Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Actual JetBlue Employees Speak

Two actual JetBlue employess wrote in. I'm putting thier blogs in one and all future JetBlue employees can trust me that I'll keep thier identities secret.

Myspace JetblueEmployee Friend, I SWEAR I will respond to you. It's just been sooo crazy. I'm going to try to find the NPR interview. If you find it, please send it along.

Just so you know, I'm meeting with David Neeleman next week, if you have any input you'd like to give, I'm more than happy to listen.

Love,
G

Here is the corrrespondence of the JetBlue employee who contacted me via Myspace.

Date: Feb 19, 2007 6:41 PM

Hi Genieve. I'm one of those "evil" jetBlue people. ;-) Just kidding. Since you're one of my loyal customers, I, as well as all of my fellow crewmembers (who have our own issues with our company -- like any other employee, but still think it's a great place to work) feel your pain and want you to know we're sorry for your troubles.

HOWEVER, as a fellow traveler and fellow U.S. citizen, I take a lot of issue with your webpage and, in the spirit of intelligent discourse (please don't take anything I write personally, nor think I'm trying to diminish your pain... but only to put it into a larger world perspective, something I need to do for myself everyday), have written this "blog" and posted it on the web page.
Now, I'm sending it to your MySpace page. My picture is on my MySpace page because I'm someone who is not afraid to express my opinions and have the guts to put my face out there so you see the person who is writing to you. Once again, I'm deeply sorry for all the trouble and hope you come back to jetBlue. But I think the use of the word "hostage" is actually alarmingly insulting and sophomoric... and here's why:

----------------------------------------------------I'd like to write something to respond to these blogs that I've read.

I'm a jetBlue flight attendant so I can't really talk to the media. It's against the rules of my flight attendant manual to make comments to the media. So, I hope I don't get into trouble.

But I'd like to comment as a citizen of the United States and not as an employee of jetBlue. I'm a fellow traveler, just like you.

I'd just like to say that I think it's terrible whenever anyone is inconvenienced during their travels... especially on my airline. It's not pleasant. I've had it happen to me on Greyhound, on Amtrack, on the old (now long gone -- sad to say) TWA, in L.A. traffic and even on my own airline. It's not pleasant and it's something that makes everyone frustrated.

HOWEVER, last year we all watched in horror as the events of Hurricane Katrina devastated an entire American city and destroyed the Ninth Ward. In 2001, we all watched (and cried) as the horrifying events played out that we'll all always remember. And you know what, jetBlue Airways was in operation during these times and in the case of Katrina, jetBlue crewmembers helped fly our fellow American "brothers and sisters" to shelters in other cities. When the lights went out in New York during the black out, jetBlue stayed in operation, using flashlights to direct our customers to their flights -- that left on time! But we have a very short term memory in this country. One terrible day on the tarmac and seven years of good work is quickly forgotten. And now I'm to consider being stranded on a plane, or in the airport, equivalent to something like Hurricane Katrina???

When Katrina was happening, the media called those people left homeless by the Hurricane "refugees". I was shocked by this verbiage. Now, those individuals stuck on the jetBlue flights are being called "hostages". HOSTAGES! Do any of you have any idea what it is like to be an actual hostage? To be held at gunpoint by a terrorist? To be close to death because someone is pointing a semi-automatic in your face? If you were talking to someone who was trapped in a bank by robbers who could torture and kill them at an moment, would you feel comfortable telling them that you were stuck on a plane -- due to the fact that ice had frozen the wheels to the tarmac and JFK operations were not allowing jetBlue planes to return to gates... because there weren't any to return to and, on top of that, the APUs (those are the parts of the plane that keep the energy pumpin') were breaking down because of the stress to the plane and that's the reason for the technical debacle on the plane AND the driver's employed by JFK (not jetBlue) refused to drive on the ice to pick up passengers to bring them to a terminal that JFK operations stated was already overcrowded so jetBlue couldn't bring passengers to the terminal because JFK operations forbid them to... Does that equate to masked terrorist holding people hostage on a 747???

Were any of you bloggers who were inconvenienced on that day – that are now getting a full refund for your ticket – traumatized by a gun in your face, have no home to return to or did you lose your job? Is being stuck on a runway going to cause you to have nightmares or cause you to go to therapy for the next 20 years because the pain was so great? When I'm stuck in traffic in Los Angeles on the 405 because of a car accident, am I a victim and should I sue the city of Los Angeles for making me miserable? Does the City of Los Angeles owe me money?Some times we Americans – used to always getting our way if we complain enough, threaten law suits or contact the media… or write a blog – tend to think that when things don't go our way and we are put in an extreme situation that we – as privileged Americans – are entitled to have someone pay us for our pain. And even when someone says they will pay for our pain, we feel we should decide how they should pay us back for our pain.

