Thursday, July 31, 2008
Yep. Apparently this blog has come to the attention of the folks at JetBlue corporate. I spoke to someone in customer relations (Out of respect and deference, I won't reveal her name, even though I am sure she knew that it was possible that I might.)
Let me say at the outset that she was professional, polite, considerate and seemed genuinely sorry that I had such a miserable experience on JetBlue. She is an asset to the company and if she worked for me, I would give her a raise and promotion. She did her job admirably.
That said - I am in public relations, so I know when someone is sticking to talking points. I have written a few of them myself over the years.
Her talking points involved a familiar refrain: Air Traffic Control and weather delays are beyond our control. She also referred to JetBlue's "Contract of Carriage" a number of times.
Fair enough, I said, but weather and ATC are not the issues here. Those are merely contributing factors to a much larger problem. In my case it was the piling-on effect of the delay, then the lack of crew, then the cancellation, then the lack of staff at the airport, then the lack of compassion or ability of the two staffers to do anything for us customers other than tell us we could wait three days for the next flight.
I said that if I were running the airline, I would have had another crew and plane ready to go faster than three days. She said that if this had happened in New York or Long Beach, that might have been possible, but they only operate one flight to Portland a day, so staffing and rescheduling is not as simple. I responded that, in my view, JetBlue was selling a product (a trip to Portland) that they could not adequately staff and support. I have an expectation that when I purchase a product or service, there are adequate resources to deliver what I paid for. I interpreted her comments as a tacit admission that JetBlue could not meet the commitment they have made to its Portland service, so maybe they should stop selling that product. (She did not concede the point.)
She also confirmed that JetBlue does not have interline agreements that would enable them to put passengers on another air carrier. She says that this is one of the ways that they can keep prices low. I thanked her for confirming another reason NOT to fly JetBlue. While Continental, American, Delta and United will certainly not guarantee me a seat on another carrier, with JetBlue, I am guaranteed that it will never happen.
(According to this Washington Post article, it was not always thus.)
Anyway, we went back and forth, and while I appreciated the conversation and the chance to speak with her, it bugs me that it took this blog to prompt JetBlue to take action.
And what action did they take, other than calling me? Well, they offered me an additional $60 refund, plus another non-transferable certificate for $129.00. There is some sort of method to these figures, but it's not entirely clear to me what it is.
I am still out several hundred dollars and the loss of an entire work day (I am self-employed and bill by the hour, so that's a full day of lost income.)
I have no idea if my small claims suit has any legal merit, but it's my right to find out. I have a feeling that if everyone who purchased an airline ticket, only to be bumped, delayed, canceled, held captive or otherwise abused filed a small claims suit, the airlines would be faced with either spending a lot of money on lawyers answering each of those suits OR figuring out a away to deliver what they charged us for. The airlines blame the current state of the industry on everyone and everything except themselves including fuel prices, weather, the FAA, Congress, air traffic controllers, ad nauseum. But if they had to defend themselves in tens of thousands of lawsuits, you can bet they would figure things out pretty quickly or risk going out of business.
A year ago, if a flight sat on a runway for hours before taking off or after landing, it might have made the evening news. Today, service has deteriorated so much, that the airlines are trying to convince us that's just the way it is. If a flight happens to arrive any time close to the schedule, consider it gravy.
This trip finally pushed me over the edge. If we continue to accept this from the airlines, they will continue to deliver this galactically bad service.
I choose to light a candle, rather than sit on a motionless airplane or in a gloomy departure lounge, cursing the darkness.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I have to say - my JetBlue horror story pales in comparison to this one, sent by my friend Tracy.
JetBlue's frequent flyer program is called "TrueBlue". I have decided to appropriate that moniker and invite people to send in their "TrueBlue Horror Stories". I will gladly post them here:
Read this one from Tracy and weep:
My assistant's husband tried to fly to Vegas Sunday morning on JetBlue. His flight was scheduled to leave New York at 10:00am. He boarded the plane, then sat on the runway until 7:00 PM at night. No one was allowed off the plane. All they fed them was pretzels because they said they couldn't get them food on the runway. THEN get this: they finally took off Sunday night and had to land in the Midwest because the toilets were overflowing from all the people stuck on the plane for 8 hours. sorry- but that might beat your story.Indeed it does, Trace! Hats off JetBlue! You are considerably more evil than any of us imagined!
I replied to JetBlue that I found their response unacceptable. They replied with the note below. I said "OK. See you in court."
BUT GOOD NEWS! I received my $100 flight voucher today, good for travel on a future JetBlue flight. I would try to sell it on eBay, but I am the only one who can use it. It is non-transferable.
Those crafty JetBlue-devils: Always screwing the customer at every turn!
One note: I blame all of this on JetBlue management and not the rank-and-file who have to carry out corporate policies. I am inspired to say this because of a post on Chris Elliott's blog today about how airline passengers are turning abusive toward employees and equipment. I agree with Chris's thoughts 100 percent: It is not their fault. They are handed a bag of sh*t by management and then told to go out, smile and sell it as delicious chocolate ice cream.
