Friday, February 16, 2007

ABC LocalNews

JetBlue trying to make up for storm fiasco

Planes ran out of food and water as stranded passengers sat for over 8 hours
WABC Eyewitness News Team

(New York - WABC, February 15, 2007) - JetBlue is making no excuses for Wednesday's fiasco that left hundreds of passengers trapped on planes on the runway.

As we first reported on Wednesday, some passengers spent more than eight hours on board a plane at JFK before buses were finally sent to remove them.

Eyewitness News received cell phone pictures taken by passengers, which you can see in our slideshow.

The incident has turned into quite a public relations nightmare for the airline.

Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett is at JFK with the story.

JetBlue admits that this never should have happened -- that hundreds of people stranded aboard their jets suffered needlessly in what turned out to be a high stakes gamble.

Passengers checked their bags again on Thursday and hoped for the best.

"I must be a masochist cause I'm doing it again today ... we're on our way to Florida and flying JetBlue again," a passenger told us.

"Sitting on a plane for nine hours and staying in Queens kinda sucks," another passenger said.

The pictures don't even begin to tell the story. Hundreds of people were snowed in aboard seven jets trapped on the tarmac for up to 11 hours.

"It was just a nightmare. There were older people on the plane and children and I don't understand why JetBlue just didn't send buses to get people off or tow us in," a passenger on board told us.

"You can't control the weather, but they can control the way they respond to the problems created by the weather," a passenger said.

The airline admits it was overwhelmed by its own mistakes -- allowing outgoing flights to leave the gate in a storm while accepting so many incoming flights when there was no gate space when the outgoing flights were turned back.

"We thought the weather window would open up, and we would be able to get those planes off the ground," JetBlue Spokesperson Jenny Dervin said.

But the airline now admits that was wishful thinking, and that they waited hours too long to have the Port Authority evacuate the stranded jets.

Now, critics say it's becoming all too familiar, and are demanding a passengers bill of rights.

"We want our basic human needs to be cared for every time we step into an aircraft," said Kate Hanni, a passenger rights advocate.

Now the airline is rebooking its stranded passengers and giving them free round trip tickets. Make no mistake about it, the airline is still struggling late Thursday evening to get back up and running.

From Wednesday night's report:

Eyewitness News reporter Phil Lipoff says it was a nasty commute for a lot of people Wednesday morning so we'll keep this in perspective. But think about it -- hours and hours on a plane.

We have pictures from inside JetBlue Flight 751 that was on its way to Cancun. One hundred and 34 passengers sat on the plane for more than nine hours. Passengers didn't get off until 5 p.m. And as you would imagine, all that time never getting to Cancun had passengers furious.

"There was no power and it was hot. There was no air. They kept having to open the actual plane doors so we could breath," a passenger on the flight told us.

"Nobody gave us any answers. They kept telling us we know as much as you do. And I said, I don't work here, you work here, give me answers," another passenger said.

"Everybody is incredibly tired and frustrated and we didn't expect to be in New York tonight, so it's ridiculous. Just sitting there and sitting there and them saying they were going to pull us into the gate and they never did. There was very little food. It was just a nightmare," a passenger told us.

JetBlue told some folks that they were getting off their plane, that they would get reimbursed for their ticket, and also get a free round trip ticket anywhere JetBlue flies.

# JetBlue Airways Northeast Weather Advisory

(Copyright 2007 WABC-TV)

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