What's with Jetblue lately?!

What’s with Jetblue lately?!
Posted by Eli@PEYD
So a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days in South Florida researching a number of business opportunities with my aunt and uncle. Now, when I usually fly to Florida, I try to take advantage of the 15k BA round-trip mileage ticket option using it’s partner American Airlines. It’s a bit of a hassle because you can only get a nonstop 15k mileage ticket by flying into Miami, and most of my business is further North, but in my opinion, it is definitely worth it, as 15,000 miles for a round-trip ticket is almost %50 less miles than what is usually required for a domestic round-trip ticket in the US. This time however, I had run out of BA miles (and American Express points to transfer into BA) for the return leg, and had a credit with JetBlue from a number of disastrous JetBlue flights during 2013 (more on that later), so I took advantage of my credits and booked the latest evening flight from Ft. Lauderdale back to NYC, La Guardia.
When I fly to South Florida, I try to take advantage of my Starwood Hotel Points by booking my stay at one of the Sheraton Suites in Plantation or Cypress Creek as you can find rooms for only 4,000 points and even at the Westin Ft. Lauderdale, you can find a room for about 4000 points and $55. The staff at the Cypress Creek Sheraton are exceptional and they always leave some kind of welcome package for those who stay often. It’s treat to enter your room and see a tray of fruits or nuts and cold beer waiting for you, and this is one of the reasons I enjoy returning there.
I had a lovely time taking care of a number of personal and business items during my three day stay, and the day of my return to NYC, spent time with my aunt researching a number of business opportunities in Margate, a Western suburb in Broward County. It was getting close to my flight time, so I had to cut short the time with my aunt and I rushed to the airport, getting to the terminal about 45 minutes before my flight was scheduled to depart.
Now I referenced above that I had a credit from JetBlue, for trips taken during 2013, and I want to take a moment and tell you the circumstances of how I came about these credits.
Part of my business requires me to spend time commuting from NYC to South Florida, and on a number of occasions, specifically when flying with JetBlue, there were circumstances that delayed or even cancelled my JetBlue flights. If you recall, the winter of 2013 was quite brutal and many flights were cancelled, especially from airports with connecting hubs. I hadn’t taken notice at the time but many of those delayed and cancelled flights were ones I had booked on JetBlue. At the time I had figured that all the airlines faced similar weather-related issues, but thinking back to it, I was usually able to find an alternative airline to reroute me to my destination, but each time thought nothing of it, as my JetBlue travel bank continued to build credit, and I wasn’t really focused on JetBlue specifically but rather the overall state of the airline industry in regards to delays and cancellations. And even when my JetBlue travel bank neared $1,000 in credits, I continued to think nothing of it, smitten with JetBlue’s marketing campaign touting ‘you above all’ and their platform as being the ‘premier’ airline for the domestic US traveler.
But back to the story at hand.
I scrambled to gas up and return my rental car, rushed through security and thankfully got to the gate about a half hour before my flight. And that is where the trouble began. I noticed that the screen said the flight was delayed a half hour and got frustrated with myself that I didn’t check the flight status prior to leaving to the airport, but after inquiring with other passengers, was notified that the delay announcement had just happened, and that JetBlue hadn’t notified anyone that the flight wasn’t running on time, prior to the announcement of the delay a half hour before the flight.
I meandered over to one of the kiosks that sold kosher food items and purchased a grilled chicken ceasar salad and made my way to one of the seats to unwrap my food item and chow down for supper. Suddenly, and without any preamble, the gate agent got on the loudspeaker and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that JetBlue flight number… to La Guardia had been cancelled. Customers wishing to find an alternative flight should gather at Gate… and one of our agents will be happy to assist you.”
You can’t imagine the sound that emanated from the gate from the passengers. It was like a collective groan, sigh, shout and moan emanated from everyone waiting at the gate at once. And the scramble that occurred to get to the attending gate agents was maddening.
