When travelers arrive at JetBlue’s terminal at New York’s JFK Airport, the carrier greets them with promises of free Wi-Fi, surrounds them with New York State scenery, offers them a chance to roam its roof deck, and perhaps even gives them a concert including mega-celebrities like Taylor Swift.
Terminal 5, with JetBlue as the primary tenant, is a model for what carriers can do when they’re in control on the ground and how they can engage their brand with travelers before boarding time begins.
Through a pop-up movie theater smack dab in the center of Terminal 5, JetBlue’s new partnership with Amazon touches travelers before their eyes become glued to seat-backs. The box theater, which opened last week and will stay until January 3, includes a large screen and children’s area that airline officials estimate can accommodate up to 25 people.
The theater features Amazon Prime movies and television shows already available on JetBlue flights and for streaming on travelers’ own devices. The objective is to mimic JetBlue’s in-flight Wi-Fi, or Fly-Fi, streaming capabilities, though today that’s hardly apples-to-apples in a terminal compared to 35,000 feet.
Jamie Perry, JetBlue’s VP of brand and product development, told Skift last month, “we’re not stopping at video–our partnership with Amazon offers opportunities to delight our customers in ways that have never been done before,” and having your own terminal certainly enhances those prospects.
“We’re looking at how to bring the streaming experience to the ground and bring a tactile experience to what the next generation of movie theaters will look like, that’s the kind of experience that we want to create,” said Anna McEntee, JetBlue’s manager of onboard content, who’s also working with the pop-up theater and other terminal programs. She added that the pop-up theater is Amazon’s largest ever. “Our customers have lots of questions [about the pop-up theater] but they’ve received it really well.”
“Amazon has been investing in original content. We’re wondering ‘what if we had cast members from a show that’s on Amazon Prime come and play in the middle of terminal 5, or have a children’s author come do a reading in our children’s area?’ We’re looking at how to keep customers entertained even before you’re on the aircraft. Security can often be a stressful point in airports, so how can we keep customers entertained at every point in the travel journey?”
The majority of airlines, and airports, don’t qualify as experience curators in the true sense of the term. That distinction calls for terminal offerings and events to completely capture travelers’ attentions and heighten their anticipations for flights.
JetBlue, however, has become the exception during the past few years. During 2015 alone, it expanded its JFK terminal to grow international arrivals and departures and introduced New York-themed restaurants that hint at its hometown branding, opened a small outdoor rooftop where travelers and their pets can relax during warmer weather, and in recent months began holding what it calls “surprise and delight days” in the terminal.
“[JetBlue’s] continuously trying to figure out how we fit into the overall travel journey,” said McEntee. “How do we integrate that home movie theater experience into your seat? Do we create an EatUp box that’s dedicated to what you want to eat when you’re watching a movie, or incorporate giving customers Amazon credit for when they fly?”
McEntee said her team’s observed early indicators that, in addition to JetBlue customers who are also existing Amazon Prime members, there’s an interest in signing up for Amazon Prime and exploring what it offers for those who aren’t yet members.
JetBlue has one more “surprise and delight day” planned for later this month, which involves brand ambassadors handing travelers tickets to enter the box theater that may also be redeemable for gift cards, Amazon Kindles or JetBlue flights. This year it also introduced a program on its Mint class routes that gives travelers free gift cards for dining and other discounts in their destinations.