JetBlue: When Your Canceled Flight Is Not Actually Canceled

JetBlue, JetBlue, JetBlue. When you cancel a flight, should you be allowed to uncancel it? If you do uncancel it, shouldn’t you tell your customers? Customers who may have left the airport when they saw that their flight was canceled? Grace Kim and her boyfriend had return tickets on JetBlue when their flight was canceled, forcing Kim to rebook on the next available flight 2 days later. When she heard JetBlue was offering vouchers to inconvenienced passengers she called and was told she qualified. Or did she?

It turns out that JetBlue hadn’t really canceled Kim’s flight. She took off work and stayed two extra days in her hotel for nothing. JetBlue had uncanceled without telling her, and because of that they are now claiming that Kim doesn’t qualify for vouchers. JetBlue says:

“On this day we did have a few flights that were canceled for a short time but then reinstated as we continued to monitor weather… for the storm in the Northeast. We never want to cancel flights. If we have the opportunity to reinstate a canceled flight due to clearing weather, we will sometimes do so.”

C’mon JetBlue. You told her the flight was canceled. At least give her some of those hip retro free-headsets. —MEGHANN MARCO

JetBlues Continue For One New York Passenger [NY1]
(Photo: hyku)

Comments

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  1. Gasface says:

    For a company that is trying to differentiate itself by appealing to the unrivaled experience for the customer, JetBlue sure has a funny way of showing it.

  2. brooklynbs says:

    @Gasface: Agreed. You would think that the JetBlue PR and customer service departments would have learned their lesson by now. Based on the mounting evidence, I am going to look for alternatives to flying JetBlue.

    Someone needs to teach JetBlue the difference between canceling and delaying.

  3. GirlGoneRiled says:

    Is JetBlue engaging in some kind of corporate-performance art? ‘Cause they’re acting in utterly inexplicable ways lately, even by airline standards (which are pretty low for almost any measure of rationality as it is).

  4. winnabago says:

    In the age of text messaging and whatever kind of radar they have available to them, we shouldn’t have confusion over canceled flights. Shouldn’t it be “delayed” until you really can’t go for some reason?

  5. I’m kind of curious how long the flight was on “canceled” status – and how she found out about it. Was she at the airport when it happened? Did a travelocity-type website email her (and why didn’t it email her again)? Or did she call ahead (ironically, a bad move, in this case)?
    Why didn’t she insist on the airline paying for her hotel right then and there? (might work with certain airlines, and if it doesn’t, she might get the headset – or possibly get her money back instead of a “voucher,” which she could then take to another airline in the airport and pray for a seat on empty flights)
    That NY1 article really didn’t have any of the important information; sounded like someone recorded a tidbit out of the local news and edited it only the tiniest bit.

  6. Dr. Eirik says:

    I’m kinda curious why it was going to take two days for her to get another flight from Las Vegas to NYC. Even JetBlue must have more than one flight a day between those cities, and McCarren is not exactly a small airstrip.

    This doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  7. JohnMc says:

    Well I can understand JetBlues motivation — airlines have to report ontime, late and cancelled flight information to the FCC. So if Blue can cancel a flight, work the issue, then uncancel it before the gate-window closes their stats don’t get dinged.

    Would work especially well if they know they had overbookings from earlier in the day to fill the flight. It’s kind of like kicking the problem down the road, er timeslot.

  8. yoink says:

    Sense or not. Cancelled is cancelled. You can’t UN-cancel. You can create a new flight with the same flight number if you want, but it wasn’t uncanceled. I’ve never flown JetBlue and I don’t plan on it, but they should get cancelled themselves from the sounds of it.

    In fact, and now that I’m in rant mode, I try to avoid flying on any carriers that bring you through the US for a trip where the departure and arrival cities are not in that particular country.

    It’s sad however. I do enjoy America so.

  9. abbamouse says:

    Dragontologist — Most airlines won’t pay for hotel rooms if the flight is cancelled due to weather.

    I’ve never heard of “reinstating” a cancelled flight before — you don’t get to just lie to consumers and then hold them accountable for the consequences!

