Tuesday, July 29, 2008

POST #5 - JetBlue - Part the Third: Free at last!

Journey's end: Recovering from the JetBlue blues

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.

Stay tuned.

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