Jet Blue’s Valentines Day Blues

Ah, Jet Blue.  I suppose it was just a matter of time before you, too, stepped in it.

Jet Blue airlines has been a favorite of ours for some time now, due to their less expensive fares, new jets, creature comforts such as large comfortable leather seats for everyone, and individual TV sets at each seat that show satellite TV when available, or at the very least, your choice of two movies. 

This is a company that really seems to "get it," in terms of seeing the world through its customers’ eyes.  In fact, an article in Inc. Magazine describes a scenario where Jet Blue’s CEO traveled on a flight, and helped the attendants serve customers, and stopped and chatted with each one!  The CEO and founder, David Neeleman, was asked how he came up with the airline’s great innovations.  "I get most of my ideas on flights like this one," Neeleman said. "The customers tell me what they want."

This is why it was particularly disturbing to read about the Jet Blue passengers who were forced to sit on board an outbound plane at JFK Airport in NY for 11 hours, due to foul weather, compounded by logistic and equipment issues.  Another incoming flight landed at 10 AM, but passengers could not get off the plane until nearly 7 PM.  Other flights suffered similar delays.  The chaos was exacerbated by the vast sea of luggage that had to be returned to delayed / stranded passengers.

This was a serious black eye for any airline to suffer, but especially for Jet Blue, that had prided itself on its customer focus.  Mr. Neeleman, the CEO, has been up front in apologizing profusely for the problems and inconveniences, and has tried to put his money where his mouth is by offering refunds and vouchers, based on the level of inconvenience suffered by each passenger.  But really, what else could he do, if he wishes to stay in business?

Only time will tell whether Mr. Neeleman’s promised overhaul of operations will actually make a difference in future crises.  If his disaster recovery skills are as bountiful as his other customer-focused ideas, then there is a good chance that Jet Blue can bounce back.  We hope that they do.

  — Chuck Dennis

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