  10. JuliusJefferson says:

    I got a pissed off call from my father when something similar happened to him when he was recently flying from DC to Huntsville, AL. I don’t remember what airline he was flying (Delta rings a bell), but when he got to the airport he and his coworkers found out that the flight had been delayed a couple hours.

    Upon that news, they hit up one of the bars until about an hour before their delayed take-off time. When they got to the terminal, they find that the plane took off on time! Not wanting to stay overnight, they decide to pitch in for a car rental and drive 13 hours in the night back home. The airline didn’t refund his money (the company paid for it anyway), but they did pay for his car rental after he threw his weight around with some managers and American Express with which he bought the ticket with.

  11. m. mangosteen says:

    @JuliusJefferson: Something similar happened to me with a recent Jet Blue flight from West Palm to Stewart/Newburgh. Was monitoring the flight status online and on the phone – it kept getting pushed further and further back. I was flying with my 2 little kids and didn’t want to be stuck with them on the airport, so I arrived 1 1/2 hours before the “new” departure time. When we checked in, the Jet Blue counter person said, “you’d better hurry, the flight’s already landed.” I said I thought it was 2 1/2 hours delayed and that’s what we were going by – she chuckled and said that it’s our responsibility to be at the airport for its scheduled time, even if that means waiting around at the airport for 3 or 4 hours before it really takes off. I love Jet Blue, but like other who posted, I’m really beginning to wonder what’s going on with them.

  12. NeedsSalt says:

    Dragontologist: Yup, that is basically NY1′s mo.

  13. facted says:

    @Gasface: While I agree that the airline should probably do a better job of informing passengers on the status of flights (and Jetblue actually does a pretty good job of this if you’re at the airport), I don’t know if JetBlue is fully at fault here. I would never in a million years not show up to an airport on the day of my flight and just take someone’s word for it over the phone. Likes others say, the article doesn’t detail who did what (did they go to the airport or not, for instance).

    I think the moral of the story is show up for your flights at their scheduled times and see what happens. It’s unfortunate that it’s this way, but it clearly IS this way, so we have to deal with it (and this certainly doesn’t just happen on JetBlue).

  14. zippygaelle says:

    @Dr. Eirik: I’m skeptical too — she and her boyfriend “had to stay” two extra nights in Vegas? Is she looking for Jet Blue to reimburse them for their 2 extra days of gambling losses too?

  15. raybury says:

    [rant mode on]

    Dear Airlines:

    Since half the time you are delayed, you do so in dribs and drabs so that a fifteen-minute delay becomes a 2 1/2 hour delay, please don’t reverse on us. Honor, yes even wait for, your new flight time unless everyone is aboard, or you’re willing to not screw over anyone who took you at your word and patronized one of the fine restaurants elsewhere in the terminal.

    Dear JetBlue:

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about you, and I am sympathetic to the troubles you had during Valentine’s Day. I believe you are trying to get things together better, including PR. Therefore please clarify with the Consumerist, NY1, and other outlets where this story appears: Do you really Cancel and then Un-Cancel flights, contrary to the experience of almost every flyer? And if so, at what point (preferably yesterday) is this policy and practice immediately ended?

    [rant mode off]

  16. Hackoff says:

    Jetblue clearly has issues. I had to fly to JFK in mid March to attend a family emergency and it just so happened that there was an big storm in NYC.

    I was slated to fly out at 10:45pm that night, however early in the day, JetBlue announced that it had canceled all flights to NY for the day.

    I continued to check the online status to make sure nothing had changed. The strange thing was that when I did a flight check by entering my departure date/time and flight number the website said the flight was on time/schedule. However, the JetBlue homepage had a big sign saying all flights to NY had been canceled due to weather conditions.

    My sister called JetBlue and after 45 minutes trying to get through to a human being, she succeeded and they confirmed that the flight had indeed been canceled.

    By 7pm I was convinced that the flight was a lost cause and that I was going to have to make alternate plans for my trip to NY. Again I checked the website (which was periodically not available due to high traffic) and continued to get conflicting information. I called JetBlue 20-30 times and could not get through due to high call volume.