Had you booked a ticket on Delta or American, your flight would have been cancelled and you wouldn't have gotten a refund. You would have had to fly at another time, but you wouldn't have been compensated for your delay -- at all... in no way. In fact, they wouldn't have apologized... at all... EVER!What happened to all of you (including my fellow pilots and flight attendants that were stuck right along with you – and just as miserable as you were) was awful, not cool, uncomfortable, a huge pain in the ass and a really, really, really bad day.That's about it though. See, when you travel it's like buying a lottery ticket: if you get to your destination hassle free -- you win! If you have issues along the way... that's life! But if you get a refund for your troubles... that's amazing! That's when you need to shut the hell up and move on with your life and call it even because you broke even in the situation.

Calling people on the jetBlue plane hostages is an insult to actual hostages the world over; just as calling victims of Hurricane Katrina "refugees" is deplorable. I'm sorry you went through what you went through on Valentine's Day, and I want you to come back to jetBlue so I can give you the jetBlue Experience you've grown accustomed to and we do our best to deliver every day. But as a person who has had many nightmare travel experiences -- even some that were worse than what you went through on Valentine's Day (in countries like South Africa where nobody cared what happened to me nor did they apologize for my awful experience) I can't help but thinking, "We spoiled Americans. We think we're owed everything, don’t' we?" (Myself included).

And in closing, if you really want to be angry with someone, get angry at JFK airport because if jetBlue had gates to return to, none of this would have happened. You can yell and scream at jetBlue all you want, but JFK operations held jetBlue as an airline “hostage” as well.

(Check out the following link for further details)http://ellipses.elliott.org/archives/002024airports_escape.php

He wrote back in response to the NPR Post.

Feb 21, 2007 3:01 AM

I don't know if you felt you wanted to put my blog up on your web page (I didn't see it there -- although it was on the comments section under one of Ruth's original blogs titled: "wrongverbiage")

But I want to clarify that I don't think you're a cry baby. I think you have a legitimate complaint because you went through a bad experience on an airline that taught you to believe it would never do that. I think it's basically a shock to the system -- like being betrayed by a friend. I totally understand that.

I just still think you should change the word "hostage" because I don't believe it's accurate. "Stranded" and "stuck" and "totally inconvenienced" -- yes. But a hostage just reminds so many of something like: the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis... do you kinda get what I'm saying?

I know I haven't responded yet, but I'll find that interview on ATC and put it up too!

This is the JetBlue Employee who contacted me on jetbluehostage@gmail.com

Feb 21, 2007 3:01 AM

To the person that started the blog about being held hostage:
The next time that you feel the you have not been treated fairly by an airline maybe you should go an pick up an application for this airline so you can see what it is like to be screamed, threatened and and treated like garbage by thousands of people because you cannot get to your final destination. Maybe then you will realize that we are all indeed people not things that that you can throw around like a damnit doll. Yes I was there during this whole fiasco so I do understand what this feeling is like.
Outraged by you,
An airline employee

My response to Kenneth

Dear Kenneth L,

I'm sorry you were mistreated by the airline passengers, but I was not one of those people. In fact, I'm just waiting for my video to load on YouTube for you to witness yourself that we were actually quite civilized and nice to all the crew on the plane. We actually walked off the plane with smiles, just exhausted and happy to be getting off the plane.

I'd like to also say that my mother worked for American Airlines for many years and I would never abuse an agent. I'm offended by your sweeping generalizations. You may have been mistreated by a few disgruntled passengers, but ALL the passengers were mistreated by JetBlue. There's no way around that fact.

Your own president admits to the mistakes the company made.

I don't condone abuse to you or from you. I think it's a shame that people resort to that kind of behaviour. Trust me, I don't have to pick up an application and work for your company, I endure enough abuse at my own job. And I decide to stick it out because in the end, I love my job. If you don't love YOUR job, then maybe YOU should quit.

Anyway...stay tuned, as soon as my video comes up, you can witness it yourself.

Outraged by YOU, G

Luckily, Kenneth responded again. :) Here's what he said:

On 2/18/07, Kenneth wrote:

Just as a response I would like to add that yes, I do love my job whole heartedly and in fact I believe that jetBlue is doing everthing within there power to correct and apollogise for this mishap. They have done everything from providing meals, hotels, transportation and offering free flights along with refunds for customers that were not able to get to there destinations. I also feel that both parties have suffered immensly from this mishap.

