Innovation in Motion

by Braden Kelley

Why is it so hard for airlines to innovate?

I just came across a site called flightaware.com that shows you the exact location of all airline flights. Why is this so great?

Well, as a business traveller, knowing about flight delays ahead of the masses (even before the airline is likely to alert you), allows you to jump the queue to switch flights before it becomes a stampede. This is an incredibly powerful tool that may just get you home in time for your daughter’s piano recital.

So, why didn’t the airlines launch this first? They’ve got IT budgets, hundreds or probably thousands of times larger than this startup, plus decades of industry knowledge. They should have unparalleled insights into the mind of the air traveller, yet they missed this. For sure they have access to this same data, if not even better sources, yet they have not been able to envision the consumers’ desire for such a solution. Instead, we sit there in the dark at the gate waiting for new information about whether we will be home in time for our son’s soccer game or our wife’s birthday, only to receive a text message about a delay once we’re on the plane and shutting off our phone for takeoff.

Why is air travel getting worse not better? Shouldn’t we be making progress? Instead we’re stuck with dirty airplanes, bathrooms that smell like outhouses, shrinking legroom, and airlines gaming the statistics, resulting in passengers being imprisoned on the tarmac for hours to ensure an “on time” departure. The free market is failing the consumer so badly that the consumer has asked Congress to step in and legislate a passenger bill of rights. There is growing support for re-regulating the industry. I heard a conversation just the other day of people complaining about United and how difficult it is for them to redeem their hard-earned miles and how it is souring them on the airline. A loyalty program that makes your customers upset doesn’t sound like a very good investment to me. Don’t airlines want to delight customers and win customer loyalty? Why is competition not leading to innovation?

What do you think?


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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a Social Business Architect and the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden is also a popular innovation speaker and trainer, and advises companies on embedding innovation across the organization and how to attract and engage customers, partners, and employees.

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