When you think of good customer service, Amazon and Zappos may come to mind, but a major commercial airline may not. JetBlue is working to change that perception by incorporating new technologies that focus on improving customer service, streamlining transactions and making flights more enjoyable.\nThe customer-facing technology transformation at JetBlue ramped up three years ago with the appointment of its new CIO, Eash Sundaram. He says JetBlue needed to be about customer service and technology as much as it was about getting passengers to their destinations.\n\u201cWe think of ourselves as a customer service company that happens to fly planes,\u201d says Sundaram. \u201cSo when you think of the customer service aspect of JetBlue, it\u2019s all about personalization and how we take care of customer needs. Technology plays such an integral role in addressing our customer needs.\u201d\nBruce Temkin, managing partner and founder of Temkin Group, a customer experience research firm, says in terms of airlines, JetBlue is a leader in customer experience, in big part because of technology. JetBlue earned the top ranking for airlines in the 2015 Temkin Experience Ratings, a list of the top customer experiences by companies. \u201cThey\u2019re committed more to the in-plane experience than just about any airline,\u201d he says. \u201cTechnology is a key component of their customer experience strategy.\u201d\nSkipping airport check-in\nJetBlue deals with customers on multiple fronts -- in airports, online and on planes. So it started with the low-hanging fruit, the check-in process at the airport. \u201cOur mission is to have a transitional airport experience vs. a transactional airport experience,\u201d Sundaram says. \u201cThe first step in the process was to eliminate transactions or automate transactions that don\u2019t add value to the customers.\u201d\nUsing JetBlue\u2019s Auto Check-In process, customers are automatically checked into their flight 24 hours before departing, assigned a seat based on previous preferences and sent a boarding pass \u2013 all without logging into a computer or the mobile app. Customers receive an email confirming the check-in. JetBlue has processed 700,000 auto check-ins since rolling out the service last year and is currently expanding it to more customers.\n\u201cWhen you think about it, check-in was such a 1960\u2019s process where airlines had no clue when they sold paper tickets through agencies where the customer was and they forced you to come stand in a line and check you in,\u201d Sundaram says. \u201cToday, with the technology we have, we don\u2019t need to check you in, so we eliminated the step and our customers love it.\u201d\n \nJetBlue's Inflight Service Assistant app lets flight attendants tap into details about each passenger. (Click for larger image.)\n\nTemkin says technologies like auto check-in, along with JetBlue\u2019s mobile app, are steps toward giving customers more self-service options, which is especially important during delays due to weather events or mechanical problems.\n\u201cTechnology is key to helping people get over some of those disruptive situations,\u201d Temkin says. \u201cThe problem with those situations is that they hit a lot of people at once, it\u2019s not like it happens to one or two people, it happens to hundreds at once. You can\u2019t solve that problem with human beings.\u201d\n \nWith Apple Pay on board, passengers no longer have to search for their credit cards to make inflight purchases. (Click for larger image.)\n\nAuto check-in also helps to reallocate the availability of JetBlue employees toward more critical interactions, instead of ones that could be completed more efficiently with technology.\n\u201cInstead of spending time checking you in, which the technology has now already done for you, I have the time as a crew member to think about how I can be one of three things: helpful, personal and simple,\u201d says Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue\u2019s head of sustainability and a key member of the team working on the check-in process.\nIn-flight technology\nJetBlue also looked at technology inside the plane, first rolling out free inflight Wi-Fi as the foundation to support all other devices and technologies. Called Fly-Fi, it can handle 12 megabits per second per passenger, but if you want to stream a video, for example, you\u2019d have to pay for the faster speed. Sundaram says they weren\u2019t satisfied with any of the inflight Wi-Fi offerings in the market so they went a different route.\u00a0\u00a0\n \nThe JetBlue for Apple Watch app is "all about convenience and efficiency," according to the airline.\n\n\u201cThree years ago when we launched this program, we had two choices -- either to go out of a market product and launch it which is very slow, very expensive, or do something that is really, really skipping a generation of itself,\u201d says Sundaram. \u201cWe chose to launch our own satellite from Kazakhstan, in partnership with ViaSat.\u201d\nThe addition of Wi-Fi gave JetBlue the capability to roll out iPad Minis for flight attendants and crew members. The iPads not only replace the heavy flight manuals, but provide a single customer view to deliver more targeted customer service.\nFor example, using the Inflight Service Assistant app, flight attendants can view a seat map, click on a customer and know if they are a Mosaic loyalty member or if it\u2019s their birthday. Flight attendants can also see if a passenger has a connecting flight and in the case of a delay, suggest other flight options.\nThe iPads are also equipped to accept Apple Pay from customers. As the first U.S. airline to offer Apple Pay, JetBlue developed a reader that attaches to the tablets and scans the iPhones using NFC technology for inflight purchases, like snacks or Birchbox cosmetics boxes.\nSundaram says embracing Apple Pay was all about working toward the more simplified customer experience. \u201cWhen you do transactions inside the plane or in the airport, it\u2019s much easier for you to use your phone to touch and go vs. taking out your credit card to handle that transaction,\u201d he says.\nThe iPads also include an app for the flight manual, a language translator, a point-of-sale system and other JetBlue employee apps. The company expects to have all flight attendants equipped with the tablets by the end of this spring.\nThe latest rollout for the company is its Apple Watch app, which was just released last week. It features capabilities such as a mobile boarding pass, flight updates and the capability to make inflight purchases with Apple Pay.