Ignore Irresponsible Warning About Holiday Travel on JetBlue and to Minneapolis

Delays/Cancellations, JetBlue, Northwest

Those of you who are Elliott.org readers might have been a little alarmed by an article yesterday entitled, Christmas air travel warning: avoid Minneapolis, JetBlue and Northwest Flight 189. That article was so incredibly misleading that I had to clear the record.

Where is this very odd warning coming from? Last year’s on-time performance between December 23 and December 25. I’m not even kidding. Gee, anyone bother to look at whether there were maybe some reasons for this performance? Unbelievable.

First he starts with airport performance where Minneapolis saw the longest average total delay. (I’m not sure why he used that metric instead of percentage of flights arriving on time. Chicago/O’Hare was worse in that category.) In case you were wondering, Minneapolis/St Paul International Airport saw the following weather last year:

December 23 – High 14 deg, wind at 17 gusts to 35 mph, 3.10 in. of snow, fog
December 24 – High 20 deg, wind at 7 gusts to 18 mph
December 25 – High 28 deg, wind at 4 gusts to 14 mph, 3.40 in. of snow, fog

Think the miserable weather could have impacted flights? You betcha. Lots of fog and snow is always going to slow things down, but there’s no reason to think that this will somehow translate to poor performance this year. To suggest you should avoid Minneapolis because of last year’s problems is laughable.

He goes on to list airlines as well. JetBlue had the highest “Average Total Delay” which is probably par for the course when most of your flights go through JFK. But then he goes on to say that you should avoid small planes as well because most of the delayed airlines were regional carriers. Um, looking at his chart, I see JetBlue and United topping the list followed by four regional carriers and then Frontier, Northwest, and American. Seems pretty evenly spread out to me. (Though to be fair, in bad weather, small planes do tend to end up at the back of the line.)

Lastly he looks at the top delayed flight numbers during that time period last year. Surprise, surprise. Seven of them involve Minneapolis/St Paul on one end or the other. Again, that bad weather will certainly make this happen.

The bottom line here is that looking at on-time performance for three days last year is in no way an indicator of performance during this year’s holiday season. For a better metric, you can look at on-time performance trends from the DOT to see which airlines are consistently underperforming, but even that is no guarantee. You’re most likely at the whim of the weather, and sadly, the Farmer’s Almanac hasn’t quite gotten to that level of detail yet. As we saw this past Sunday, every place in the US is susceptible to delays when bad weather comes in.

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17 comments on “Ignore Irresponsible Warning About Holiday Travel on JetBlue and to Minneapolis

  1. Thanks for being the voice of reason Cranky. Clearly if someone has an axe to grind against a certain airline they can find a week or two where things weren’t 100%. The AA MD80 grounding from February rings a bell. Now would it be fair to judge them by that week? Hardly.

    MSP can be a headache in winter (at times) but lets not forget that last year while Chicago was getting buried in snow, Mpls had below normal snowfall. If I were picking locations for a layover hands down I’d pick MSP over ORD. I give props to all the ground crew at MSP for being best in the business when it comes to winter flying. Weather always slows down operations, but in a blizzard you’ve got a better chance of getting out of MSP than most other airports.

    And even those sunbelt hubs aren’t free of problems. Been stuck at DFW in an ice storm once (something that would have less effect on MSP or ORD) and couldn’t get into ATL once when a hurricane in FL roared up into Georgia (that doesn’t happen at MSP or ORD).

    Picking where you connection happens is like a slot machine. If you can guess which one will pay out I’d like to meet you in Vegas.

  2. Elliott is the sloppiest travel writer I have ever read. I long ago unsubscribed from his newsletter. Unfortunately he still appears on Tripso which has some writers I do want to read. Since Tripso doesn’t always note the author in the teaser squib, I sometimes see his crap; but I never read it.

  3. Cranky, thanks for the update. I noticed Elliotts article and was a bit skeptical about it and the first thing that came to mind was Minneapolis in the middle of the winter which positively equals delays. I used to fly from JFK on Northwest through MSP to ANC during winter months, lots of delays but you’re dealing with the beast of mother nature.
    Also, expect delays through JFK on Jetblue and any other airline during peak holiday travel. I’m flying out on a Jetblue E190 to SDQ tonight and am looking forward to my first Embraer experience and roaming Terminal 5. Keep up the great posts. Question, have you discontinued your trip reports? Always enjoyed them.

