JetBlue's CEO is "Mortified"

Here at the Consumerist we love a mea culpa, and that’s what the CEO of JetBlue, David G. Neeleman, is giving us. From the New York Times:

The founder and chief executive of JetBlue Airways, his voice cracking at times, called himself “humiliated and mortified” by a huge breakdown in the airline’s operations that has dragged on for nearly a week, and promised that in the future JetBlue would pay penalties to customers if they were stranded on a plane for too long.

“We had so many people in the company who wanted to help who weren’t trained to help,” he said. “We had an emergency control center full of people who didn’t know what to do. I had flight attendants sitting in hotel rooms for three days who couldn’t get a hold of us. I had pilots e-mailing me saying, ‘I’m available, what do I do?’ “

The part of the company that locates pilots and flight attendants and directs them to their next flight assignment is far too small for an airline JetBlue’s size, Mr. Neeleman said.”This is going to be a different company because of this,” Mr. Neeleman said. “It’s going to be expensive. But what’s more important is to win back people’s confidence.”

We don’t get very many complaints about JetBlue here at the Consumerist. What do you guys think? Salvageable? —MEGHANN MARCO

JetBlue’s C.E.O. Is ‘Mortified’ After Fliers Are Stranded [NYT]

Comments

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  1. junkmail says:

    Salvageable? Are you kidding? I’d go out of my way to fly JetBlue after a “sorry” like that. You just don’t see that…. EVER.

  2. I agree with junkmail…that is the best statement I’ve heard from an airline ever…and the “JetBlue would pay penalties to customers if they were stranded on a plane for too long” comment is unbelieveable.

    Maybe other airlines will take note and start doing the same thing…but I’m not counting on it…

  3. acambras says:

    I do hope they come out of this ok — the boyfriend and I flew JetBlue over Thanksgiving for the first time and were very impressed. Within hours of our return home, we were on JetBlue’s website seeing if they flew to other cities where we tend to go.

    And like junkmail says, a sincere mea culpa from a CEO is refreshing.

  4. mullenite says:

    Jetblue has always been, and will continue to be my favorite airline.

  5. Falconfire says:

    I would love ot know what happened here. JetBlue was the wonderchild of the airline, all of a sudden they died.

  6. homerjay says:

    I’m with them. This is a growing pain for an airline that offers nothing but top notch service.

    Its a MASSIVE and PAINFUL growing pain, but its so good to see they’re commited to learning from it and fixing it and making sure it never happens again.

    Its hard to remember given the level of service that they provide that JetBlue is a discount airline. They don’t have the staff that they need to work through issues like this. Its possible that the ‘discount’ part of that might go away now that they have some really expensive changes to make.

    If not, all the more reason to continue to fly with them.

  7. facted says:

    From flying Jetblue pretty regularly, I can tell you that this episode was really an aberration for the company. Their customer service is some of the best in the industry and it’s quite unfortunate that this happened to them and they weren’t able to deal with it appropriately.

    However, I wouldn’t hesitate to fly jetblue again, although maybe if others stop flying them their fares may go down a bit ? :) They have been creeping up recently…

  8. JetBlue is an amazing company, and David is a pretty alright guy. (Listened to interviews with him on Glenn Beck). He has a corporate blog here:

    http://www.jetblue.com/about/ourcompany/flightlog/

    But he’s also a huge proponent of alternative fuel sources and has done some background work trying to get the government on the same page with him. Agree or disagree with him, he’s a pretty neat individual

  9. tadiera says:

    I personally love JetBlue. I was on a flight where their DirectTV didn’t work (a small inconvenience- I mean, how many airlines actually have TV for you to watch?) so they gave us vouchers for future flights. Not the cost of a full flight, but a discount to be certain.

    How many airlines would do that? ‘Oh, our small convenience failed? Here, have a discount for a future flight. We’re really sorry.’

    They actually did apologize 3-4 times during the flight. I was very impressed.