My Response to Kenneth:

I agree, and I again, I in no way approve of the mistreatment of anyone. However, when i tried to get answer from anyone or anything I was ignored. I didn't push because I knew the whole thing was overwhelming. But the fact is when I asked about the luggage getting sent to us at home they said that we had to wait around for it after already being at the airport for almost 13 hours.

But still, Charlie and I got a meal, and waited patiently for our baggage. It cost us $100 for taxi back and forth to the airport and we won't be reimbursed for it.

Last but not least, my main issue is that I don't believe that us long term trapped passengers should not be treated the same at 3-hour ones, I'm pushing for those of us to be compensated accordingly. I don't think that's asking for much. It's not like we were in a terminal, with the ability to walk about and eat and go smoke etc. I'm sure you understand where I'm coming from.

I hope it get's better for you over there.

Good luck! G

2 comments:

Dizel8 said...

STATEMENT OF DAVID NEELEMAN
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORPORATION

Before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation
Friday, April 20, 2007 - Washington, DC

Introduction

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Petri and Members of the subcommittee: I am grateful for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss Aviation Consumer issues.

Regrettably, JetBlue Airways operational performance during and following the severe Valentines Day ice storm in the northeast negatively impacted thousands of our customers directly and numerous more thousands indirectly. Many of our customers experienced extensive delays, multiple cancellations and worse still, the harrowing experience of being stranded on our aircraft on the airport tarmac for up to ten hours. This past Valentines Day proved to be the singular worst operational day in our company’s seven year history and for this, the impact on our customers and especially the impact on our most treasured asset, all of our crewmembers, we are deeply sorry.

Yet, on behalf of our more than 11,000 passionate and hardworking crewmembers who are the very essence of our airline, I can inform you that during the past two months we have examined every aspect of our company, its culture, its leadership structure, its processes and its systems and we have learned a great deal which has enabled us to actively address and permanently rectify many shortcomings which lead to our terrible day. And our efforts in this regard continue.
Customer Service

The tragic irony of JetBlue being at the center of a debate on negative customer service is hardly lost on me. Any airline can fly a customer from point A to point B, but the hallmark of JetBlue has always been excellent customer service. JetBlue is an airline that was founded to bring humanity back to air travel by exceeding customer’s expectations and offering everyday affordable airfares. Inaugurated in February 2000, we entered the competitive landscape at a time when customer service in the airline industry was perceived to be at an all-time low level. The industry had collectively, in response to this perception and a series of storm-related strandings, issued its own Airline Customer Service Commitment, with individual carriers each issuing their own Customer Service Plans. JetBlue was not a party to this industry Commitment as we were not a certified airline when it was crafted. However, since our first flight, we have complied with nearly all of the provisions of the Customer Service Commitment and surpassed its commitments in many ways.

Today, JetBlue operates a fleet of 126 jets to 51 cities in 21 states and 6 countries with 550 daily flights. Each of our planes has leather seats featuring the most legroom in coach of any US airline, 36 channels of LiveTV, a selection of pay-per-view movies and our fleet is currently being upgraded to also include 100 channels of Satellite Radio. Yet, these features and our low fares only serve to compliment our signature product – our customer-focused crewmembers (employees).

Our genuine commitment to excellent customer service is why JetBlue has won award after award, including the both the highest low-cost carrier Customer Satisfaction Award by J.D. Power and Associates and the Best Domestic Airline award by Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards, which we have won for the past four years. Our commitment to excellent customer service is why our customers keep coming back. The dedication of our crewmembers and the loyalty of our customers are the key ingredients that have enabled JetBlue to successfully grow and weather the many obstacles that have confronted us such as September 11th, SARS, record high fuel prices, storms such as Katrina and intense industry competition.

Against this background, when JetBlue realized what it put its loyal customers through, we truly feared that our airline might lose all of the good will we had engendered over seven years and perhaps see our customers go elsewhere. Faced with this possibility and while simultaneously working around the clock to get our airline operating again, we immediately went to work to examine what caused our failures and to take steps to prevent it from ever reoccurring. We also took immediate steps to reassure our customers, both those impacted and those who only learned about our failings through the media, that we were taking concrete steps to protect their interests.

