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”