Friday, February 16, 2007

USA Today Article
Fliers' misery stings JetBlue
By Thomas Frank and Andrea Stone, USA TODAY

Congressional leaders excoriated JetBlue Airways on Thursday for forcing hundreds of passengers to sit aboard grounded airplanes for up to 10 hours because of weather-related delays in New York City, and they vowed to investigate airline customer service.
The delays Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport sparked renewed interest in a "passengers' bill of rights" that would allow air travelers to deplane if an aircraft is on the ground more than three hours.
MORE: Push grows for flier 'bill of rights'
"No one should be held hostage on an aircraft," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who plans to propose a bill giving passengers a right to deplane.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., called Wednesday's incident "just unconscionable." He plans to hold hearings in March or April on how airlines treat customers.
JetBlue said nine flights at Kennedy — five waiting to depart and four that had just landed — sat on runways for six hours or more during Wednesday's ice storm.
"They had to open the door every 20 minutes just so we could get air," Sean Corrinet, 29, told the Associated Press. His flight to Cancun, Mexico, was delayed eight hours.
JetBlue CEO David Neeleman apologized for "unacceptable" delays. The storm grounded at least 1,000 flights at New York's three major airports, including an Aruba-bound JetBlue flight that sat on the tarmac for 10 hours.
"There was no excuse for that one," Neeleman told USA TODAY.
Neeleman said the airline erred by keeping the plane at Kennedy for about eight hours before asking the airport to send buses to retrieve passengers. "We probably should have called them four or five hours earlier," he said.
Neeleman vowed that the airline would now call pilots who have waited on the runway for two or three hours to "take the temperature of what's going on in the aircraft" and decide whether passengers want to return to the gate.
JetBlue is offering the 1,000 passengers who sat more than three hours in planes Wednesday a full refund and a free roundtrip ticket — a move lawyer Lawrence Charfoos called "very smart." Charfoos won a $7 million settlement from Northwest Airlines on behalf of 7,000 passengers who waited in planes for hours at the Detroit airport during a storm in 1999.
Northwest "stonewalled" those passengers, Charfoos said. "It sounds like the (JetBlue) management is smarter."
Posted 2/16/2007 12:47 AM ET
Updated 2/16/2007 7:50 AM ET

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