Above And Beyond: JetBlue Recap Edition

(Disclaimer: The author owns JetBlue stock.)
With JetBlue back in the air, we wanted to commend their ability to make the best of a horrible situation. Before we do, Mark Ashley pointed out several weaknesses in JetBlue’s Bill of Rights that we must first address.

We wrap-up the fiasco with our response and JetBlue’s final apology, after the jump…

“What’s a controllable irregularity? They’re not saying.”
•Controllable irregularity is a lawyer word crying for defining. JetBlue has shown nothing but good faith. Not just now, but throughout their existence. That earns them a little thing called ‘trust.’ We lend it out conservatively. If JetBlue fails to compensate passengers delayed for nine hours because a menacing squirrel gave a pilot the creeps, our trust in the airline will go back into the cookie-jar whence it came. We don’t think that will happen.
•”Controllable irregularity” only applies to the terminal-stricken. Once you’re on the plane, you get something if there is a delay. If you’re not in the air three hours after push-back, that’s a $100 voucher; if you land and don’t get off the plane within 30 minutes, that’s $25 voucher, irrespective of menacing squirrels.

JetBlue doesn’t overbook. Now, that’s a customer friendly policy, but the $1000 is a red herring.
•Mark spends his days in the trenches writing an amazing blog. If we spent all day tracking the airline industry, we’d be cynical, too. JetBlue doesn’t overbook. Think about that for a moment. That’s not just “a customer friendly policy.” It’s an inspiring refutation of a widely accepted practice that boosts airline profits to the exclusive detriment of consumers. The $1,000 guarantee makes it very painful for JetBlue to join other airlines in the cesspool of mediocrity.

Vouchers suck.
•Vouchers suck. Mark is right. His other points have fallen and this is all that remains. So let’s consider it as the one remaining knock against JetBlue’s Bill of Rights. Is payment by voucher enough to scuttle the ship? No. Sure, they could pay in gold bullion, but that stuff is heavy.

Yes, this is a public relations stunt in response to a public relations fiasco. We appreciate JetBlue, not because their stunts are good, but because their stunts are backed by action and concern for their passengers. They have gone above and beyond.

At approximately 5pm Wednesday evening, all JetBlue customers received an email from CEO David G. “Mortified” Neeleman. By our count, JetBlue has already apologized at least five, if not ten billion times. The latest apology differed from the others in that JetBlue said nothing new. The Bill of Rights has not been amended. The video apology does not now address ’70’s hairstyles. This was the mea culpa to you, the customer.

What Went Right

  • Acceptance of responsibility: Other airlines would have shunned responsibility. JetBlue stood front and center admitting they dropped the ball.

  • Earnestness: We hear everywhere how we, the consumer, are the number one priority. Whatever. There’s something about Mr. Mortified that makes you want to believe. He’s the guy you want coaching your apology for running over your significant other’s cat.
  • Exceptional action: Bills of Rights are usually fodder for the media: Cingular’s CTIA, for example. JetBlue’s document will be incorporated into the contract of carriage, giving it needed and admirable legal weight. We will be watching JetBlue. If they adversely define “controllable irregularity,” we’ll be the first to cry foul.

What Went Wrong

  • Everything else: Remember, though JetBlue landed the mea culpa dead center, this was started because they couldn’t get off the ground in the first place.

JetBlue’s apology, in full:

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.


David Neeleman
Founder and CEO
JetBlue Airways

We expect this to be the last we will hear of the situation. We’ll be watching as they go forward. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Previously: Point/Counterpoint: JetBlue’s Apology Isn’t Enough
JetBlue Announces Passenger Bill Of Rights

JetBlue’s CEO is “Mortified”


Edit Your Comment

  1. edwardoneill says:

    I am so sorry.

    No airline should be able to keep you on a grounded plane for longer than two yours. It is torture.

    If it were me, I would sue for kidnapping or some such.

    Isn’t five hours their new ‘limit’? Ridiculous.

    This just shows how far airlines have to go, how little they consider the consumer.

    I say the Feds should step in and regulate that industry a bit.

  2. Bourque77 says:

    Vouchers still suck, if you are an individual going on vacation or whatever (a one time only deal) and jet blue sends you a voucher because they screwed up your vacation that doesnt mean jack. That is the big deal for me anyway the rest doesnt mean anything because its filled with so much legal b.s. they can worm their way out of it. It a pr stunt that most people on this site anyway feel is pretty much worthless. Dont try to make them out to seem good because they dont overbook hey you dont sell more tickets than seats good you are doing your job. They dont deserve a damn pat on the back for it. I dont get thanked at work for doing my job right, why? because they pay me to do it right thats why. To top it off they still have not clearly stated what controllable irregularity which means they have no legal right to give you anything for keeping yo on that plane. They define what stipulates you getting free stuff from them so they are obviously going to make it as complicated as possible, at least thats most peoples point of view.
    Jet blue to a step in the right direction, but it was a baby step, this article is way to biased, I’d see it no different if jet blue themselves published it. Therefore it hold about the same amount of weight on my opinion, none.

  3. a says:

    Am I the only person who sees the good in overbooking?

    Because of airline overbooking, X number of people are offered seats when they might have had to keep searching elsewhere. Overbooking is based on an algorithm (one I don’t know) due to the FACT that a small percentage of people don’t make their flights. Stuck in traffic, get sick at the last minute, sleep in, I don’t care.

    Airlines don’t overbook by 100%. On any given plane, based on my lifelong flying experience, I would guess 2-5 people are overbooked.
    On the off-chance that everyone arrives, the airline’s FIRST reaction is to offer vouchers (in my experience of USAir, Delta, SouthWest, United) not of monetary value, but of 1 free roundtrip ticket.

