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Jet Blue’s Blooper February 19, 2007

Posted by Elaine in Cases, Consumers, Stakeholder management, transportation.

This past Valentine’s Day was not exactly ideal for the 10,000 passengers that were stuck in Jet Blue planes, which were left stranded for six hours each on runways at JFK Airport in an ice storm. 23% of their flights to 11 different cities were cancelled due to the weather leaving many customers aggravated. After reading about corporate social responsibility in Chapter 7, I think Jet Blue is trying its best in taking a proactive approach to gaining its credibility back. They are working on a “Bill of Rights” which outlines the penalities Jet Blue faces and rewards for its passengers in situations where they experience difficulties during weather-related cancellations. Airlines would be required to offer travelers food, water, and clean bathrooms for any delays over three hours, and refund 150% of a flight’s ticket price for those delayed more than 12 hours. Is Jet Blue doing this because they’re morally obligated to compensate for their mistakes or is this just to deter being detested?

It’s to fend off any potential bad press in the future, but it did not mitigate the experience of those people on that flight, says Kate Hanni, one of the customers on the stranded planes.

She believes this is a move on Jet Blue’s part to save themselves from bad publicity. She was mad that the passengers weren’t informed (timely or at all) about the crucial weather impact and will most likely not be a Jet Blue customer after this inconvienent experience. Are the airlines to blame for mother nature’s behavior or should they have obliged to the warnings and consulted with their passengers beforehand? The mistakes have been made, but at least they’re taking steps to counteract their errors.



1. Charley S - February 20, 2007

I also read an article on this incident and I was completely shocked. I spent all of last semester studying JetBlue for Corporate Finance, and the one thing that they always seemed to do right was customer service. They had won a lot of awards for best low cost airline and customer service, so you can imagine my suprise when I saw this incident. From what I know of the the company they are truly committed to providing the best customer service, and it seemed that the reason that this incident happened was because of their policy of hating to cancel flights. I am positive an incident like this will never happen again at JetBlue and they seem pretty sincere about wanting to help customers.

2. Stacey Swift - February 21, 2007

I think a refund of 150% is a bit excessive. Travelers should understand that their flights are contingent upon the weather, it is a matter of safety, not inefficiencies within Jet Blue. Additionally, providing food to customers with over 3 hours of delays will be extremely expensive. I understand they want to offer the best customer service possible, but I think this commitment might end up backfiring and becoming too expensive to handle.

3. Abby - February 22, 2007

150% for a delay is excessive, I agree with Stacey. I know some airlines will allow for their customers to take other flights, and they will pay for it, or to offer a stipend to buy meals or an overnight stay in the airport.

My worst flight ever was last spring when I had to fly to the Philippines for a cousin’s wedding (by myself). We were delayed in Japan for 7+ hours [the plane needed a part replaced, and the particular airport didn’t have it, so they had someone go all the way to Tokyo (3 hours each way) to go and get it.] The passengers (and myself) were given dinner, and blankets. The airport didn’t have a large enough hotel for all the passengers or families, so we were set to sleep anywhere we could find room at the gate… chairs, floor, despite the ceiling lights still being on. We all looked like refugees! I don’t think there was a single person who thought this was sufficient… we did get airline vouchers as an apology…

One of the most common issues people have with airlines is when they overbook flights during peak season.

The airline industry has been suffering a lot since 9/11, and they’ve tried several things to make amends. Many have terrific offers on flights for loyal customers.

4. Lady - February 23, 2007

Since I was in that same group with Charley last semester, I too was surprised to hear about this. JetBlue has been known for their exceptional customer service and we bragged about it all last semester. The fact that they are now trying to make up for their mistakes is a good move in my opinion. And while 150% for a delay is a bit excessive, I believe that JetBlue knows what they are doing. Because they have set their standard so high for customer service, they feel like they need to meet up to that. It is a big risk that they are taking with increased costs, but I think they are looking more at the long-term effects this will have for their company. I think it’s a good move.

5. Kira - February 24, 2007

My mom went to Florida that week for business and flew Jet Blue. She later received an e-mail with an apology from Jet Blue’s Founder and CEO David Neeleman. I also think that what they are doing is a good move. Customers want to know that they will receive excellent service especially in unexpected situations. Since it is not often that something like this happens, I don’t think this will be too expensive for the company. Plus, they are working to prevent a situation like this in the first place. Sorry for all the text, but I thought it would be interesting to post the letter of apology here:

Dear JetBlue Customers,

We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry.

Last week was the worst operational week in JetBlue’s seven year history. Following the severe winter ice storm in the Northeast, we subjected our customers to unacceptable delays, flight cancellations, lost baggage, and other major inconveniences. The storm disrupted the movement of aircraft, and, more importantly, disrupted the movement of JetBlue’s pilot and inflight crewmembers who were depending on those planes to get them to the airports where they were scheduled to serve you. With the busy President’s Day weekend upon us, rebooking opportunities were scarce and hold times at 1-800-JETBLUE were unacceptably long or not even available, further hindering our recovery efforts.

Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration and inconvenience that we caused. This is especially saddening because JetBlue was founded on the promise of bringing humanity back to air travel and making the experience of flying happier and easier for everyone who chooses to fly with us. We know we failed to deliver on this promise last week.

We are committed to you, our valued customers, and are taking immediate corrective steps to regain your confidence in us. We have begun putting a comprehensive plan in place to provide better and more timely information to you, more tools and resources for our crewmembers and improved procedures for handling operational difficulties in the future. We are confident, as a result of these actions, that JetBlue will emerge as a more reliable and even more customer responsive airline than ever before.

Most importantly, we have published the JetBlue Airways Customer Bill of Rights—our official commitment to you of how we will handle operational interruptions going forward—including details of compensation. I have a video message to share with you about this industry leading action.

You deserved better—a lot better—from us last week. Nothing is more important than regaining your trust and all of us here hope you will give us the opportunity to welcome you onboard again soon and provide you the positive JetBlue Experience you have come to expect from us.

6. K.C. - February 26, 2007

The 150% refund may seem excessive but maybe that what the company needs to make sure a disaster like this does not take place again. I heard on the news that this type of problem happens frequently to low cost airlines because it their attempt to save money they have fewer fail-safe mechanisms to stop these types of issues. If the company can afford to give a generous compensation for lost time, I think they should.

7. Stephanie - February 27, 2007

Flying can be a very stressful experience for a customer, whether he or she has never flown before, or is nervous about the flight. It can also be extremely important for the person to reach the destination at a particular time, possibly for catching another flight or being at an important event. However with this in mind, I agree that if the cause of the delay is weather related or regards the passengers’ safety in any way, a delay or cancellation is acceptable.

Just this past January I drove to Harrisburg to pick up my housemate who was flying from Oregon. Her flights were rescheduled several times because the breaks in the plane were not working properly. I can tell you without the slightest hesitation that I would rather wait innumerable hours, days, etc. as long as she arrived safely.

I do believe that some sort of compensation for inconvenience is necessary, but it should be appropriately matched to the cause of the problem.

8. shane - January 3, 2009

I think 150% is very accurate, once I consider the time and missed adjoining flights and the consequences of it. We fly because it is quick and we pay them to get us there on time. I feel for the people and thier familys that had to endure through it, and I thank God that the stupid plane did not crash. Give them their just rewards for the hell they must have gone through with too few bathrooms for so many people and the stink of the fat ones farts up front. — they deserve every penny.

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