The Storm

As the well-predicted winter storm approached New York from the south and was impacting Washington D.C. on Tuesday, February 13th, JetBlue was preparing for its arrival at our home base of operations at John F. Kennedy International Airport (“JFK”) the next day – Valentines Day. Although the storm produced a significant amount of ice in the nation’s capital, the consistent forecasts for JFK, located on the Atlantic shoreline of Long Island, indicated snow, followed by only a limited window of icing activity with a turnover to all rain. Based on these forecasts, including those issued early in the morning of February 14th, and based on JetBlue’s historic inclination not to cancel flights and negatively impact our customers (for which we have lead the industry with the fewest cancelled flights for many years), few JFK departures were in fact pre-cancelled. In retrospect, this was clearly a mistake and one at the crux of our forthcoming difficulties.

At our JFK home, JetBlue operates 21 gates and a hardstand that can normally hold up to 14 aircraft. On February 14th, the Wednesday before the busy President’s Day getaway weekend, our JFK flights were heavily booked to a load factor of 94 percent. On the 14th, all of our gates were occupied by a plane and our hardstand was being used for planned deicing. We were operating at full capacity. All of our originating JFK departures were, based on the latest weather forecasts as of 6 a.m., dispatched for flight with deicing to precede their departure. All scheduled arrivals into JFK which had departed their originating city the night before (primarily from the west coast) and early on the 14th from other cities were en route with plans to utilize gates scheduled to have been vacated by our first JFK departures.

The very nature of this carefully choreographed but very complex operation makes it ripe for failure should something go wrong. On the 14th, something went terribly wrong. In addition to JetBlue’s forecast-based decision to not to cancel many flights, the weather forecasts proved inaccurate and JFK experienced nearly eight hours of continuous icing conditions – an extremely rare weather phenomenon and one simply not forecast. This was further complicated by an interpretation of FAA rules which prohibited JetBlue departures in ice pellet conditions even though international carriers at JFK were not subject to these restrictions nor was one airline in the New York region which had obtained FAA authority to work around these rules. With aircraft off the gates and in various stages of readying for departure (taxiing to the runway or deicing), inbound flights began to arrive. Yet, with the deteriorating weather conditions, planes were not departing off of their gates as scheduled which impacted arriving flights ability to park and deplane customers at those gates. Further, aircraft deicing was taking far longer than planned and departures were greatly slowed and at some points stopped, due to the worsening weather conditions.

JetBlue’s operations team, recognizing this dynamic situation, began to cancel flights across our system and especially at JFK to minimize the growing problem. However, with still more flights en route to JFK and not enough cancellations having been previously implemented, operating conditions worsened. In total, on the 14th at JFK, JetBlue alone had nine aircraft with stranded customers on board for more than five hours. Of these, four were arriving flights and five were departing flights. By mid-afternoon, JetBlue enlisted the assistance of the Port Authority, the airport operator, and with their assistance, customers were safely deplaned and bussed back to our terminal.

At no point on any of these stranded flights did JetBlue run out of drinking water, other beverages and snacks or lose functionality of all of the lavatories on board. At no point were customers without the ability to have emergency medical care sought as JetBlue maintains a med-link connection on each aircraft. While these minimal benefits pale in comparison to the suffering of those customers on board these impacted aircraft, establishing the facts and not solely relying on media reports is important.

By the end of the operating day of February 14th, JetBlue only operated 17 flights out of 156 scheduled JFK departures. This immense disruption to our internal operational plan, with crews and aircraft out of position, caused the operational disruptions to continue well into Friday, by which point we had increased operations to 136 flights out of 183 scheduled JFK departures. Finally, in order to effectively restart the airline and end the cycle of not fulfilling our published schedule, JetBlue cancelled approximately a quarter of our flying for three days, Saturday through Monday, mostly by cancelling all service on our fleet of 23 Embraer E-190 jets. This decision, while terribly stressful for impacted customers and crewmembers, allowed our operations and crew services teams to reposition assets and successfully restart the operation and by Tuesday the 20th, systemwide, JetBlue operated 100 percent of its scheduled flights.

The Impact

While government statistics clearly demonstrate that extended periods of being delayed on a plane are extremely rare, such statistics ring hollow with our customers who were stranded. Thousands of customers experienced lengthy delays onboard our planes at the gate or on the tarmac. Even more customers planning to begin their holiday vacation found themselves in crowded, tense and confusing conditions in our JFK terminal and throughout our system as a result of the JFK operational conditions. With hours of delays and expectations that their flights would eventually operate, many customers understandably reached their breaking point.