    Why do vouchers suck?
    Because you lose them? Because you forget to use them? That sounds like a personal issue to me. Unless you’re flying on the two busiest days of the year, you get a free freaking flight for getting to grandma’s an hour later than you planned by opting to take a voucher and volunteer off the overbooked flight.

    When my flights are overbooked, the line of volunteers is longer than the ones at the food court. Let’s keep the complaining to legitimate jerk companies who DON’T offer tons of free stuff to keep you happy.
    Ah, that’s just my opinion.

  4. superbmtsub says:

    But if you met a good looking chick for the same flight, you’d be thankin JetBlue for letting you share that moment of “agony” and “torture” with someone else.

  5. robbie says:

    Vouchers suck because, in my experience, the fare class is the very bottom, meaning that you can’t use them on the good flights, and on the others, those are the first seats to get sold. I took a bump once on Northwest, got a round-trip voucher good anywhere in the country, and then could not use it in the year that it was valid because I could never find a good flight–yes, I tried to book in advance. Oh, and the bump and subsequent one-way ticket that was issued from a nearby airport got me on the watch list.

  6. xboxishuge says:

    Vouchers suck because my money still goes to the company that fucked me over. You know, the one that I don’t ever want to deal with again?

    Still, even if you don’t believe JetBlue, at least they’re penitent, which is more than most companies that fuck up can say.

  7. skittlbrau says:

    I don’t know – my injured sister was stranded at JFK by JetBlue. These vouchers are nice, but when your ground crews have no idea what’s going on and getting home is $45 plus tip (cab required due to injury), I’m sorry really doesn’t cut it.

    Let’s see how they do in the future before we pat JetBlue on the back.

  8. AcilletaM says:

    Wait, Carey owns stock in Jet Blue and wrote this defense on what is supposed to be a pro-consumer website? WTF? Is this the Bush Administration? Do you think this possibly should have been mentioned sooner? Does this mean other companies you have business or personal relationships with are going to get favorable coverage here as well?

    Vouchers suck.
    •Vouchers suck. Mark is right. His other points have fallen and this is all that remains. So let’s consider it as the one remaining knock against JetBlue’s Bill of Rights. Is payment by voucher enough to scuttle the ship? No. Sure, they could pay in gold bullion, but that stuff is heavy.

    Hey, yeah, gold bullion, that’s funny. And it also doesn’t fucking address whether or not vouchers suck. You could replace “Sure, they could pay in gold bullion, but that stuff is heavy” with “Hey, look at the bird over there” and have the same effect. Vouchers suck because they force you to use their airline again during a certain period in a certain class (airline dependent of course). There is no penalty to the airline if they are not used. Plus not everyone flies frequently, which makes a voucher pretty much an empty gesture to that person. But really, strand me in an airport this long and no amount of vouchers is getting back on your airline for a very long time. Especially in winter.

    Jeezi Creezi, get past this. Other airlines apologize when they screw up and you even get vouchers. Jet Blue isn’t doing anything revolutionary or unprecedented. But then again, other airlines haven’t screwed up on the scale Jet Blue did.

  9. jabola1 says:

    I was trying to fly JetBlue during their fiasco. Not once did anyone I spoke ever said “I’m sorry” or ever know what was going on. They only said that I am stuck and that they are not going to help. So my choice was to either spend a couple of days living in an airport because all the nearby hotels are already full of stranded JetBlue passengers or spend $$$ on last minute tickets with another airline for my family.

    No amount of a voucher can make up for them ruining our vacation.

    What this experience taught me was that JetBlue may be fine when nothing goes wrong, but you can’t count on them. I still can understand how one snow storm can screw up an entire airline for 6 straight days. Do they have monkeys working there?

  10. Funklord says:

    Whine, whine, whine. Seriously people, the JetBlue apology and offer are far from perfect, but when compared to what every other airline is doing and has done in the same situation (precisely nothing), JetBlue comes out way ahead.

    I spent 19 hours in JFK and then sat on a runway for nearly 3 hours trying to get to Seattle on a Delta flight the Friday of the ice storm week. Has Delta offered me or my very pregnant wife an apology for this ordeal? No, they have not. Have they offered me a lousy useless voucher? No, they have not.

    Which airline am I more likely to fly on next time? JetBlue, by a wide margin.

  11. zl9600 says:

    Funny how JetBlue has cancelled 68 flights today and whoa, guess what? Sitting on runways again. Guess that apology everyone loves really isn’t taking effect yet.

    JetBlew=Every other airline. Get used to it.

  12. jburland says:

    Airlines don’t overbook by 100%. On any given plane, based on my lifelong flying experience, I would guess 2-5 people are overbooked.
    End qte

    Oh, yes they do! Not every airline and not every route, but I’ve seen it on flights out of Mumbai to Europe.
    It’s normally around 10% and the rate is dependent on booking and physical class, passenger mix and profile, day of week, time of day plus a a myriad of other parameters or combinations of same up to but not including moon phases.
    And if legacy airlines didn’t overbook to compensate for no shows, fares would need to increase by a minimum of 5-10%. Fact.
    JetBlue doesn’t need to overbook to that extent – they’ve got your money, you pay $30 if you cancel before departure and there are no refunds. Just use the credit within a year.
    Ryanair, for example, doesn’t overbook at all. They don’t need to.
    They just don’t refund, so every sold seat is guaranteed revenue…..

  13. Miguel Valdespino says:

    There’s also something to be said for anybody who schedules a flight in the northeast during winter and gets upset at delays. I realize that only part of the delay was weather related, but bad weather always has a huge ripple effect.