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Arment Dietrich

JetBlue: Fighting spin…while spinning its wheels

By: Arment Dietrich | February 22, 2007 | 
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Traveling is a hassle, there’s no doubt about it.  From the need to arrive hours ahead of departure, to taking off your shoes at security, folks face a stream of inconveniences at the airport.  It’s usually a relief to finally get on the plane.

Not so for JetBlue patrons, who were stuck on planes for upwards of 10 hours last week.  It’s understandable to prohibit passengers from disembarking if planes are waiting for clearance to take off.  But 10 hours!?  It’s absurd.  What’s more, the  service at JetBlue has been interrupted for days following the Valentine’s Day ice storm which grounded its planes, causing mass delays and cancellations, adding insult to injury for beleaguered passengers.

 

Here at F.A.D.S. we were silently hoping for a corporate response that would be fraught with spin and the usual company b.s.  (Un)fortunately, we were surprised to see the straightforward manner with which JetBlue CEO David Neeleman addressed this calamity.

 

Neeleman was “humiliated and embarrassed” by the situation.  “We had so many people in the company who wanted to help who weren’t trained to help,” he told the New York Times. “We had an emergency control center full of people who didn’t know what to do. I had flight attendants sitting in hotel rooms for three days who couldn’t get a hold of us. I had pilots e-mailing me saying, ‘I’m available, what do I do?’”

 

That’s certainly a frightening scenario.  Just imagine if you were a JetBlue passenger.

 

Kudos for Neeleman for addressing the problems facing JetBlue.  He announced changes for JetBlue, “This is going to be a different company because of this…It’s going to be expensive (to implement).  But what’s more important is to win back people’s confidence.”

 

Part of this resolution is the drafting of a passenger bill of rights, which demands passengers are made aware of problems are not confined to the cabin for more than three hours while delayed, among other highlights.  Congress is considering similar legislation.

 

Curious in all of this, as pointed out by blogger Stowe Boyd, Neeleman’s blog hasn’t been updated since Feb. 1.  Wouldn’t it be prudent to address these issues on his own terms, his home turf? 

 

Boyd decries the “Flight Log” (would that be a flog?) as being a marketing tool and nothing more, and an ill-regarded one at that: “The blog setup is so phony they don’t even consider it as a meaningful way to talk to the community of Jetblue (sic) users.”  Shel Holtz (and Todd Defren) notes the blog doesn’t take comments.

 

While JetBlue certainly missed an opportunity to communicate its message, we commend Neeleman for his human response and encourage him to continue this sentiment by blogging for himself.  The blog, as it stands now, is clearly the work of a flack (not that there’s anything wrong with flacks!).

 

Neeleman is certainly forward-thinking, as evidenced by this clip from the WSJ.  He notes that companies can better themselves by facing adversity.  Let’s hope JetBlue becomes a better company from this flap.

 

It’s refreshing to hear some straight talk from suits and not the usual statements that come out of incidents like this.  Neeleman gets a thumbs up for his response (but not his blog).  Still, F.A.D.S. will probably not be flying JetBlue any time soon.

UPDATE: Neeleman’s blog is updated, at long last.  Hi David!  We didn’t know you read F.A.D.S.!  Also, the Chicago Tribune’s take on the flap.

Photo courtesy of NYTimes.com

36 comments
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