NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Trying to recover from the enormous beating its brand took after days of unprecedented cancellations and flight delays, JetBlue Airways has gone on a PR offensive.
CEO David Neeleman admitted he was "horrified and mortified" by the fiasco and said that the airline will spend $30 million to upgrade its operational procedures, while JetBlue today also issued a "customer bill of rights."
JetBlue now will compensate passengers based on the length of delays, with vouchers ranging from $25 toward a future flight to the full amount of a ticket. Delays will be defined as airplanes that are unable to taxi to the gate within 30 minutes and departures delayed for a minimum of three hours. If JetBlue cancels a flight within 12 hours of its departure, passengers can receive a full refund or voucher for future flight.
More importantly, JetBlue said it would pull passengers off a plane if a flight is delayed on the ground for five hours.
Stranded on tarmac
Severe delays last week caused a brand nightmare for JetBlue. The airline left 10 of its planes on the tarmac at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport during last week's snow and ice storm. Passengers were stranded onboard for six hours or longer -- one for nearly 11 hours -- with no food, no adequate restrooms and no explanation for what was going on. The airline canceled half of its 571 flights Feb. 14, and compounded the problem by waiting nearly five hours to notify transit officials and request help in getting the passengers off the planes and back to the terminal.
Some airlines already have such policies in place. Alaska Airlines, for instance, which routinely battles inclement weather, has a policy that passengers are to be deplaned if they are still on the ground 90 minutes after scheduled departure time.
Not only did JetBlue suffer a major public-relations hit, but its stock has fallen as well. Shares in the airline were down 7.3% this morning since Feb. 14.
'Better than ever'
The airline was fully operational this morning for the first time since last Wednesday. "What happened on Valentine's Day is completely unacceptable, and we take responsibility for that and we'll fix it," Mr. Neeleman said today on CNN's "American Morning."
"Just remember one thing: JetBlue has been around for seven years. We have a tremendous reputation. ... You know, one event doesn't really ruin someone's career. We had a weakness, we're going to fix it, we're going to be better than ever."