  4. I wonder if Chris Elliott uses the same approach for his stock picking. Last year this day the companies with the best per-day gain were …, so it seems reasonable to buy those today, too. Right?

  5. Another reason why regional airlines and small planes tend to get put to the back of the line during wx delays is that shorter inbound flights which tend to be operated by regional carriers or smaller a/c are more likely to have gate holds at their origin imposed on them than a longer flight, since a longer flight is more likely to be in the air when the airport reduces the number of landings per hour.

  6. Why bother with this person? Just some unhappy bastard who paid $49 for his tickets and want’s to complain.

  7. This guy is laughable… He doesnt deserve to fly at all for blaming bad weather for delays. Take the bus loser. Oh but be careful Greyhound is more expensive than JB on a handful of days through to the end of January. And you can bet you butt that the ice on those roads will slow that bus down too. ;)

    Thanks for setting the record straight.

  8. Hi Brett,

    Thanks for setting the record straight. All of us at JetBlue know we are not perfect but we do all come to work everyday to try and make a difference and it is natually disappointing for us when we have clearly let one of our customers down. I am still an avid reader of The Crankyflier as a guide to what we are doing well and what we need to improve.

    Best, Robin Hayes
    Chief Commercial Officer
    JetBlue Airways

  9. I hope JetBlue does not go away. I prefer their price, live TV and newer planes with more leg room.

  10. Ha ha ha. Yeh fly rude AA or old lady Delta rather than a hip airline with planes no older than 7. TVs comfy seats and free snacks and drinks… Yeh. Sounds like a true New Yorker. Stupid :) ha ha. You stay on those “other” airlines and then I and other people dont have to put up with you.

  11. Are you kidding?!?! I took my first flight on Jetblue last week and it was amazing! I used to fly Delta every time but I have seen the light! I am not worried about the holiday travel…if you are familiar with JFK…expect delays on all airlines. Besides, I am more than happy to wait and be safe…especially if I am waiting in terminal 5…BEAUTIFUL!

  12. Some (not all) of you seem to be judging Chris Elliott from this post alone. I’d encourage you to take a look at more of his writing before coming to that conclusion. I just wrote this piece, because I thought it was unfairly alarming, but that doesn’t mean that everything he writes is this way.

    I’d also like to caution against personal attacks. It is not an easy thing to put yourself out there for public scrutiny every day as he does (and as I do as well). I have no problem ripping into articles with which I disagree, but people do make mistakes. I’m sure I’ve written some things that, with hindsight, I probably would have written differently, but that’s what happens when you write in this medium. Even if it wasn’t a mistake, it’s no reason to jump on him personally.

  13. Same here…I agree, keep Jetblue in NY…not only do I feel safer in an aircraft that is no older than 8 years(fyi…aa20-30year aircraft and same goes for delta). I kid you NOT there is more legroom on Jetblue’s eml seats than there are in some of aa/delta’s first class(been there, seen that). I’m gonna be honest, Jetblue isn’t always perfect, but definately goes above and beyond comparing cust ser, and best bang for your buck! And I agree w/ Skyhigh….free snacks and drinks(and yes you get the WHOLE CAN, and another 1 if you want it) tv’s(and not just one channel…almost 40 and xm radio) leather seats, and also terminal 5!

  14. In response to Newyorker, AA and Delta became who they are because of Eastern And TWA these two Airlines where the talk of the town, Delta and AA where small carriers.(non-real airlines) No One in there right mind would dream of flying them.
    When Eastern and PanAm went out of business due to Bad greedy upper MGT. AA & Delta took over those routes, and started to grow to where they are today…

  15. I had a look at the article a few days ago. There was a Comment / Link-back (whatever) that mentioned the Cranky article.

    I looked back today. No more link.

    I guess everyone reserves the right to remove links/comments from their own blog. Just thought it was interesting.

  16. jk – That is interesting. Personally, I wouldn’t remove a link-back even if it was negative. It’s all part of the education process. If someone writes a post that skewers something I said, I can either agree and possibly correct my own post, ignore it if it’s clearly not credible, try to clarify if there’s been a misunderstanding, or fight back because there’s genuine disagreement. All of those are valuable, and I’m more than happy to let readers decide how they feel. As long as everyone gets to read both sides and choose for themselves, then I’m more than happy.

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