British Airways Boeing 777. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.
Recently, British Airways started keeping information on some of their VIP customers and searching for their images online all in the name of service. The program, called “Know Me,” has some privacy advocates worried.
“Last year we re-committed to the ethos: To Fly. To Serve. That’s what ‘Know Me’ is all about – enabling us to recognise our customers in a way that is individual to them,” Jo Boswell, head of customer analysis at British Airways, stated. “We’re essentially trying to recreate the feeling of recognition you get in a favourite restaurant when you’re welcomed there, but in our case it will be delivered by thousands of staff to millions of customers.”
The idea is simple enough. Airline employees have iPads which contain information on high-end passengers. What kind of food they prefer, if it is the first time they have flown with a certain product and if they might have had previous issues flying on the airline. The software also allows the crew to identify a passenger by searching Google Images.
Although many passengers probably appreciate this high-level of service, not everyone is so happy. According to CNN, Emma Carr, deputy director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch stated, “Since when has buying a flight ticket meant giving your airline permission to start hunting for information about you on the internet?” Fundamentally, British Airways has not asked their passengers’ permission to take part in this scheme. Surely, if they want to search Google to find pictures and any other information all they have to do is ask?”
Why wouldn’t an airline take advantage of this? I am pretty sure photos found on the internet are part of the public domain, that anyone could find.
The airline states that they will not be doing this level of service for a huge majority of the passengers, but just the rare few who probably are used to being known. According the British Airways, the service is being well received. “The early results have been extremely positive, our customers love being recognised and treated as an individual, and our customer service staff and cabin crew feel empowered to deliver a really bespoke service,” Boswell said. “This is just the start though – the system has a myriad of possibilities for the future.”
What do you think? Is this a genius customer service move, creepy or an invasion of privacy?