Friday, February 16, 2007

JetBlue weather woes not yet overcome
POSTED: 5:03 p.m. EST, February 16, 2007

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Acknowledging the airline has a long way to go to regain its customers' trust, JetBlue Airways was faced with yet more flight cancellations and irate customers Friday after a spokesman on Thursday said that the airline expected to start this "morning fresh and prepared for the remainder of the holiday weekend."

JetBlue canceled 97 of its 570 scheduled flights Friday, a day after nixing 150 flights, the airline said.

Thursday, JetBlue CEO David Neeleman repeatedly apologized for the airline's recent wave of cancellations and delays. "I think the best thing we can do is say we're sorry and give them their money back, and give them a free ticket and then kind of plead with them to come and fly again," he told CNN.

The apology came a day after hundreds of passengers spent up to eight hours stranded on various planes because of bad weather. (Watch passengers describe their flight to nowhere Video)

JetBlue pointed to icy conditions and the backlog of stranded passengers and flight crews from Wednesday's cancellations as a major cause of Friday's additional flight cuts.

Company spokeswoman Jenny Dervin also said a decision by JetBlue's hub, New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, to limit all airlines to two runways was a major stumbling block in the company's efforts to get back on track.

"It's a continuation of the snowball effect with compounding issues of icy conditions at JFK," Dervin told CNN. JetBlue is the largest airline at JFK, with the most aircraft, most departures and most customers served, according to Dervin. Any delays or cancellations at JFK cause a "domino effect" at the airline's other airports.

The airline has been attempting to contract with outside carriers to boost its schedule, but charters have been difficult to schedule this late into the holiday weekend.

To appease disgruntled passengers, JetBlue is giving full refunds to those whose flights were canceled and has been helping rebook passengers to new flights, the airline said. Hundreds of passengers remained in the airline's domestic terminal at JFK after their Wednesday and Thursday flights were canceled.

Passengers who were stuck on grounded planes for long hours had complaints that included temporary loss of heat, lack of food and deteriorating restroom conditions.

On Thursday, CEO Neeleman addressed the unpleasant conditions faced by passengers on one plane -- a flight for Cancun, Mexico, that spent about eight hours on the tarmac Wednesday before finally allowing passengers to get off after the flight was canceled.

"They wanted to go to Cancun bad, and we wanted them to go there, as well," he said. "And then by the time we decided that it was not going to be possible, it was very difficult to get them back to the gates."

CNN's Carol Costello, Brian Blank, Amy Sahba, David Miller, Caleb Silver, and Katy Byron contributed to this report.

No comments: