Thursday, July 31, 2008

Guess who called last night

JetBlue.

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.

1 comment:

BIG said...

It's an interesting thought. But believe it or not JetBlue is better than most.

I can't wait to hear how the small claims suit goes. I'm sure they won't even show up and it will be almost impossible to collect. Let us know!