Here at Viasat, we have the opportunity to work with airline partners on the cutting edge of the aviation industry. Over the next few months, we will be catching up with inspiring leaders at many of our partner organizations and learning more about their approach to innovation in the aviation industry.
JetBlue has had the same mission since its founding in 1998: to bring humanity back to the air travel experience. In an ultra-competitive and nearly commoditized industry, this was no small feat. Director of Product Development Mariya Stoyanova is making this mission a reality for the 42 million customers traveling on JetBlue each year by reaching beyond the standard onboard experience to delight customers with amenities like free high-speed Wi-Fi, unlimited snacks and extra legroom.
We caught up with Mariya at the 2019 APEX conference who shared about her personal commitment to JetBlue’s mission and her innovative approach for delivering humanity to passengers.
What is innovation to you?
Mariya: To me, innovation is solving for needs or pain points that customers don’t even realize they have or will have.
What drives your passion for aviation?
Mariya: My passion for aviation is driven by my love for travel, and my desire to spread that feeling to other travelers. Most people don’t associate modern air travel with pleasantness and they rarely look forward to the travel portion of their trip. My goal is to change the perception of travel itself; to bring joy to the journey by delivering convenience, comfort and happiness where it is least expected.
What are you most proud of personally?
Mariya: What I have been most proud of throughout my career is that I have always stayed true to myself and been authentic with the people around me (no matter what the circumstances are). In my experience, being authentic and transparent creates an environment of trust and, most importantly, a team that is willing to go the extra mile for each other. With that type of supportive environment, our team has been able to challenge the status quo and create an innovative experience.
What does your airline do that makes you most proud?
Mariya: What makes me most proud is the way JetBlue puts customers and crew members at the forefront of everything we do. Our team shares a common goal and genuine passion for bringing humanity to the travel experience, which guides everything we do.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through driving innovation?
Mariya: Getting “no” as an answer or failing only means you need to try again in a different way. Driving innovation requires resilience, objectivity and iteration to be successful.
How do you see the aviation industry evolving in the coming years?
Mariya: As the developing world begins to travel, I see making aviation accessible and sustainable becoming an increasing priority for airlines. As technology breaks down geographical barriers in the digital world, connecting people across disparate communities, the aviation industry has the opportunity to do so in the physical world as well.
How does your role as innovator support the future of aviation?
Mariya: In my role, I am constantly evaluating consumer needs and behaviors so I can provide more of what they really want and need and less of the things that are of lower value. By consistently reevaluating and refining our product offerings (on and off the plane) as the needs of customers evolve, we can provide an air travel experience that is both enjoyable and accessible to a growing travel population.
What advice would you give to someone seeking your role?
Mariya: My advice for the next generation of leaders is to do as many diverse jobs in your aviation career and gain an understanding of the operation as a whole. It takes a village to operate an airline, and to be successful in a leadership role you need to be able to consider many different perspectives.