  10. katana- says:

    “The founder and chief executive of JetBlue Airways, his voice cracking at times, called himself “humiliated and mortified” by a huge breakdown in the airline’s operations that has dragged on for nearly a week, and promised that in the future JetBlue would pay penalties to customers if they were stranded on a plane for too long.”

    So how long is “too long”? It probably depends upon what your definition of ‘is’ is.

  11. radiogrrl says:

    “Talk is cheap. Watch us.”

    That, coming from a CEO???? Airlines never do that, much less any other big company.

    I’d fly them tomorrow if I had someplace to go, and the money to do it.

    I flew JetBlue for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I wanna fly them all the time. I wish they could just take over United, but keeping all their great perks. Great seats, great service, DirecTV…they can use me in a commercial for (almost) free.

  12. Hands down favorite airline.

    Yes this fiasco sucked, but at the end of the day, their in-flight experience is the best of all domestic carriers. I’m not going to change my purchasing habits because of this extended hiccup.

    Long live JetBlue.

  13. umonster says:

    The brand did take a hit (http://www.smilingbomb.com), but I love that damn airline, and if the hard asses here are any sign, the brand’ll rebound. They’ve gone above and beyond in many cases for me, and have re-energized flying to underserved areas (Rochester, Vermont)

  14. troublz says:

    I’ve never flown JetBlue but have always been a fan of their offerings and look forward to when I can fly them.

    One thing that concerns me though in his statement is that they are clearly going to be upgrading their systems to meet this demand and rectify this issue. In my experience as an I.T. Manager, I can tell you that tackling that upgrade will be a scalding hot internal issue. Sometimes that means that someone or all of upper management will pressure and push for an immediate solution and that can lead to implementing the FASTEST solution rather than the RIGHT solution. I hope they are smart enough to recognize that and aren’t lead into putting in a system that could cause more problems rather than fix the current ones.

    Just my $0.02

  15. popeye_doyle says:

    Nice picture of Jet Blue executives dealing with the crisis. (seriously, is everyone that fat these days?)

  16. shaunirving says:

    One upset NY reporter is stuck on a plane for a few hours, and suddenly this whole mess becomes some sort of epic struggle to maintain sanity on the tarmac.

    Amateurs…

    I fly a fair bit–no business traveler, but more than most. I’ve been stuck in the plane, at the gate, for 6 hours. I’ve been bumped, delayed, and rerouted all over. Air travel is a gamble; most of the time it runs smooth, but when the system comes crashing you need to be prepared to wait.

    I absolutely love the prices and service I’ve gotten from JetBlue in the past. Their bad days put American to shame. And though this mess has happened, I’m very pleased with how JetBlue has handled it–admitting their mistake and taking steps to fix it.

    They have had and will continue to have my business. Maybe even moreso than before.

  17. billhelm says:

    Seems to be growing pains for an otherwise solid airline. I wish I had the option to fly them from hearing of some of my friends’ experiences.

  18. formergr says:

    Hmm, I will wait and see. This exact situation happened to JetBlue *last* February as well (down to people being trapped on the plane on the runway for 10-11 hours), and they clearly didn’t make the necessary changes to their system to prevent it from happening again.

    Talk is cheap is right. I’d wait to see what happened before embracing JetBlue.

    And for those here who are saying how wonderful the CEO’s apology is? His initial statement at the end of last week was much more wishy-washy. I’m cynical and think that three more days of negative press made JB realize they needed to come out with something stronger– it’s not so much that he’s a stand-up guy with principles, etc, it was just a PR move.

  19. radiofree says:

    OK Wow.

    I too am a bgi fan of the company, if one can be such a thing (I’d be curious to know how many avowed fans of jetBlue also swear by Apple; I know I’m one).

    They screwed up, and issued a mea culpa. I will book jetBlue again. I’ve had more consistently bad service from Delta and United on perfect weather days than I’ve had from jB on bad weather days.

  20. zingbot says:

    Um..Let’s not forget, people, that they screwed up for a WEEK. They may have fine service otherwise, but this is a sign of some major problems.

    With this – plus their steadily rising prices on cros country flights – you may see a backlash to Jetblue.

  21. facted says:

    @radiofree: I love Jetblue, but I do not love Apple :)

    @zingbot: They made some mistakes due to two day storm that dumped ice and snow and reduced capacity at their main hub to almost zero for about 2 days. I think we need to step back and cut them some slack. Mother nature just sucks sometimes and we do what we can to deal with it.

    They’re not the first airline to strand some people on a plane for a few hours and certainly won’t be the last. Their issues after that were rather difficult to deal with given the weather. Similar things have happened to British Airways, for instance, with the whole liquid bomb scare and Heathrow was turned into a madhouse for days.

    As for the steadily rising prices: I do agree with you on that one, and I’m less and less tempted to fly JetBlue because of that one. They used to be the cheapest flight from NYC to FLL and now they’re generally one of the most expensive (even on random weekends, e.g. non-holiday). It’s kinda crazy.

  22. BillyShears says:

    JetBlue is the one airline that has never, ever treated me like a piece of luggage. My experiences on other airlines have included broken bathrooms, out-of-order electronic check-in kiosks, power failures at security, bump after bump from flights due to over capacity and generally rude flight crews.

    JB is the complete opposite of every one of these things, which almost made me feel sorry for them over the course of last week. This mea culpa is completely in line with the company’s philosophy and just makes me glad they fly to and from a lot of places I need or want to go. Kudos to the man for owning up to what other airlines would just try to let blow over.

  23. Kornkob says:

    “power failures at security”

  24. Metschick says:

    They used to be the cheapest flight from NYC to FLL and now they’re generally one of the most expensive (even on random weekends, e.g. non-holiday). It’s kinda crazy.

    Yeah, jB was our go-to airline for my family’s frequent trips to FL. Now, we look at orbitz first, as other airlines now have way cheaper flights than jB’s to FL. I wonder why the flights went up so much.

  25. Dont Know Me? You Are Me. says:

    @facted/metschick: Most airlines are careful about the fares they charge in order to maximize revenue. It’s probably the case that JetBlue has loyal customers who prefer the airline over alternatives, and they simply don’t have a whole lot of empty seats that have to be discounted.

    It will be interesting to watch their fares in the wake of this operations disaster.

  26. BareFeet says:

    Dudes, jetBlue is awesome. That they fucked up colossaly is not shocking; they are an airline, and apparently that is what airlines do. But the thing is, as far as I know, this is unprecedented. Need I remind you, dear Consumerists, that this sort of crap happens all the time with other airlines? I don’t remember having read about anyone bitching about jetBlue. I’d rather fly them than anyone else, frankly.

  27. tadowguy says:

    The simple fact is that all airlines suck. Welcome to the rest of the pack JetBlue.

  28. formergr says:

    And tadowguy says it best…

    Again, this happened last year to JetBlue. It’s not the first time.

    Delta (who sucks too) got the same weather at JFK that JetBlue did last week, but didn’t have any of the same problems (i.e. 5 days later they are not needing to cancel 20% of their flights to catch up like JetBlue still did today). It’s because they proactively canceled flights as the weather rolled in, and because they have (some) level of internal communication during a crisis.

  29. Papa K says:

    Delta dropped me and didn’t help. Go them. Never flew JetBlue because they just recently started flying from my city.

    Isn’t Jetblue the same company that was testing how long its pilots could last flying nonstop?

  30. dotyoureyes says:

    Other CEOs ought to take a lesson from JetBlue’s handling of this incident.

    Take a huge negative, and turn it into a positive.

    Of course, you only get so many passes — they have to follow it up with real change before the next storm hits.

  31. SuperLex1000 says:

    I was always amazed at how JetBlue was able to offer great service AND low prices. Obviously, they were cuting corners somewhere, and now we know where – operations.

    So I suppose a reality check was in the cards. But still, these guys are so far ahead of the pack in terms of understanding the connection between ops and the customer experience that I can’t imagine how they won’t get it right.

    Contrast with, say, Delta. Sure, they were able to avoid the storm, but I’ll bet they still lost as much luggage as they always do. Oh, and they still don’t care.

  32. stonestix says:

    I agree with popeye_doyle. Consumerist has already been smacked down once for fat people photos.

  33. Trai_Dep says:

    Piling on to the “if I wasn’t a Jet Blue fan before, their handling of this mistake made me one.”

    Whoa. Accountability in a CEO. Rare sight these days.

  34. jacques says:

    I flew JetBlue from ORD to FLL thru JFK a few weeks ago. It was a reasonably good experience, more or less cheap. I noticed that their airplanes were somewhat random (for the 4 that I was on) – the newer ones were definitely more comfy and had XM on them too. The older ones seemed more cramped and the technology was more prone to breaking. The flight crew was pleasant, and the ground crew was fine too (excepting the jerks in NY, but that’s par for New Yorkers).

    However, I agree – all the good prices are gone, at least for the weekend I wanted to fly. Cmon, $350 each way just from JFK to FLL? No thanks.

  35. I like JetBlue, and I’m happy that they’re taking responsibility for their actions. But I take issue with anyone who calls them a “discount” airline anymore. Sure, their fare structure is like a discount airline, but their prices just aren’t anymore. For the past year or so, I’ve found them to sometimes be almost TWICE as expensive as the major airlines on cross-country trips.

    Call me a cheapskate, but DirecTV and a pleasant staff isn’t worth the extra $200, even on a 6-hour flight.

  36. upstate says:

    I take issue with the NYT article when it says Delta did well during the storm. I was stranded in JFK on Friday, and the Delta terminal was utter chaos. I have never seen anything like it. Two days after the storm, the terminal was absolutely packed with people. I met a woman who had been sleeping in the terminal for 3 days. About 90% of flights were going out of only two gates; rather than posting flights on the board at the gate or using the loudspeaker, there was one Delta employee yelling out flight numbers and destinations. Once announced, boarding (which was just pushing through a massive throng of people to the roped off area) was closed within about 10-15 minutes. If you didn’t happen to be at the gate when that occurred (and keep in mind boarding times for delayed flights were NOT updated), you missed your flight. As the only source of information dissemination was one guy shouting, I find it very likely that folks who had been waiting hours and finally went off in search of a meal missed their flight when it finally was called. After over three hours of standing in this crowd so I wouldn’t miss anything, about 10-15 flights were finally canceled. Mine wasn’t cancelled, but it disappeared off the main flight listings elsewhere in the terminal. At that point, I didn’t care if it was cancelled, I just wanted someone to actually tell me whether it was or not. The utter lack of organization was appalling. I understand the circumstances were particularly trying, but I cannot understand why things were really that bad in terms of sharing information with customers and Delta having its act together.

  37. zingbot says:

    @jacques: I know this is off-topic, but you really didn’t need to slam New Yorkers on that post. Mean is not par for New York – especially when talking about airline employees who generally come from elsewhere.

  38. formergr says:

    Weird, a number of posts (including one from me and another from the person I was quoting in it) from between 1:30 pm and 4:00 pm.

  39. DutchFlat says:

    After what United Airlines did to me last summer in Chicago I categorically state that Jet Blue can’t hold a candle to United. United Airlines fucked me and God-know-how-many thousand other passengers AT THE END OF JULY. And, there was NO APOLOGY and certainly no statement that they would ever even try to get it right. Lay off Jet Blue, United does this kind of shit every day.

  40. silenuswise says:

    I’m so disgruntled with the airline industry as a whole that I honestly have no reference point for evaluating JetBlue’s screw-up; in fact, the same thing happened to me (on a smaller scale, but still) this past fall on a Northwest flight to Miami: crew late, stop short of destination, no one around to re-fuel us in the Ft. Lauderdale airport (wtf?), sit trapped on plane for 4 hours, crew then “times out” and bails, threats of mutiny, and then finally letting us leave (though careful to say “this flight is not officially cancelled” in order to relieve the airline of responsibility), catching $100 shuttles to Miami at 6AM. Good times.

    My guess is that JetBlue is just regressing to the shitty mean. This is how deregulation works?