So, did I miss anything over the long weekend?
From the looks of JetBlue CEO David Neeleman’s face on news shows this morning, I get the feeling it was a sleepless few days for the BlueCrew. Remember how I said before that by not pre-canceling their flights, the airline was helping a lot more people than it hurt? Well I’ll have to take that one back. Continuing to cancel up to a quarter of their flights through the entire holiday weekend most certainly had to have hurt a lot more than pre-canceling would have done.
What happened? Well in short they didn’t have the systems in place to recover from such a mammoth disruption. It has taken days to get everyone in the right place, including customers who may have been stranded. This has turned uglier than anyone could have imagined.
So where do we go from here? Nope, not to a government-mandated Passenger Bill of Rights. Why do that when just the threat of one will get airlines to act?
Remember, the airlines created their Customers First plan after the last threat appeared. That was good enough for 5 years until the recent incidents have thrust it back into the spotlight. So once again, the airlines are reacting.
First, American put a four-hour cap on the amount of time they’d leave a customer on the plane. (Thanks, Global Traveller and Upgrade: Travel Better) They also promised technology upgrades to help prevent the problems from occurring again.
JetBlue took a much stronger approach by introducing its own Customer Bill of Rights this morning. You can read the announcement here, but I’ll summarize myself.
*They’ll notify customers of delays, cancellations, and diversions along with the cause
*They won’t keep customers on board an aircraft on the ground for more than 5 hours
*If a flight lands but can’t taxi to a gate, it pushes back and can’t takeoff, or it is just plain delayed due to circumstances under JetBlue’s control (not weather or ATC), customers will be compensated with vouchers worth $25 to the full price of the roundtrip ticket depending on the length of the delay
*If a flight is canceled due to something under JetBlue’s control (not weather or air traffic control) less than 12 hours before scheduled departure, each customer will get either a full refund or a full credit as well as a voucher for the entire roundtrip cost of the flight
*If a customer is involuntarily denied boarding due to overbooking, they’ll get $1,000. (Don’t get too excited by this one. The airline doesn’t overbook, so this will rarely happen.)
Of course, they’re also going to be making technological changes to ensure that this meltdown doesn’t happen again. I think this is quite proactive and it goes a long way to address people’s concens. True, they aren’t handing out cash, but they will be handing out a lot of vouchers. If you’d like to hear more about the reasoning straight from the horse’s mouth, watch this YouTube video from David Neeleman.
By the way, all of these policies are retroactive to February 14, the day of the weather debacle, so people on those flights will be receiving compensation. It doesn’t help people get where they’re going right now, but it does at least make an effort. Is it enough? We’ll see if it satisfies people or whether more is necessary. Personally, I’m glad to see airlines responding. It tells me once again that there’s no need for further regulation. Simply the threat will be enough.
(Edited Feb 20 at 226p to add overbooking info)