You have to give credit to Jet Blue CEO, David Neeleman, who appeared on the Today Show yesterday morning for an interview with Matt Lauer.
After a week of havoc caused by the snowstorm of the season, Neeleman took matters in hand and has created his airline's Customer Bill of Rights while announcing a pay-out of $20-30 million in an effort to appease thousands of angry customers left stranded on Valentine's Day. With customers forced to sit on the tarmac for hours on end, and thousands stranded across the country, air travel during winter months has turned into a major gamble. You'd think the airlines would already have contingency plans in place -- after all it does snow in the winter.
I remember traveling from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Newark during the biggest snowstorm of 2003. We managed to land, but the airport and city were both shut down, so our connecting flight was canceled. We were stranded in the Continental terminal with no food, nowhere to sit but old, uncomfortable vinyl seating, and no way out. Nearby hotels and motels had been booked long before we landed.
The odd thing is that meteorologists can predict these weather patterns. The airlines knew the storm was coming, yet nothing was done in preparation. Why couldn't they make advance arrangments with caterers to set up food stations to sell food? I would gladly have paid for meals when the only options were Starbucks muffins, and they ran out very quickly. I sought out a terminal custodian who eventually brought out cots from storage.
My husband and I managed to rent a car and drive through the blizzard to get home that Saturday, rather than wait it out until Tuesday for our connecting flight to resume. I can't even begin to imagine what it could have been like in that terminal from Saturday through to Tuesday.
So, it's about time that airlines take some responsibility. They aren't responsible for the weather, but they can be responsible for the aftermath and ensure their customers are comfortable and can get on their way within hours after the storm abates.
So, kudos to Jet Blue. I like the airline - it's comfortable, affordable and the staff are amazingly friendly and helpful. I think Neeleman deserves a lot of credit. He certainly is putting his money on the line in winning back customer loyalty. Here's his video statement.
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