Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dave B from Oakland's Experience

Greetings from Oakland California,

I will say up front that I am one of the lucky ones: I was sent to NewYork for work; I was a Toy Fair attendee, along with severalco-workers, so in addition to having a team with whom to bandtogether, I and my associates also had the benefit of support staffback at the Mothership in San Francisco who were available to workphones and the internet to help us make alternate arrangements.

It bears repeating: I was one of the lucky ones, and I say that not torub in or to gloat, but to reflect my full comprehension of the factthat JFK on Thursday had the look and was sporting the vibe of someunholy alliance of refugee camp meets social Darwinism field study.
Several of us were to have flown back to California late Wednesdayafternoon; our CEO had actually made it to JFK early in the day as thestorm was ratcheting up in intensity, where he was thwarted in hisattempts to leave New York, and from where he was able to report byphone to us still at the Javitz Center that the information that hereceived in person at the gate was more complete (and was closer tosomething that could be construed as "truth") than what we were ableto get over the phone.

That is to say, if and only if--and when--you could actually getthrough to an actual human being on the phone lines. Mostly, we gotthe outgoing message regarding alligator tears for heavy phone volume,inviting us to go to their website (itself, as useful as a cheesegrater on a wheelbarrow), thanking us for our business, goodbye,click.
So, after my initial flight cancellation on Wednesday, I was told thatthe next available booking was for Sunday. I took it. Worst case: Iwould have to stay in NY for an extra few days and spend some time inthe care of one of my best college friends out on Long Island. Again:lucky. I had a place to go.

Thursday morning though, I opted for a roll of the dice. Got up veryearly, paid for a ride to JFK, arrived by 8:00, worked my way throughthe service line, and somehow charmed my way into a confirmedre-booked flight for 4:20 pm that same day. I was, then, delighted andgrateful, but as we all know now, no flights were leaving, and theyall pretty much got delayed / cancelled as morning went intoafternoon.

By luck, I met up with some co-workers in the waiting area, and by thetime that it became apparent that we were not getting out of JFK, weended up banding together, securing a rental car for a late nightdrive to Baltimore, from where we flew back early morning yesterday onSouthwest.

The bloom is clearly now fallen way off the Jet Blue rose. They can'tbe blamed for the weather, but their abysmally inadequatecommunications systems, not to mention the huge differential in thequality of information you were getting depending on where you were isinexcusable. Put simply, if you were lucky enough to get a person onthe phone, you were at the same time unlucky enough to get fed amule-choking dose of pure bullshit.

I expect that this event will figure into some MBA lecture note on hownot to handle a crisis by making it worse through the actions andinactions that the company elects to implement. I also expect that ifJet Blue does not integrate the very serious learnable lessons fromthis debacle, that they will shortly be out of business.
I only spent 12 hours at the airport, which was enough to engage myfull empathy for those who had been there overnight (and I expect manyof whom were still there yesterday), and to develop a disdain for anundeservedly overhyped airline whose choices caused this situation tospin way out of hand.

Dave B
Oakland, CA

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