Not JetBlue’s Finest Moment (Trip Report)

JetBlue, Trip Reports

I was asked to speak at the DMAI Annual Convention in Austin last week, and naturally, I was excited. Why? Because Austin is one of the few destinations that JetBlue flies nonstop from Long Beach. Anytime that’s an option, I’m thrilled. Those tickets were $363.70, and DMAI picked up the tab. The flight out was just fine, but the return? That didn’t go nearly as well.

JetBlue Save Water Baggage Cart

JetBlue has two daily flights to Austin and the last one is at 919a. I didn’t need to get there that early, but I wasn’t about to even consider LAX. I left home an hour before departure and got to the airport with plenty of time. Walking toward security, I did a double-take. JetBlue had rolled out a “save water” baggage cart with drought tolerant landscape.

After going through security, I had plenty of time to kill. So I just spent time outside and watched my airplane get ready to go.

My Airplane N584JB

Soon we were boarding, and I had the unique experience of climbing the back stairs. I love this airport.

July 14, 2015
JetBlue 1416 Lv Long Beach 919a Arr Austin 213p
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 5, Runway 30, Depart 4m Early
Austin (AUS): Gate 19, Runway 17R, Arrive 13m Early
N584JB, Airbus A320-232, Barcode tail “Blue Fox”, ~95% Full
Seat 21A, Coach
Flight Time 2h34m

I took my seat (21A), happy to find that I would in fact have FlyFi internet on this flight. The Captain came out and spoke to everyone. He was in a good mood, talking about how he’s from Texas and asked if anyone else was. A lot of those onboard were indeed from that foreign country.

Boarding From the Rear

We took off through a thin marine layer and then pointed toward the southeast. The flight attendants came through with drinks first (I had a bottle of water) and then a basket of snacks. I snagged blue chips and some graham crackers and then flipped on the internet.

I wanted to take advantage of the MLB.TV deal which allows anyone to watch games for free, but sadly, this was one day where no baseball would be played. (Well, the All Star Game came on later that night, but that didn’t help.) Still, I tried streaming some highlights from the Home Run Derby and it was really choppy. Might not be ready for primetime yet. Instead, I just watched various news channels dissecting the Iran nuclear deal, and I did some work online.

When I first tried FlyFi back on my Vegas trip and tweeted about it, the Blue SelfieJetBlue Twitter team asked for a selfie, but the flight was too short. I told them I’d send one on my flight the next week to Boston, but then I had no wifi on that flight. On this flight, I tweeted something about being on the airplane and quickly had a response from JetBlue asking me for that selfie. Good memories (or tools to help memories) over at JetBlue, it seems.

The rest of the flight passed quickly. There were a few bumps but the seatbelt sign never went on until descent. On final, the heat made for a bumpier ride and the kids in the row behind me screamed “we’re gonna crash!” They seemed to think that was funny, but their mom quickly dropped the hammer on that. They were shortly proven wrong when we landed. I hadn’t eaten much, so I stopped by Salt Lick BBQ and grabbed a sandwich before heading into Austin.

After giving my speech Friday morning, I was ready to head home. Unfortunately, JetBlue wasn’t. I got my first delay alert pretty early that it would be 30 minutes late. Then it kept slipping. According to JetBlue’s flight status, the delay was due to fatigued flight crew in Long Beach, where the airplane was coming from. In other words, I assume someone called in fatigued and they had to find another crew. The flight finally got out of Long Beach and they had us pegged at a 259p departure. Ok.

I got to the airport and started walking toward security. I had already checked in on the app, but when I opened it to pull up the boarding pass, it said something like “Hurry, your flight is boarding. If you need a boarding pass, go see a ticket agent.” The app showed the correct delayed time, so I have no idea why it wouldn’t let me pull up the boarding pass. But I had to double-back to the JetBlue ticket counter. There I found a kiosk, and it let me reprint my boarding pass. Then it was back to security again. Fun times.

I used the Pre Check line and my bag was flagged. At least I thought it was flagged. Nobody said anything. The guy operating the x-ray machine just put it next to him while I sat there waiting. About 5 minutes later, someone came up and took it, saying they saw a corkscrew. There was a lot of swag given out at this event, and I had forgotten about the corkscrew. Sure enough, there it was with a tiny blade. TSA confiscated it, not that I cared.

(Note to Fredericksburg, TX: You may be the heart of Texas “wine country” but handing out corkscrews and bottles of wine at events where most people arrive by air is not a good plan.)

Once through, I still had time to kill, but while I was staring at the departure boards, I noticed something. JetBlue had two flights scheduled at the same gate at the same time. The later flight from Long Beach, 1416, was getting in at 212p and then heading to Orlando at 254p as flight 2416. My flight was arriving at 229p and departing at 259p. Hmm, no.

I asked the gate agent and she said that there were no other gates they could use. So the plan was to turn that first flight around really quickly and leave 20 minutes early. Then we’d hop on our airplane. I was skeptical.

