(Please note that anything that I say Neeleman said is from memory. I was not allowed to bring a video or audio recording device, but I’m sure THEY recorded it on their end. I’m more than happy to allow them to release it should they want to contest any of the things I am documenting below.)
My meeting with David Neeleman, I think Charlie said it best when he said that Neeleman was much like his airline: a nice to look at and likeable veneer, but nothing behind it to substantiate it.
My meeting happened on a day that was down pouring rain. David immediately prefaced our meeting by saying they preemptively cancelled 65 flights that day. (Here’s your gold star.) Then he asked me what I wanted and I told him nothing. Then he wanted to hear my story and I told him that in the interest of making the most out of our hour, I didn’t want to get into my story as it wasn’t something he hadn’t already heard from 1000s of other passengers. So I pulled out my 2 pages of questions. He looked tired and genuinely sorry, I sympathized and I knew I wouldn’t be able to ask him some of the hard-to-ask questions. I’m not a journo or an investigative reporter. I’m a blogger.
It went a lot like this:
It’ll never happen again
I don’t have the answer, this is who you need to talk to.
Then he hit a wall and I could actually see the change in him. From the beginning of the meeting, he was playing these passive aggressive “you’re not important” games, by taking FOUR PHONE CALLS, on his mobile at that. Not from JetBlue employees concerned about the weather cancellations. Calls from his wife. Calls from his neighbor. I’m the queen of mind games, you can’t pull that on me.
Then, I asked him how he knew about the blog.
His answer? I don’t, you were on my schedule and Jenny Dervin told me I should meet with you.
The same Jenny Dervin that told me he asked to meet with me personally.
The same Jenny Dervin who told me via email after the meeting that he DID ask to meet with me but he suffers from ADD.
Then I asked him about why he wasn’t meeting with Kat from Stranded Passengers.
He said to me off the record, getting stranded on that plane was the best thing that ever happened to her. Now she’s famous and on the news all the time.
It started getting abundantly clear WHY I was asked to not bring an audio device to our meeting.
Later on I asked him about the abuse that I’ve endured from people who have been found out to be JetBlue employees.
I used to work in PR. Media training class would tell any CEO to respond as follows:
“I am so sorry, you’ve been thru enough. I do not condone that kind of behaviour by our fans or employees and I think it’s horrible.”
His answer JetBlue has a lot of fans, and the online space is vicious. People start these blogs and want to get famous or rich and they should expect that people are going to stand up for us.
Passive aggressive much. People start these blogs? Do you mean ME?
He has almost verbatim just repeated almost every attack that has been sent to me. Where they from YOU Mr. Neeleman?
So then we can’t get a real reason for why certain things happen that day, but get a bunch more I’m sorries, we’re sorries, it’ll never happen again, we’re fixing it. Blah Blah.
So we get to the being federally regulate portion of my questions. And he’s just fired up about why on earth would he ever have someone control his relationship with his customers. They have a legally binding (carriage of) contract with us which will ensure that they pay up as they say they will.
This is a carriage of contract and 75% a bill of rights that existed BEFORE the incident happened, that didn’t prevent the incident from happening. Yet, he doesn’t understand the purpose of being federally regulated.
Try self policing yourself while you quit cigarettes, or go on a diet, or go to the gym everyday. See for yourself how effective self-policing yourself is.
As we were coming to a close, his patience had waned. I asked him if he would be willing to sit with a few people I hand picked to take their questions on a talk show.
Or if he would film an apology to the readers of my blog. (This would take MAYBE 2 minutes as I had my digital camera that films movies.
His answer. I did that already. I apologized. I’ve apologized enough. I just want to move on.
He’s sitting with TWO people who were ACTUALLY on the plane that was stuck for the longest on the tarmac at JFK (10.5 hours), MAYBE for the first time. And he’s tired of apologizing. He’s ready to move on.
I’ll glad he got all the healing done and out of the way two weeks and two days after the incident. The only person who can recover better than you, Neeleman, is Wolverine.
By the end of the meeting I had three names I was supposed to follow up with, a consumer advisory board I was supposed to assist with and an updated system ops (I think this is what it was called) room he wanted me to check out. He walked us down the hall to Jenny Dervin's empty office, with no guest chairs. And left. A few JetBlue Corporate employees walked by and ignored us.
It’s was just like when we got taken off the plane and told to figure it out for ourselves.
After 10 minutes of standing around being ignored, Charlie and I walked out into the rain and went home. I half expected an apology email from Jenny Dervin. But was surprised that I didn’t hear form her until I emailed her and asked her about the whole “I don’t know who you are” bit.
And there it is.
My (not so) great meeting with a (not so) great man.
I had to step away from this blog for a few days because I was refilled with all the anger I let go while talking to you guys. Then I went to Los Angeles, on that trip with Charlie that we never got to take.
Did I take JetBlue? Yes. I paid for those tickets with 14.5 hours of my life (10.5 on plane, 3 in terminal) a missed first Valentine’s day and inconveniencing about a dozen member of my family who drove 6 hours down to LA to see me. I earned that free ticket, so you’re damned right I took it.
I’ll tell you this much. I called before I left for the airport, as I did on Valentine’s day. And Jenny (a recurring JetBlue name,) a nice little house mom in Middle America told me that “as of now, there are no flight interruptions.” When I asked to be put on a list of people to call if it DID get cancelled, she said she would try. I explained to her I was one of the people stuck on a plane for 10.5 hours and I am just worried. Her answer was a quick, too sweet and slightly surly, “you and everyone else.”
Keep on chugging JetBlue. You have a long way to go.