JetBlue employees are indeed victims here too. Their misery should not be compounded by abusive airline passengers.
For the record - during my entire ordeal, I never once used abusive or disrepectful language toward a JetBlue employee. I made my anger clear, but also made it clear that I knew it was not their fault.
Dear Mr. Baker,
Thank you for your additional email to JetBlue Airways and for letting us know of your continued disappointment. We welcome another opportunity to respond to your concerns and request.
Again, we deeply regret your disappointment and that we were unable to operate your flight as scheduled. We offer our sincere apologies for the inconvenience this has caused you.
All travel on JetBlue, whether it is domestic or international travel, is subject to JetBlue's Contract of Carriage. The Contract of Carriage details JetBlue?s liability for failure to operate in section 25 and 26. You may reference the Contract via the following link:
We hope to serve you onboard a JetBlue flight again in the future.
Customer Commitment Crew
I received the email below today from JetBlue customer service. I have told them that this response is unacceptable and that I want them to refund the amount of my ticket to get home. If they do not, I will take them to small claims court.
Notice that nowhere in her email did she acknowledge the fact that I would have had to spend three days living in the Portland airport for the next available JetBlue flight. Nowhere does she acknowledge the lack of staffing at the Portland airport.
Since I do not want to gum up my main blog with the stench of JetBlue, I have decide to set up a separate blog to document my proceedings with JetBlue at: http://myjetbluelawsuit.blogspot.com/
More to come.
Dear Mr. Baker,
Thank you for contacting us in regards to your recent JetBlue experience. We appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns.
We regret we were unable to operate JetBlue Flight #166 on July 23, 2008 as scheduled. We know our customers rely on us to operate their flights as scheduled, but as you know sometimes it becomes necessary to cancel flights.
When we can see that weather and Air Traffic Control (ATC) delays will significantly impact our operations, we will cancel our flights as soon as possible to allow our customer enough time to make other travel arrangements. Because we were focusing our efforts to locating another Inflight Crew and to operate this flight, there was a delay in making the final decision to cancel the flight. We apologize for the inconvenience this caused.
We hope at some point in the future will we be able to welcome you back onboard so we may provide you with a renewed and positive experience.
Customer Commitment Crew
Made it home at midnight last night - 14 hours late and $1,000 poorer - all thanks to JetBlue.
My Northwest flight from Portland to Detroit left nearly on time, at 9:00 AM PDT. I arrived in Detroit with plenty of time to make my connection to JFK. But since the Detroit/JFK segment was delayed two hours, I had MORE than enough time.
As I explained to the JetBlue customer service people with whom I spoke today, my issues with them are:
1.) I understand that weather can cause delays - even five hour delays. Not happy about it, but totally understand.
2.) JetBlue made people spend six hours at the Portland airport - from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM, only to tell them that the flight was cancelled.
3.) The flight was DELAYED because of weather. The flight was CANCELLED because JetBlue did not have a crew available. That is NOT an act of God. It is an act of gross incompetence and indifference on the part of JetBlue. I can not believe that in the six hours it took the plane to get from NYC to Portland that they could not come up with another crew. And if they really couldn't, that is JetBlue's fault, not the weather's.
4.) JetBlue did not have the staff on-site at the airport to deal with the aftermath of their incompetence. Initially, there was NO ONE at the JetBlue ticket counter. Then there was one person, and finally two people. Two people to deal with 150 stranded travelers who had just spent the night at the airport.
5.) How did JetBlue handle those people? They blamed the weather, which, in their mind, absolves them of any responsibility, but then "graciously" agreed to refund the Portland to New York segment, plus offer a $100 travel certificate. They would not help anyone book on other airlines. They did not make any hotel arrangements or offer food vouchers. Keep in mind that the earliest they could offer me a flight was Saturday at midnight. I tried to call 10 hotels throughout Portland and all of them said the city was booked solid due to conventions and a big beer festival. That meant, if JetBlue had its way, I would have lived at the Portland airport from Wednesday night at 11:00 PM until Saturday midnight. That is what they offered me and all the other passengers.
A couple of absolutely true stories:
- The young woman in line behind me was from eastern Europe. She spoke decent English, but had NO idea what to do. Literally. She did not know how to get to New York. I told her that if she had a credit card, do whatever it takes to get on another flight and worry about the money later. I do not know what happened to her. For all I know, she is still there.
- Another woman was in tears because she was going to her mother's memorial service. Since I arrived home 14 hours late, I have no idea if she ever had the opportunity to say a last goodbye to her mom.
Nice work, JetBlue.
As I said to the two customer service reps on the phone today - I was a big JetBlue fan until 36 hours ago. They openly screwed me and the other passengers and made no apologies whatsoever. They are morally bankrupt and deserve fiscal bankruptcy as well. They try to tout themselves as a different kind of airline, and yet they resort to the identical behavior toward customers that has so soured people on the airline industry as a whole.
I plan to continue to pursue this through JetBlue's customer complaint desk. Depending on what happens, I am considering taking them to small claims court to recover the cost of the ticket I had to purchase to do what JetBlue promised but could not. Whatever the outcome of that, it will cost them a lot more to send lawyers to small claims court than it would to simply do the right thing and make me whole.
