JetBlue, the New York-based low-cost airline known for its leather seats, seatback TVs and superior customer service, suffered a public relations nightmare last week when an east coast ice storm grounded many of its scheduled flights. Hazardous weather is beyond an airline’s control; the problem arose when the company’s systems were unable to match displaced crew members with their aircraft, leading to further delays, cancellations, and pressure on customer service staff. Evidently, there was a lack of a plan, and staff, to deal with the situation. Images of discontent travelers were well publicized, tainting JetBlue’s previously rosy image.
The airline, flying since 2000, has rapidly grown to become the 8th largest carrier in the U.S. But last week’s events were a cruel reminder that the company’s investment in its systems and staff have not kept pace with its growth.
The company’s CEO clearly recognizes the severity of the issue. He announced that JetBlue plans to triple the number of staff to handle similar meltdowns in the future. Little solace to customers who were stuck on grounded jets for as long as 10 hours and to those whose flights were cancelled altogether.
On the customer service front, JetBlue has prepared a customer “Bill of Rights” that identifies the types of compensation that can be expected by clients impacted by a delay or cancellation. Only time will tell whether the company’s overdue efforts in beefing up its staff and systems will win back customers. Would a $25 voucher buy back your loyalty? The lesson: have a plan, and invest as you grow.