Friday, September 26, 2008

JetBlue: There's nothing we won't delay

After goofy trial runs and puffy press releases, JetBlue has stayed true to form and has delayed... themselves.

Yep. In an unprecedented act of self-sacrifice, JetBlue has delayed the much-ballyhooed opening of their new holding pen (also known as "Terminal 5") at JFK Airport in New York.

"We couldn't resist," said a make-believe JetBlue spokesperson who doesn't really exist. "We've stranded everyone there is to strand except ourselves, so we decided to give it a try. Since we have leather seats, video terminals and neat-o corporate slogans around the office, we don't really care about the delays in opening this three-quarter-billion-dollar strip mall. We just figure it's only fair to treat ourselves and our shareholders in the exact same manner we treat our customers. We just waited until a couple of days AFTER Mayor Bloomberg cut the ribbon to announce the delay because, you know, we didn't want to look like complete a**holes."

Monday, September 22, 2008

JetBlue Terminal 5 hoopla

JetBlue is determined to beat its new terminal at JFK to death. They issued a flurry of press releases today, detailing the color of the wallpaper, the wonderful dining and shopping experience that stranded passengers will enjoy, and the 40 ticket counters that will, at the least opportune moment, be staffed by three overworked and underpaid JetBlue employees.

As opined here, JetBlue might have considered trimming back the $743 million price tag and put some of that money into line-level employee raises, more planes and higher staff levels at cities they (theoretically) service. But while improving the experience that people crave most - getting from point A to point B on time - those things don't make for very sexy press releases.

The best quote in one of the press releases comes from the project director in charge of building the new terminal:

"Inspired by JetBlue's promise to return humanity to air travel, we considered every detail from the traveler's perspective and set out to remove some of the stress involved in air travel," said Gensler project director Bill Hooper.

Funny stuff!

I might have added:

"Passengers may not get anywhere near their destination in anywhere near the time they expected, but they sure will enjoy staring at the new carpeting while they stew in their juices."

Newsflash: Unless those 40 tickets counters in New York are staffed by 40 virgins, I am pretty sure nobody cares. Especially those of us stranded for three days in Portland.

Happy Autumn: Nothing from JetBlue

Welcome to the autumnal equinox, which arrived at 11:44 AM. As the days continue to get shorter and shadows longer, I am reminded that JetBlue has about one week left to answer my small claims suit. So far, not a peep.

Now that Labor Day has passed and the airlines are cutting back their schedules even more, I am curious to hear if there are any new horror stories surfacing. If you have one, send it along.

I did see this one on Chris Elliot's blog this morning. Another innocent traveler possibly forced to take an airline to small claims court (in the case Virgin Atlantic which, like JetBlue, tries to project an image of customer friendliness.).

While not a story of being forced to sleep on a bus in a third world nation after your flight was cancelled, it is, nonetheless, indicative of the shabby way airlines treat paying customers.

A friend also pointed me to this story on Fortune's web site about a guy that took Delta to small claims court, in a situation nearly identical to mine. In a strange little twist, he was screwed by Delta Airlines and had to buy a ticket on JetBlue to get home, while I was screwed by JetBlue and had to buy a ticket on Delta to get home.

There is balance in the universe!

Monday, September 15, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

In case you missed it, the New York Times had a great article yesterday about how lousy a flight attendant's job has become.

So - let's see if I have the score correct:

- Customers are miserable
- Pilots are miserable
- Flight attendants are miserable
- Shareholders are miserable
- Air traffic control is miserable

Does anyone else think that maybe the system is broken?

Who's happy? Well, check the salaries of the airline executives. I guess they sleep well at night.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Social versus business relationships: It's a tightrope

Someone recently turned me on to the book "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely. It's about how humans make decisions. Very entertaining. Worth reading.

There's a section in the book about how some companies try to make a social connection with their customers. These companies, through marketing and branding, want us to think of them as friends or family, not just a vendor of products or services.

Ariely cites:

- State Farm Insurance: "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there."
- Home Depot: "You can do it. We can help."

The problem comes when the company has to break that "social" relationship and go back to being a business. He uses the example of a bank charging a late fee. If you have a purely business relationship with your bank and it charges you a late fee, well then you are annoyed, but, hey - it's business.

If your bank, however, tries to portray itself as your neighbor and then charges that late fee, that's sort of... un-neighborly. Friends don't charge friends late fees.

This brilliantly captures one of my (many) problems with JetBlue. As discussed before on this and other blogs, JetBlue wants to portray itself as a different kind of airline. Friendlier. More civilized. Better than the others.

But when it comes to treating me - a customer - in a friendlier, more civilized fashion, JetBlue blew it. Big time. Not only did JetBlue wait six hours to cancel my red-eye flight, it wanted to strand me and 149 other passengers in the Portland airport for three more days until it got around to flying us to New York.

This is how friends treat friends? This is how an airline does better?

When I tried to explain this - calmly yet with conviction - to the JeltBlue corporate person who called me after starting this blog, she read chapter and verse from JetBlue's "Contract of Carriage."

With a single cancellation and subsequent mishandling (in my opinion) JetBlue went from being "Happy Jetting, Aren't We Too Cool, Fun-Time Travel Buddies!" to "F--k off, this is business, case closed!"

OK then.

We thought JetBlue was better. Remember - I was a fan-boy before this happened.

But JetBlue violated a trust and an image of its own creation. This blog is the result of that violation. Live by marketing, die by marketing.