United Airlines Wants an App to Personalize Your Experience — Without Being Creepy

June 14, 2018, 3:04 PM UTC

United Airlines wants to get up close and personal, without being “creepy.”

At the Skift Tech Forum on Tuesday, Linda Jojo, executive vice president of technology and chief digital officer at United Airlines, revealed that the airline is in the process of developing a new app designed to personalize customer experiences.

But Jojo doesn’t want customers to be creeped out by a flight attendant asking how your daughter’s graduation went last week mid-flight.

“We’re actually trying to arm our employees with information about who is seated in 7C so that our flight attendants can have a better way of interacting with them,” Jojo said, according to Skift. “But the reality is that the line between personalized and creepy is different for different people. Do you like it when we come up and wish you a happy birthday? We’re trying to figure out where does that line fall.”

A recent survey revealed that 75% of consumers find personalized brand experiences at least somewhat creepy, but nearly half said they do nothing about it.

United already knows a good amount about you if you’ve been a loyalty member for a while, but they don’t know everything, Jojo said to Skift. The app is primarily focused on increasing usability, such as letting users scroll up and down. Making the app more contextual is also a priority.

“We’ll help to direct you through an airport to your gate after you’ve checked in. When you’re on the plane, in-flight entertainment will come up,” Jojo said to Skift. “If there’s a route that you fly a lot and you have to connect through somewhere or always fly in the morning, then we would put those kinds of flights right to the top of our suggestions to you. We’re also starting to think about whether you’re on a business trip versus with your family and making different offers based on that.”

Jojo confirms that United Airlines’ main concern is remaining relevant for its travelers.

While privacy concerns — fed by flawed Facebook privacy settings and an eaves-dropping Amazon Alexa — remain on the top of many travelers’ minds, personalized service could be a good business move for United Airlines, which has been plagued by bad publicity after a passenger was dragged off an overbooked flight and a dog died in an overhead bin last year.