No one offered to explain what the reason for the cancellation was. And neither of the two agents could explain to passengers how JetBlue had the right to cancel the last flight out without giving advance warning, and without providing any additional info of the circumstances of the cancellation.
Suffice it to say the passengers were fuming, especially since there were only two gate attendants to handle the more than 200 stranded passengers. Some savvy passengers waiting on line had insight to call JetBlue while they were waiting, and were able to get themselves on the last flight out to NYC which was going to JFK but most of the passengers were stranded for the night.
This isn’t the first time JetBlue has cancelled flights without providing its customers with adequate and accurate information concerning the necessity for these cancellations. In fact, one of the local South Florida papers reports that JetBlue seems to have numerous issues flying travelers to its South Florida airports.
Back to the matter at hand; around 10pm, they opened another gate to help rebook the stranded passengers, and after another embarrassing scramble (that I hate to say I took part of) I found myself on a much smaller line with a 20 minute wait to get to the attendant. Following the idea of the above referenced savvy travelers I got on the phone with JetBlue and while waiting on line was able to get a 6am flight the next morning back to La Guardia. But I and my fellow passengers were stranded for the night (it was already close to 11pm) and when we inquired if JetBlue was going to put us up for the night we were told by the gate attendant, “that is not her department and we would have to go down to the baggage claim area, and one of the baggage attendants would help us.”
We all trekked downstairs to the bag age area, and again there were only two attendants able to help the more than 50 passengers (many had left the airport) who needed accommodations for the night. After booking hotel stays for everyone and giving us a $10 food voucher (I was proud to be the spokesman for said vouchers) JetBlue had us wait an extra half hour for the hotel transport “as they didn’t want to force the driver to have to make numerous trips to pick up the stranded passengers.” If that is not the definition of insanity, I don’t know what is.
I recall one of the travelers stating the she was upset at herself for making the same mistake in that when she flew JeBlue, there was always these kind of issues, and had vowed not to fly them again, but as her JetBlue travel-bank kept getting credited, on each occasion she needed to fly, she decided she may as well take advantage of her credit, and always with the same disastrous results. I’d imagine she was embellishing a bit, but I myself could attest to having this happen to me as well. And all you have to do is Google JetBlue’s history of stranding passengers to see that the company has a chronic flight cancellation, delay and stranding passengers issue. The question is why, and will this issue start affecting the perception the ‘you above all’ marketing campaign that JetBlue has worked so hard to sell us on.
We got to the hotel around 12am and I had to be up by 3:30 am to take the 4:00 am transport to the airport (the hotel only had on the hour transport to the airport, taking the 5:00am transport would not have gotten me to the airport on time) , so I quickly passed out. I made it safely back to the airport for my 6am flight and landed in NYC around 9am, having safely made it home after the unfortunate cancellation. I was busy with a number of things, and before I had the opportunity to reach out to JetBlue and protest what occurred, I received a $50 statement credit from JetBlue and an template apology. I was appalled at the dollar amount JetBlue had decided to offer for a last minute, no explanation, no same day flight re-booking cancellation and after getting nowhere with my correspondence with the customer service rep, sent the following closing email .
“You guys are amazing, how you can possibly think a $50 credit for a last minute flight cancellation without any options until the next morning for a 6am flight that I had to wake up at 3:30 am to take is mind boggling. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE TO ME WITH ANY OTHER AIRPLANE.”
I know, a bit harsh but I was incredulous as to how they were allowed to get away with this behavior and again, after some research, JetBlue was in the habit of giving their stranded customers, a $50 statement credit, by way of apology.
In conclusion, I find myself with the same dilemma echoed by one of the travelers; having a JetBlue travel bank with a large credit available to use towards my next flight or destination, not knowing if my next JetBlue flight will bring with it the same disastrous results. And although I do enjoy my Terra blue chips, and personal TV, and happen to favor Dunkin Donuts over Starbucks coffee, and extra legroom is a great perk to have for my sports abused lower extremities, the question still remains, dear JetBlue, you’re awesome? but what’s with all the delays?!