Valentine's Day Ice Storm 2008? Everybody Panic!

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Great Valentine’s Day Air Travel Massacre—a storm that took down JetBlue’s entire operation and ultimately their CEO, too.

Now it looks like the weather might be something of a repeat from last year, but will the current weather delays turn into the same sort of fiasco as last year? Maybe not.

In fact, we’ve already received a compliment from a JetBlue passenger who, despite being delayed, was pleased with the way the airline handled it.

Here’s her letter:

Yesterday there was quite the snow storm in the NYC area, so of course that was the day I chose to fly home on flight 354 from Burbank into JFK. I was a little nervous about taking Jet Blue given the fiasco this time last year (and the year before), but figured if anything did go down, they would compensate the passengers fairly (unlike my experience with Virgin Atlantic, which required a letter from my attorney to get anything).

They rushed us on to the plane at 1:00 pm in Burbank, telling us that if we were not off the ground by 1:30 pm, we could be indefinitely delayed as a result of the bad weather back east. A little before the cut off time, they said that Air Traffic Control was holding us until at least 2:30, so we could sit tight. A passenger near me called over a flight attendant and asked if we had to stay on the plane. The flight attendant said very nicely that we could leave any time and either hang out in the terminal or re-book the flight. A little later on, though, the captain stated that our bags would not be able to be removed if we did that so the whole plane of people wouldn’t get delayed by one person wanting to get off.

We fortunately got off the ground a little after 2:00 pm and only hit a little bit of turbulence along the way. As we prepared to descend into JFK, the captain told us that Air Traffic Control at JFK was making us and 2 planes in front of us circle the area as there were delays at the airport. When we finally landed a little after 11:00 pm (only about an hour late), the flight attendants very nicely allowed all the passengers with connecting flights to rush off the plane (after having them move to the empty seats at the front).

Though it was unfortunate that the flight came in so late and the weather was bad, they handled the situation very nicely, and couldn’t have been more accommodating. That being said, I did notice a lot of bundled up people sleeping in the terminal at JFK — I guess they weren’t so lucky.

Meanwhile, travel expert Christopher Elliott is taking a moment to reflect on what we’ve learned in the past year:

Sadly, the incipient passenger rights movement born after the ice storm is now on life support. The most credible of the passenger rights advocates, Kate Hanni, is expected to say a few words on the one-year anniversary of the storm. But I’m not sure it will be enough.

I covered the troubles of the passenger rights movement in a recent MSNBC column and concluded that unless passengers get behind the movement now, it’s over. (Anyone who thinks a handful of “passenger rights” bills in state legislatures won’t be killed on the federal level is smoking something very illegal, and I want some.)

There’s a lesson not learned. When you have the momentum, make the changes you can now. I think passenger rights advocates spent too much time talking and squandered two seasons of free publicity. Now it’s all but too late to do anything.

Happy Valentines Day — here’s your ice storm [Christopher Elliott]