really see much value. Just get rid of it. Let me order food/drinks directly from the screen and remember what I like next time.

  3. If they could integrate an interface with the streaming providers you use, that would be a useful form of personalisation.
    Then you would be able to continue watching a series which you started at home or on your private device on the IFE.

  4. Just put the SEAT NUMBER on the screen during boarding. That’d help people avoid picking the wrong seat as often, without compromising anyone’s privacy.

  5. “People are stretching really far trying to find things to be concerned over. ” agree
    If this was the biggest issue in my life that my seatmate knows my first name,… I wouldn’t have to take Valium so often.

    Gate calls you by your full name, the Flight attendant says my name, Hotel front desk person greets me by my name, …

  6. Another reason for no IFEs. Bad for the environment, constant interruptions for credit card pitches and useless announcements, and now the grandma from Wisconsin can address me by name when offering her weird ziplocked trail mix.

    A fix: let people opt-in and create a nickname to be displayed. “Hola, BigD42069”.

  7. Just because a creep can find other ways to be creepy and make other passengers feel unsafe doesn’t mean the airline should make it any easier. This is doubly true for a feature that doesn’t really provide any benefit other than being a little cute.

  8. Just wait I’ll the screens deadname a trans person due to their legal ticket name being pretransition.

    They’ll be cancelled.

  9. @Simon +1

    As a woman, I definitely see this a safety/security/harassment issue – I don’t need for seatmate to know my name.

  10. I don’t see the value add so for that reason alone get rid of it. It can only cause harm (albeit often not serious) with no positive effects.

    It’s a little creepy (in an irrational way perhaps) too.

    If IFE could remember where I stopped watching a movie or something then there’s some value add (despite the data-mining and privacy erosion that would result).

  11. Don’t see an issue with this, this is the new marketing strategy adopted by all and will continue to grow in coming years. JetBlue will study your likes, preferences, orders etc etc and will try to personalize the experience for your the next time you fly. Will probably send this info to third party marketing companies for ads etc. Displaying first name doesn’t matter much, many like that personal touch, it’s your interaction with the IFE that exposes you more !

  12. First off it was glitchy at best, I know I was on the flight. It worked for my seatmate but not me on the way down, it then said my name on the return to boston. Anyway the Thales Avant is worse compared to the IFE from Rockwell Collins on Delta’s A220’s. Again weird because jetBlue’s seat is from Rockwell Collins.

  13. I once heard a fairly famous person paged by their full name at MSP — and it was indeed that famous person, as I later saw her board. I was surprised there wasn’t more discretion taken.

    Some sort of IFE login isn’t a terrible idea — I believe SQ does something like this on their newer planes to let you pick up a movie where you left off on your connecting flight, etc., which has some value, but it seems like there must be a better way to do it than this.

  14. First names aren’t security issues, so the snowflakes can cease melting down over this right now. It’s a personal touch and well intentioned. Probably unnecessary, and likely to be temporary. Still, it shows that JetBlue is trying to be welcoming.

  15. I am never, under any circumstances, addressed by my legal first name unless its a person/company that doesn’t know me trying to sound personal. In reality, nothing sounds less personal than calling me by me legal first name because it indicates that you’ve never met me. I don’t “need” to be addressed as Mr., but at least it’s accurate. I suspect JetBlue will be getting rid of this as quick as they implemented it.

  16. If one of the biggest concerns of someone is to have their first name show up on a TV screen, then why even fly? Your name could be paged at any moment at the airport, at the check in desk, for some passengers with status.

    Seriously, this makes the system feel more personalized, worrying that it says his name is just overall unnecessary.

  17. This could be quite risky for those with unique or less common first names. My wife works in law enforcement and it is amazing how much info is simply gleaned from Google and other open-access sources about people by knowing their first name and city. If your name is Luzviminda and you live in your departure or destination city, stalker creep next to you could be waiting for you at your home that night. Not an overstatement

  18. Perhaps their goal is to allow you to personalize your PTV before the flight. Before your flight and at the gate, you can go through the selection of movies/shows on your account, select the ones you want to see, and by the time you get to your seat and confirm it’s you, those selections are at the top of the list.

    Could also come in handy if you have to change flights during a layover and maybe didn’t get through a movie or show completely. When you board your second flight, it can pick up where you left off.

    Anyway, I hope that’s at least the goal of these more personal seatback TV options. Just saying your name out loud for all to read is more of a gimmick at this point.

  19. There is a big difference between having your name called at the gate, check in, etc. vs. having it displayed when you are stuck next to a potentially harassing seatmate or near neighbor for an hours-long flight.

