JetBlue "Bill Of Rights" Put To The Test

JetBlue Airways promotional pins are seen at the company headquarters in Queens, New York, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007. JetBlue Airways introduced a customer bill of rights that promises vouchers to fliers who experience delays, hoping the move wins back passengers after an operational meltdown damaged its brand and stock price. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams) AP

JetBlue canceled 66 flights because of snow Monday and tested the airline's customer bill of rights created after an uproar of criticism from the Valentine's Day storm that grounded more than 1,000 flights.

However, the embattled carrier wasn't alone this time as other airlines also grounded flights in and out of the Northeast.

JetBlue's cancellations at John F. Kennedy International Airport affected flights to or from Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Va.; Washington, D.C., Portland, Maine; and Chicago. The company also canceled flights into and out of Chicago and the Washington area during the weekend.

The cancellations were an attempt to make sure crews and planes were situated so the company could quickly resume operations after the snow, JetBlue Airways Corp. spokeswoman Alison Eshelman said.

But as the storm brought as much as 4 inches of snow to the New York metropolitan area, Delta Air Lines Inc. reported 175 canceled flights throughout the Northeast. American Airlines canceled 20 flights in and out of JFK and was experiencing slight delays of 15 to 20 minutes by afternoon, said spokesman Ned Raynolds.

JetBlue representatives declared the airline's handling of the storm a success, arguing that the early decision to cancel a fifth of its John F. Kennedy International Airport flights on Monday allowed it to ensure crews and planes were in place to resume normal operations by the afternoon.

Still, some customers described delays, bad communication from crew members, and general frustration early Monday, echoing complaints that led to the company's bill of rights following the last storm.

Doug Rosenberg and Segun Akande, 22-year-old students at Duke University, found their flight from New York to Raleigh, N.C., canceled after being delayed on the taxiway for hours.

"It was so bad," said Akande. "We were waiting on the plane for so long. You would think they would tell us to go back to the terminal after an hour or two."

Rosenberg said JetBlue did a poor job telling passengers about what was going on and offering service after the flight was canceled. "I never witnessed this bad of service in my entire life," said Rosenberg.

Eshelman said the students' flight was supposed to depart at 9:45 p.m. but its departure was delayed until 11:47 p.m. She said the plane was sent to be de-iced, but then because of the weather in New York and Raleigh the company canceled the flight. The plane was returned to the terminal by 2:45 a.m., she said.

Eshelman said that in accordance with the customer bill of rights, each of the 100 passengers would receive $100 vouchers good for any future flight and their choice of either a refund or accommodation on a future flight.

Earlier this month, JetBlue was heavily criticized after bad weather stranded passengers in planes at Kennedy, its main hub, for up to 10 1/2 hours.

The company, which had hoped to ride out that storm without canceling flights, later admitted it took too long to call airport authorities for help in getting passengers off the grounded planes. It couldn't resume normal operations for days because flight crews weren't where they were supposed to be.
By Samantha Gross
  • Francie Grace

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