Friday, February 16, 2007

Jaunted Experience

The JetBlue Debacle

Where: JFK International Airport [map], Jamaica, NY, United States

2/16/2007 at 11:58 AM

Last night, Jaunted contributing editor Paul Brady hoped to fly from JFK to ROC. After JetBlue's rough week, would they be able to get him upstate in style? Um, not so much.

7:04 p.m. I walk into Terminal 6, which looks like it's expecting the departure of the last chopper out of Saigon. Lines snake around, baggage is piled high and just about everyone looks to be in a terrible mood. I walk upstairs to the security checkpoint and get a text message from my friend: "Just checked online... are you really delayed until 2 a.m.?" This is probably the worst text message I've ever received. Maybe that explains why the security line I'm in (above) is so long. I want to find out what's going on with my flight, but the JetBlue people are nowhere to be seen.

The saga, and muchas more photos, after the jump.

Around 7:30 p.m. A woman who works with the TSA tells us the checkpoint is closed. We should, she says, "remain calm, keep your place in line, someone from JetBlue will come and tell you what to do." A couple passengers and I work out that they've probably closed it because there are too many people in the departures lounge. Could be a good time to open up Terminal 5, I think to myself, since there aren't any other aviation nerds around to get my joke.

7:55 p.m. So many people are trying to get past security, the ID checker can't keep up. Crew members as well as civilians go past, in a hurry to catch their flights. The line for security is so long, people at the end of it don't know what's happening at the front of it. It takes almost an hour (at least I'd been standing there for an hour) for the JetBlue employees to realize they should be making announcements to the back of the line, in case there are any latecomers hanging back. As I reach the front of the line, I find out that my friend was right. I'm looking at a 2 a.m. departure. Might as well get comfortable.

Baggage claim 4. Bags and passengers were not exactly meeting up like they should.

8:58 p.m. How could it get any worse? Well, they're still not letting everyone past security. Which means you can't get on the internet. JetBlue's signal stays inside the departure lounge, and trust me, I tried to pull it up on the sly. I got close to the checkpoint. I went to the baggage claim--right beneath the departures lounge--but couldn't get a signal. There's nothing worse than a lack of 'net connection when you're looking at a five hour wait.

9:11 p.m. Well, I've made it two hours so far. I just met Jim, who's heading to Rochester on flight 36 with me. We're at Away Cafe. I'm having a Sam Adams. Jim's having not his first Long Island Ice Tea. Matt, also with a Sam Adams, and sitting to the other side of Jim, is going to Buffalo. Jim's pushing to rent a car and drive. I'm not eager to get in a car with him. Besides, Evelina is doing a good job of pouring beers.

9:30 p.m. Enrique Iglesias, "Bailamos," now playing at Away Cafe. I've never felt worse.

Evelina, before she changed the channel.

9:38 p.m.. As far as I can tell, things are starting to relax a bit here. People have been swarming the bar, drinking Coronas for $6.75. We had bartender Evelina turn off Larry King's riveting, big-screen Anna Nicole coverage in favor of ESPN News. The newsstand is staying open until at least 1 a.m., much to the chagrin of the cashier who has to stay until the planes take off. Another one of my bar friends--Toby--is on the phone with STA Travel, who issued his ticket. He needs to get to the west coast, but he's been on hold for forever.

9:56 p.m. Just found out my flight is canceled. Interesting. If JetBlue would've told me that instead of pushing back our "scheduled" departure, I could've been at home instead of at Away Cafe. After I finish my beer I'll head down to the ticket counter to find out what I can do. Word on the street is I can get a full refund. We shall see.

10:52 p.m. After standing in a queue for a few minutes a nice JetBlue ticket agent took down my information, assuring me that I'd be contacted by the airline. I'd not only get a full refund but also a free voucher for a round trip ticket. I didn't bother to ask why they told me we were going to fly at 2 a.m. only to have the flight canceled before 11 p.m.

At nearly 11 pm, people were still swarming the check-in counters, trying to find out what was happening.

After dealing with the agent, I asked two of the Port Authority cops if I could snap their picture. It looked to me that they were there to guard the terminal and take care of any unruly passengers. Here's the exchange:
· "Hi. Can I take a photo of you two?"
· "A photo? I don't think so."
· "Really? Just a snapshot?"
· "No."
· "I won't take down your names or anything"
· "If you take a photo of us, we're going to have a problem."

It was the perfect ending to a perfect night. Thanks for all the memories, JetBlue!

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