  20. This is crazy. When I am flying, I have the rights to remain anonymous from the people sitting next to or behind me. Even if my seatmate started talking and asked my name, I usually just give a form of my first name. It is no body’s business to know my name unless I want to give it out, whether it is a security issue or not is irrelevant.

    As to people saying that they will page your name or show your first name on the monitor for the upgrade list, that is a totally different issue. People may heard your name but they are just sitting in the waiting area and usually will not associate you to the name. Very different from someone sitting next to you for a few hours. If you are famous, than it is a different story.

    It is a no to me.

  21. Air New Zealand has done this for many years but give the option to frequent flyers of exactly how their name appears or wished to be addressed on the IFE. Go figure that some interesting titles come up.

  22. Respectfully, what percentage of fliers are “trans and haven’t yet legally changed their name”?

    Twitter is not representative of mainstream views or concerns.

    I agree, it should be Seat Number instead (I think other airlines do this). If you want to personalize, have folks log in with their FF number.

  23. I do agree that a computer being able to put 2 and 2 together and linking someone’s first name to their seat assignment does nothing for me. But in the same regard, what can be gained by knowing someone’s first name? A man who wants to hit on a woman is going to do so whether he knows her first name or not.

    As a point of comparison, how about when people throw away junk mail or throw out an opened amazon box? Do they take the time to rip off the labels? My guess is probably not, even though it has your full name and address on it.

  24. So many responses that are equivalent to “Catcalling? What’s the big deal? It’s a compliment!”

    Gross.

  25. I would not want my kids’ names shown. Security pros talk about not doing things like putting names on backpacks because it gives strangers a level of familiarity with kids that isn’t real. And it seems like a particularly big risk for unaccompanied minors.

    The other thing that stands out is the fact a carrier would broadcast passenger names while I can recall several stories (and have had my own personal experience) with airline staff going out of their way to not provide a first name when they failed to meet service standards.

  26. People should stop complaining for everything, The airlines did this back in the old days with Business cabin, Flight Attendants would greet passengers by their name when boarding even if it’s the first time they met, jetBlue is not the first one, Air New Zealand has been doing this for years already and Honestly no, for me it’s not, since pretty much the system knows where you’re seated and it’s on the flight manifest, it’s a nice touch honestly, hotels like Hyatt do that too, once you arrive at your room you’ll notice the TV is on with your name on it! People complain about privacy but forget that Facebook exist and they use it‍♂️ The same with Mail , do people take the time to rip off the shipping label containing their address and full name before trashing it? No they don’t! “Oh no, the flight attendant has my name on the aircraft iPad, that’s a safety concern for me” NO ITS NOT, they have it because it’s on the flight manifest and they NEED TO KNOW who’s seated in each seat!

  27. It’s probably been done to facilitate the new transatlantic meal service that requires seat back ordering.
    Given that legacy carries display upgrade stand by lists on boarding screens, I wonder what the fuss is about. If it is however a pain point for customers, all it will take is a tweak in the UI- they can place the name more discreetly or of course use the surname- although that does go against their vibe.
    Frankly, I would cut them slack given that innovation entails taking some risks.

  28. Wow, people just really like to complain. So now a woman suddenly prefers “baby” or “girl” (or worse) over their own name when being harassed by some jerk? It’s not as as if not knowing your name stops them, does it?

    Sad to see so many people this discontent in life that this non issue bothers them.

  29. I love and hate this.
    I like the personalization but not for public display. Also, from an IT view, it is NIGHTMARE (new field to track preferred name, APIs to update the name displayed based on seat changes, aircraft changes, etc).

    I would like airlines to store my preferences such as what I want to drink (Diet Coke in the afternoon and Coffee with one cream in the morning) and eat (Sweets & Blues, two bags). This would save money as they could load closer to what people want and are likely to use (greener too), personalize the experience (when the FA gets to me say “Ben, Good afternoon, would you like a Diet Coke and two Sweets & Blues?”, plus build actual meaningful and repeatable loyalty for those who are members and not members of the frequent flyer program.

    Thinking about the data collected and how is it used is key. Ben likes Diet Coke, Sweets & Blues, has an iPad, iPhone, and Mac Book Pro, checks one bag, likes an aisle, wants the TV to be a map, etc can really add value. Having my iPad, iPhone, and Mac ZBook Pro’s MAC address to auto-connect to WiFi on the plane and my order without me doing anything is GOLDEN and makes me loyal without a frequent flyer program (don’t care, buy First or whatever works best).