So, my journey continues. After a sleepless night at the Portland airport, the JetBlue plane from New York finally landed and 4:45 AM. They let all the passengers off and as soon as I saw that, I took a couple of over-the-counter sleeping pills for my journey home.
At 5:05 am, the pilot and co-pilot came out and told the now awake people in the gate area that, even though they (the pilot and co-pilot) were there and ready to fly, there was no crew so the flight was officially canceled.
I said "Wait a minute - we waited six hours and NOW you tell us there is no crew?"
Pilot: "I just found out myself."
Guy behind me: "Bullsh*t! That is total bullsh*t!"
Me: "I second that."
So all 150 of us head off in a stampede to the JetBlue ticket counter, where there is exactly one person. (I was a pretty respectable 10th in line.) Here's how it went:
Me: I'll take a flight to LaGuardia, JFK, Newark or Hartford.
Hapless JetBlue Guy: Sorry sir, I can only issue you a refund for your return flight and give you a $100 travel certificate.
Me: Book me on another airline.
Hapless JetBlue Guy: We don't have agreements with other airlines. We can not do that.
Me: Book me on another airline.
Hapless JetBlue Guy: Sir, you can say that as much as you want, but there is nothing I can do for you.
Me: If you were me, would you ever fly your sad excuse for an airline again?
Hapless JetBlue Guy: No, sir. This is terrible and I wish there were a manager here.
Then he informs me that if I can get to Seattle, I can take a flight from there. Or I can wait for the next available JetBlue flight from Portland, which will be Saturday at midnight. I almost hit him, but I felt I might start sobbing and thought that would be an incongruous image - me pummeling his face until he was black and JetBlue, Tony Soprano style, while I cried like a girl.
So, now I have my refund and my fabulous $100 flight voucher and I still am no closer to New York than I was six hours ago.
I call my amigo and work colleague Joe Eckert, who books me on a Delta flight through Detroit. Had to go first class and it cost me $1,000, but I need to get home. I go to Delta First Class check-in and wait about 15 minutes. They inform me that the first leg of my flight to Detroit is on Northwest, so I have to check in with them.
And since this skinny white boy from Connecticut booked a last-minute first class ticket, I was selected for additional screening at security. I had to go through one of those machines that blows air at you, while Timmy the TSA security guy (who is also the assistant night manager at the Portland Airport Denny's), swabs down my dirty laundry to make sure I did not smuggle any C4 in with my boxers. The experience was not unlike having JetBlue blow hot air at me. No. Wait. I'd rather submit to a full cavity search than fly JetBlue again.
So here I sit, waiting for my 8:30 AM flight from Portland to Detroit. If all goes according to plan, I will walk in my front door about 13 hours after I was supposed to, at 9:00 PM tonight. I have great confidence that all will NOT go according to plan, so expect a screed against Delta or Northwest during my layover in Detroit.
BTW - if you check the fine print of any airline ticket, you will find that, in fact, they are under no obligation to actually transport you to the local Starbucks, let alone to where it actually says on your ticket.
On Sunday, June 20, I had to fly from New York to Portland, OR, to attend the OSCON open source conference. My JetBlue flight was scheduled to board at 7:05 pm and depart at 7:35 pm. We boarded at 8:30. After we backed away from the gate the pilot came on and informed us that it would be at least two hours before we took off. It was actually three hours. As I see it, I was basically kidnapped. I was being held in a confined space, against my will, with absolutely no recourse whatsoever, other than risking arrest by federal authorities if I wanted to get off that plane. I did not consent to being detained, because I was not informed of the pending detainment until after it was too late for me to do anything about it.
Right now, as I write this, I am sitting at the Portland airport, trying to get home. My midnight red-eye flight was due to board at 11:35 PM.
It is now 12:45 AM PDT and my flight is scheduled to depart at 5:00 AM. Apparently, this is due to severe thunderstorms on the east coast, so the plane from New York departed five hours late.
If JetBlue was anything other than a third-rate bunch of liars, they would have found a plane from, say, Salt Lake or Los Angeles and made it available.
No way. The airline industry is running so lean and so bankrupt, that they honestly feel that they can rationalize a five hour delay on a red-eye flight because of thunderstorms.
They'll never acknowledge that they don't have enough planes. Nor will they admit that their route planners are morons. It's certainly not because they are trying really, really hard, but sometimes circumstances are beyond their control.
It is because they are thieves and liars. I do not know how JetBlue CEO David Barger looks himself in the mirror every day, but I am sure, deep down, he must be disgusted with himself, his crap airline and the decision he made to get into an industry that is, above all, morally bankrupt.
But I also believe part of providing great customer service is admitting when you are wrong.
My recent experience with JetBlue demonstrates that they like to talk the talk, but not walk the walk.
It all started with a business trip from New York City to Portland, OR. You can read all about what happened on my otherr blog - www.billbakerblog.com, or just read those posts reprinted on this blog.
Now, I am taking them to small claims court.
Because I can. And because they screwed up and refuse to admit it.