JetBlue Airplane Waiting at Gate

The first airplane arrived early at 158p and people slowly got off. At 218p, our airplane arrived, but they were just starting to pre-board the other flight. (And this was a flight to Orlando, so everyone thought they could pre-board.) This didn’t go quickly.

Eventually they got most people onboard, but there were a couple stragglers and they couldn’t close the door and push back early without them. One guy showed up out of breath, and it turns out he was on United. So he ran across the hall and barely made that flight. Then someone else casually strolled up and got on. They finally pushed back at 245p, only 9 minutes early. The people waiting for our flight were starting to get even more annoyed than they already were.

Our airplane pulled in a few minutes later, but there was no chance in hell that we’d make that 259p departure time. People took their time getting off. One girl got off and stood at the gate fuming. But there was nobody around because they were onboard cleaning the aircraft as quickly as possible.

They finally finished and got ready to board, but first, this girl standing at the counter was about to blow her top. I can’t say I blame her. She was coming from Long Beach on this flight and connecting to Orlando. Yes, that’s the flight that she watched push back early while her airplane spent 20 minutes waiting for the gate. To make things worse, the agent only offered to put her on the flight the next day. I really hope JetBlue got smart and bought her a ticket on the Southwest flight later that day. This was entirely JetBlue’s fault, and she got screwed.

I couldn’t stick around to watch and help, however, because they were making an effort to board us quickly.

July 17, 2015
JetBlue 217 Lv Austin 1242p Arr Long Beach 137p
Austin (AUS): Gate 19, Runway 17R, Depart 2h43m Late
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 9, Runway 30, Arrive 2h33m Late
N537JT, Airbus A320-232, Barcode tail “Red, White, and Blue”, ~90% Full
Seat 23A, Coach
Flight Time 2h33m

I was one of the first onboard in the back of the airplane and two flight attendants were standing there. I warned them that there were a lot of angry people coming. The response? A knowing look and one saying “this ain’t our first rodeo.”

I figured the most annoying part of the trip was behind us… until someone with awful body odor boarded somewhere nearby. Then the girl next to me started eating a nasty-looking pizza that stank. I had to find a way to occupy myself.

FlyFi? Nope. I somehow ended up on one of the only airplanes left that doesn’t have FlyFi. So it was just me and LiveTV. Of course, there’s not much going on at this time of day, so I had to settle for finding out if this one guy on Maury Povich had actually fathered 3 children with 3 different women. (Spoiler alert: he IS the father.)

We buttoned up and pushed back at 325p, long after the 259p estimate. Soon we were airborne and then it became just like any other flight. Though I should note that we had a fair bit of light chop but the seatbelt sign almost never went on. Kudos to the pilots for that.

Clouds Over Arizona

We landed after 4p, more than 2.5 hours late, and I was drained. I couldn’t have been happier to be getting into Long Beach, knowing the 10 minute drive would be much easier.

I left this trip thinking that JetBlue could have handled this better than it did. It left a bad taste in my mouth, actually. But then, on Saturday, I received an email from JetBlue giving me a $50 voucher. I had completely forgotten that JetBlue automatically provides credit to people when flights are delayed for certain periods of time. That was a welcome surprise and it quickly changed my impression for the better. So, good job in the end, JetBlue, but you could have done a better job setting expectations on the delay.

While I was in Austin, I did a day trip to Houston for a day of flight attendant training with United. You can look for that report and more on training in the next couple weeks.

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18 comments on “Not JetBlue’s Finest Moment (Trip Report)

  1. I’ve been at ORD waiting for a gate to become available while I watched my connecting flight push back and leave without me. That is one of the worst feelings of helplessness I’ve ever had. How an airline handles that is probably the best way to judge them overall at customer service. That was with UA so I’ll let you guess how it was handled.

    Another time I was flying CO (back in the day) and I was going to miss my connection due to weather delays at IAH. So right there at my origin airport CO rebooked me on AA – in first class to boot, so I’d connect at DFW and get home that night. Impressive.

  2. This is one area where JetBlue needs to do better. A voucher is nice, but poor IRROP handling seems to be the norm. For my trip last year to Tampa:

    – The departure airport was changed 24 hours before because the plane was diverted to another airport
    – The diverted airport did not have regular service to/from Tampa, so I would have to return to the original airport, which is 50 miles away
    – No ground transportation was offered
    – First call to contact center resulted in changing the itinerary only out of new york-based airports, not Hartford. Had to make a second call to rectify that
    – On the return flight, the plane was so heavily utilized (it did a red-eye) that it was never able to catch up once it was delayed 36 hours prior to my flight. Seriously. [incidentally, this was on N503JB, which you flew a few weeks back]

  3. You would think at a single gate location they would have alternate plans set up in advance like using someone else’s gate or off boarding with stairs so people making connections might have a chance of making their flight.

    1. Agreed. At ANC, which is a seasonal operation, B6 uses three gates due to having three aircraft on the ground at about the same time (arrivals from LGB, PDX, and SEA). Go figure.