  30. I’ve just seen a video report from the innaugural flight, and it seems that the passenger’s name is only shown at the screen once their mobile is paired up with the system, which is way better than having your name against your will.
    It is still a problem for those who don’t want their name shown at all on the screen, but at least, it’s something that is optional.

  31. If B6 wants to do this, they need to give customers the option to OPT OUT at a system level before they ever roll it out.
    And a number of airlines, with Delta leading the industry, eliminating paging passenger names for many functions in the gatehouse of their largest airports by using a gate information screen which uses only a portion of your name.

    People want as much control as possible over their travel experience which is a loss of control for many; plenty of people do not want even their first name made known even remotely public. That is their choice and it should be respected.

  32. Again since people are freaking tf out over this, IT ONLY SAYS IT ONCE AT THE BEGINNING. Once you tap the screen it goes away. Even if the screen times out or you turn it off, once you tap it to come back it doesn’t show your name again. I was on the inaugural flight both ways. People need to relax regarding things they know nothing about and are going ballistic about based on hearsay.

  33. I love how some people just like to complain. It’s just a first name that shows up and most peoples names are all over their luggage tags for all to see anyway. If you’re traveling with someone they probably will say your first name once or twice as well. Lol I think it is cool and plus it will help the confused people ( and you know there is always one) know if they’re in the wrong seat quickly.

  34. Bgriff says:
    April 29, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    I once heard a fairly famous person paged by their full name at MSP — and it was indeed that famous person, as I later saw her board. I was surprised there wasn’t more discretion taken.

    =====

    How is the person doing the page supposed to know that Mr Clint Eastwood or Mr Ted Cruz is the real one or someone with the same name and be more discrete about it>

    Would making the announcement “could the passenger who possibly starred in Dirty Harry please come to the assistance desk” or “can the junior senator from Texas pick up the courtesy phone?” be any better?

  35. It’s kind of fascinating that every commenter who’s said “What’s the big deal” has a male name.

  36. I’m a 20 year old gay guy and I’m apparently not “woke” enough to understand the issue. I’ve sat next to some creepy guys who try to talk to me, I don’t think seeing my name for a split second on boarding is going to change that/make them more aggressive.

  37. The name part is really no big deal. The birthday however is since many financial institutions used that as part of their secondary security identification. 2nd it’s probably a pointless feature for customers. Will Make the airline look bad knowing how poorly their reservation systems Link to other system. It will be error prone whenever a flight is cancelled or changes made within 24hrs.

    But i bet this has nothing to do with value to the customer and more likely a future implementation of targeted ad revenue for airlines.

  38. In my opinion You need to to make the difference between when a name is written somewhere for everyone to read (this IFE, upgrade lists, …) or when it is said out loud (gate, on board). I would prefer not to see my name written out but I am ok when it is said (most of the time wrongly 😉 )

  39. They should let passengers pick names.

    I might pick “James Bond”, “008”, or some hard name to say. How about Subramaniyamo Chaleunphonenamaga? (Name made up)

  40. It’s just a basic privacy issue. Looks like a group of twenty somethings in a marketing meeting thought this was a clever idea and none of them had the common sense or life experience to see how it might be problematic. It’s overly familiar apart from anything else. That might be ok in US culture but to many other cultures it just comes across as rude. Stick to a seat number display which would be far more useful. Reboot this stupid idea JetBlue.

  41. It annoys me when I get marketing/spam emails with my first name put in the subject, this would piss me off no end.
    I’d just put Lord Buckethead, Krusty, Homer or something…. (but not APU, or I’d get cancelled)

  42. I value privacy over personalization. This latest “travel enhancement” from JBLU is a swing-and-a-miss in my book.

  43. I can’t see this being allowed on their flights to Europe. Germany especially is far stricter on personal privacy than the USA, Google street view barely got started in Germany before being blocked by privacy laws.

  44. OMG! Now people are offended and/or victimize by calling them by their first name. Really!!??

    Everyone knows that Twitter is an echo chamber of sniveling hipsters. Next time they should just book your travels on greyhound.

  45. If this was going to be a problem, someone would have had a problem with it decades ago.

    No one on Twitter complains about the flight attendant using their name in premium cabins, and lets not pretend that creeps only sit at the back of the bus. And even in Economy, high tier frequent flyers often get addressed by name.

    That said, they do hide full names on the upgrade/standby lists…

  46. “or perhaps they’re trans and haven’t yet legally changed their name”
    Is this now a comedy blog or a left blog?

  47. I like how United does it. First three letters of your last name plus first initial up on the upgrade\standby screen. There is no reason for anyone to know anyone’s first name and this is unnecessary. No benefit to the flyer.

    Just put the seat number.

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