Here we fly again…disruptive innovation in the airline industry again.

Photo on 5-8-13 at 1.08 PM #3

Southwest airlines has been very successful developing a business model that turned the entire airline industry on its head.  Now we are seeing other airlines follow suit, like Jet Blue, who by the way, recently introduced “lie flat” seats to attract the more affluent fliers.

I really like Clayton Christensen’s theory of “disruptive innovation” because an industry becomes ripe for disruption once it begins super-serving its best, most affluent customers and ignoring the rest.

What is really key here, is disruption can happen when we ignore a subset of the population the business currently serves.  Read the full article Innovators, it’s time to fly coach class. It will give you a flavor for the changes we can expect in the airline industry.

Sidebar: After reading the article, hopefully you understand that this clearly indicates a lack of understanding of who your customers are.  If you ignore your “paying” customers someone else will woo them and eventually turn them into your previous customers.  

It takes a lot of marketing and money to add one paying customer to your list.  Customers are just one lever in the business model logic.

So how will the airlines industry be affected by disruptive innovation, you got it, by changing its business model.  Remember the majority of fliers will not pay increased fees for this luxury. Looking at ways to provide more comfort, less hassle and a better flying experience can be the leading causes of disruptive innovation in the airlines industry.

Let’s keep our eyes on the sky and see what new innovations result from the new introduction of techniques designed to attract the more affluent flier and what the future disruption will be.


Follow me on Twitter @reneetsanders


Renee Sanders is a PhD candidate in business at Capella University, where her specialization is strategy and innovation. Renee holds an BBA and MBA from the University of Maryland University College. Renee currently works in for a defense contractor as the Director of Strategic Pricing and Price to Win.

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