  4. I agree with you about IRROPS at JetBlue. ***If*** everything goes well, they are a good airline to fly with, but the second IRROPS start, I wish I had booked with another carrier.

    I had a HPN-TPA R/T a while back… Flight out from HPN got canceled due to poor sales on the flight that day (no weather issues in the network, I checked, and way too many empty seats on that flight when I had tried to get a better seat the night before). Called up, asked to be put on a flight from another local airport, got one booked from LGA, but then had to push the agent hard to get her to reschedule my return flight to go through LGA, too. It cost me an extra $150 in parking and tolls, which in hindsight I should have raised a stink about. Never did get an apology out of them.

    I have also had very poor luck with JetBlue’s IFE being in working order. Their IFE is nice, but not of much use if it is out of service 20+% of the time. Add in the reduction in leg room and the charging for bags, and it’s hard for me to see how differentiated the JetBlue product is vs the others, at least for me, and I consider it much less reliable, at least in my small sample size.

    1. Airlines can’t always get it right, no one does. But they are not reducing legroom. The pitch is sightly less, but overall legroom will still be the same! Still will be by far most than any other airlines. And the bad fee is not fit everyone, just offering to the *unbundled * lowest fare. The press got it all wrong getting the truth out about the changes. Forget the, addition of free and fastest WiFi (fly fi) bigger TV’s and going to 100 channels from 36 and access to the “hub”. Sometimes I wonder if it’s the airlines getting worse or traveling public. ;)
      Everyone screams for cheaper fares, but want to fly around the world, something had to give. St least JetBlue is offering the most.

      1. > St least JetBlue is offering the most.

        Oh, I agree. I really, really want to like JetBlue, and the onboard experience is still the best.

        Still, the onboard experience doesn’t matter much if (even with a very small personal sample size) I can’t count on it to be consistently working, and if I can’t count on JetBlue to be reliable.

        That’s the challenge with having all the extras- they are great when they work, but when pax expect them and they do not work, or do not exist on some planes, it can leave a sour taste.

    2. >> Flight out from HPN got canceled due to poor sales on the flight that day

      This is an urban legend. Airlines do not cancel flights because of low bookings. I once sent a flight with only TWO passengers on it. Not to mention, that the plane is needed for the return/continuing segment. Remember, most cancellations come in pairs.

      But, for example, when an airline loses a plane for maintenance, they will look at which flight causes the least damage and cancel that one, in order to use the good airplane for another flight.

  5. So that misconnect would have been avoided if the person had booked the later LGB flight, for a same-plane connection. We can’t tell why she didn’t, but two reasonable guesses are (a) price and (b) short connection. The latter turned out to be rather silly, since a short connection on the same aircraft is a lot safer than a longer connection on different aircraft (yes, sometimes aircraft swaps happen, but that’s fairly rare). Which begs the question: why doesn’t Jetblue sell 1-stop flights? Or anyone else except Southwest?

    1. Ron – Well the big issue here is that JetBlue sells those as two separate flight numbers. Long Beach to Austin is flight 1416 and Austin to Orlando is 2416. So no regular traveler would even know it’s the same plane. They probably think they’re being safer by having that longer layover.

      But JetBlue really doesn’t like connections anyway. It flies in markets where it can sell most tickets in the local market and that tends to be a more profitable way to do it. So connections end up being a lot more money because it’s closer to the sum of local fares and not competitive with other carriers in the market for the most part. That’s done on purpose.

      1. Well, Jetblue could give the two segments the same flight number if they wanted to…

        Back when “milk runs” were common (along with multi-stop “direct” flights), the general practice was to assign a single flight number to an aircraft’s run. Today only Southwest does this, and apparently they do see some value from 1-stop itineraries. Some of this value is unique to Southwest, because of their open seating — on a 1-stop itinerary you can switch to a better seat at the stop, while on a connecting itinerary you board a new flight with people already on it. But some of the added value must come from the much reduced likelihood of misconnecting. The question is why other airlines don’t see such value in 1-stop itineraries (even through a hub).

        This is only tangential to Jetblue’s dispreference for connections — whatever the pricing, they do ultimately sell connections, so they might as well advertise their 1-stop itineraries. They may even be able to extract a small premium.

    2. Unless the airline system is designed to do milk runs (like Southwest), same-plane itinerary is not guaranteed. While swaps are rare at the last minute, they are much more common a couple of days out for maintenance needs and to match the crew’s assignment when able.

  6. Yeah… schedule reliability is key. If you can’t operate on time, or reasonably close to it, the only people you will keep are the kettles who fly based on price alone. And those people won’t make you money.

  7. LGB-AUS-MCO used to be the same flight number all the way through I’m not sure why or when that changed. As a matter of fact I remember that when you went to list as a non rev it looked like a nonstop because of that.

    Has JB gotten back to you at all after this post?

  8. I’ve spent an hour on a taxiway unable to park because of an occupied gate , waiting for that plane to push but no one could find the flight crew. I *was* the flight crew. Lovely gate scheduling courtesy of the tulip.

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