    Finally around 8:30pm I managed to get a live person on the phone at JetBlue. When I asked her about my flight, she promptly responded that all flights to NY had been canceled and that I could apply for a refund or try to book another flight on at a later date. When I asked her about the website still showing (with a search) that my flight was scheduled to depart on time, she said that sometimes the “system” takes a while to update, but that her computer contained the most current information (canceled). However, I pressed a little harder and she said she would check with her supervisor about the discrepancy. 30 minutes later she came back on the phone and said that my flight was actually good to go.

    Holy crap! I asked her if she was sure and she said that indeed the flight was leaving at 10:45pm that night. So I got my crap together and bolted out of the house to San Jose International Airport.

    I ended up making my flight and getting to JFK, but it was a stressful ordeal. Imagine if I had actually missed my flight because they said it was canceled! Would they have refunded my money?? Who knows?

    On the way back from NY, I had a terrible time with the baggage handler who proceeded to stop in the middle of checking in my bags so that her could talk with a co-worker about what he was going to order for lunch. Jerk! To top it off, my sister was bringing back a painting that had to get checked in as an oversize piece. We told them it was fragile, but guess what happened? When it arrived in San Jose it was broken. I sent two emails to JetBlue regarding these matters and I have not heard a single word. Nada!

    It makes me wonder whether or not JetBlue gives a hoot about it’s customers.

  17. facted says:

    @Hackoff: That sounds like a pretty stressful situation but I think my advice posted above remains: If your flight is originally scheduled for a certain time and a certain airport, be there on-time no matter what they say. The only way you know for sure if your flight is going to be leaving on time or not is to be at the airport. Would be great if it were any other way, but it’s clearly not.

    As for the painting, that sucks, but I’m pretty sure that most airlines wouldn’t cover any damage to something like that if it is checked luggage. They barely even cover a normal suitcase…Probably would have been a better idea to ship it Fedex or UPS.

  18. Hackoff says:

    @facted: Yes the situation sucked. Since I travel so infrequently by plane (like 1x in the past 5 years) I clearly wasn’t prepared for this. I had been warned about being there early due to all the security measures etc., but this wasn’t included in the “traveling by plane” handbook.

    As for the painting, it doesn’t actually belong to me, but since I am the family appointed consumer advocate I followed up the issue with JetBlue. I suppose it would have been easier to do if there was video of one of the baggage handlers playing hockey with the painting (a la the recently surfaced video of another airline employee doing so).

    In the meantime, my experience with JetBlue is just another reason why I probably won’t fly again for another few years (unless I get a huge raise and decided to take a vacation).

  19. dajocko says:

    I was on a JetBlue flight to Ft. Lauderdale this morning at Dulles when the pilot comes on and tells the plane to de-plane because a flight to West palm beach that got bumped was taking our plane. So the entire plane was forced to get off and try and find another flight. I called the 800 number and they tell me that it was mechanical problems even though I saw them put the other passangers on the flight.

    And to make matters worse, the gate next to ours was going to Boston and they cancelled that flight as well. What is up with this one time leader in customer service… Is the end coming soon for JetBlue?

    I know I just canceled all of our company flights with JetBlue… I am sure I am not the only pissed off passanger…

  20. create12ca says:

    Never again, Jet Blue. My family of 4 were in need of returning to Buffalo after a vacation in Orlando over March Break. The flight was scheduled to leave Saturday morning March 17 but once again a weather related issue forced a cancellation. We heard about this cancellation Friday night about 11:00PM. After alength conversation with an agent the best they could do was a return Wednesday of the next week. Over three days later all at my expense.
    The only thing left was to drive a rental car back to Buffalo New York. The 23 hour trip was quite an ordeal not to mention the cost incurred. Almost $900 for rental,gas and extra meals – twice the price of the tickets.
    Was I not offered a sooner return because I had such a resonable fare booked. Three days to return is just far too long.
    To this date the only compensation offered has been a $25 voucher to be used on a future flight with them – what a joke. I’m still trying to pay off the added expenses fo the original trip.
    Becareful before one books in the future. They may leave you Blue with frustrations and expenses.