As difficult as the situation our customers faced proved to be, it was equaled by that endured by JetBlue’s crewmembers, from pilots and flight attendants to reservations agents, airport crew and business partners in our terminal. Each of these individuals worked tirelessly to be responsive to our angry customers while only receiving information, which in many cases, due to the changing weather conditions, proved inaccurate. The emotions they experienced from our customers tested their professionalism time and time again. Once past this very difficult week, the emotional toll on our crewmembers and customers alike was heavy. JetBlue provided customers millions of dollars in refunds and travel vouchers and this negatively impacted our First Quarter operating margin.

JetBlue Airways Customer Bill of Rights

Recognizing the depth of what we put our customers through and wanting to both make amends and ensure we always would keep their best interests in mind, we published a Customer Bill of Rights. An apology letter with a link to this document was emailed to all of our impacted customers as well as millions of other customers who had ever flown JetBlue. This document, our commitment to customers on how we would handle operational interruptions going forward, and made retroactive to cover those impacted by the February storm, was unprecedented in its scope.

Key commitments in JetBlue’s Customer Bill of Rights include:

JetBlue will promptly notify customers of delays, cancellations or diversions along with the cause.
If JetBlue cancels a flight, in addition to either a refund or rebooking, and the cancellation is due to events within our control and within twelve hours of the scheduled flight time, JetBlue will provide a credit in the amount paid for the customer’s roundtrip travel.
If a JetBlue customer is involuntarily denied board (bumped), JetBlue will pay that customer $1000.
If JetBlue delays a flight prior to its scheduled departure time for reasons within our control, starting at one hour, customers will be compensated with a $25 travel voucher, between two and four hours – a $50 voucher, between four and six hours a full one-way voucher and beyond six hours a full roundtrip travel voucher.
For ground delays of five hours, JetBlue will ensure the customers are deplaned. Further, during ground delays, customers will have access to food and drink, restrooms and as necessary, medical attention.
For arriving flights on ground delays, starting at 30 minutes, customers will be compensated with a $25 travel voucher, between one and two hours, compensation will be a $100 travel voucher, between two and three hours, a one-way voucher and for more than three hours, a roundtrip travel voucher.
For departing flights on ground delays, customers experiencing a three hour delay will receive a $100 travel voucher and beyond four hours, compensation will be a full roundtrip travel voucher in amount the customer paid.
Each of these commitments by JetBlue far supersede anything required by law or any level of commitment made by other carriers to their customers. JetBlue initiated these steps in reaction to our operational failings in February and we believe our customers have been receptive.

The aviation marketplace is a fiercely competitive one. While JetBlue’s signature customer service and low fares served as a strong competitive advantage over the past seven years, so too has the customer reaction and negative publicity of Valentines Day served as an enormous competitive disadvantage in the consumer marketplace.

Customers do have choices. In every single JetBlue market, customers have choices to get to the same destination on another airline. If JetBlue fails to perform, customers will rightly book elsewhere. We failed to live up to our customer’s expectations in February and we took immediate and proactive steps to begin to regain the trust of our customers. No act of Congress or government regulation can repair the damage JetBlue has suffered. No act of Congress or government regulation can impose on JetBlue more penalty than the marketplace has already imposed on JetBlue. Conversely, JetBlue is uniquely situated to address the problems that JetBlue itself created.


Moving Forward

Over the past two months, while several audits and reviews were being conducted of our operations, JetBlue has significantly altered its leadership reporting structure. We have made several key personnel hires, including the very talented Russ Chew to be our Chief Operating Officer. Russ is a familiar face to this subcommittee, having lead the remarkable transformation of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization into an accountable, business-like entity with budgets, goals and performance standards. Prior to that leadership position, Russ played a significant role in leading the operational team at American Airlines. We are delighted he has joined our team and look forward to his guidance and wisdom as we raise JetBlue to greater levels of operational excellence.

In addition to leadership team enhancements, JetBlue has undertaken significant reviews of all of its processes and systems, from crew scheduling, aircraft schedule planning, airport operations, information technology and distribution, reservations, staffing and other areas. Each of these components of JetBlue is being thoroughly reviewed and enhanced, with many enhancements already complete. We will not rest until every single area of our airline has been examined, enhanced and tested to meet a new and greatly improved level of customer service excellence.

Conclusion

JetBlue let our customers down and we know it. Our customers deserved better from us and they know it. We were embarrassed by the service they experienced and we are deeply sorry. JetBlue has made clear to all of its customers, without any mandates from Washington, that we deeply regret our actions and we will work vigorously to regain their trust. If we fail to do so, our customers will simply exercise their freedom to choose another carrier for their travel needs.

I can think of no greater incentive for JetBlue to improve its operations and make things right for its customers. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Submitted by:

Mr. David Neeleman
Chief Executive Officer
JetBlue Airways

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