The Checkout

The Highs and Lows of Airline Customer Service

Earlier this week, my colleague Keith Alexander wrote about the current attempts by United Airlines to improve its customer service in his Business Class column. As he noted, United has a long way to go, considering in February, it was the second-most complained about airline (after US Airways) at the Department of Transportation.

Well I had the fortune (or was it misfortune?) to fly on United last week. This week, I flew on Jet Blue and even though one leg of that trip was late because of mechanical problems there is no question that Jet Blue wins my support.

It's the simple things that count. In this case, it was the food! My four-hour flight on United, or rather on its no-frills division "Ted" was strictly that: no frills. The flight attendants offered only one CUP of soda. If you asked for a can, you were sternly rebuffed. If you were lucky, they gave you another cup half full. And you only got a little packet of snack mix. There were boxes of snack food to buy for $5, but they were out of the most popular (and healthful) version. The flight attendants were surly and bristled if you asked for anything.

By contrast, my one-hour flight on Jet Blue was a treat. Not only were the attendants friendly and helpful, but the food was more plentiful--and better--than the paltry selection "Ted" offered on a flight four times as long. First, everyone got a CAN of soda. And then a choice of snacks--and the attendants encouraged us to take more than one, even a selection so we could have salty nuts and sweet cookies.

Admittedly, these are small issues in the world of customer service, but the small issues add up. No wonder Jet Blue recently emerged as the most favored carrier based on customer complaints filed with the Department of Transportation in 2005.

By  |  April 7, 2006; 7:00 AM ET Customer Service
Previous: Hang Tight for Better Phone Holds | Next: Testosterone and Internet Fraud


Please email us to report offensive comments.

JetBlue is awesome. My wife and I fly with our toddler every few months to Long Beach and every time the flight attendants have made the trip soooo much easier. Other airlines' flight attendants cringe when they see us approaching with a child seat for the plane, but with JetBlue they jumped in to help and got us situated in short order - all the time with a smile on their faces. We're flying out again this Sunday and we opted to take JetBlue even though a competing airline had a slightly lower fare.

Posted by: Tommer | April 7, 2006 8:09 AM

I flew JetBlue just yesterday, and was amazed at how friendly the flight attendants were. During a 6-hour flight they came by three times with sodas/snacks, and you could take a snack at any time from one of the baskets at either end of the plane. I've never felt any particular loyalty to a carrier before, but I'd be willing to pay a slightly higher fare in the future to fly with JetBlue.

Posted by: Carolyn | April 7, 2006 9:23 AM

My JetBlue flight out of Dulles this week was delayed three hours due to weather. Despite the fact that the delay was in no way their fault, JetBlue brought out drinks and snacks (the stuff they normally hand out on-board) and invited us to take whatever we wanted. They even replenished the supply several times during the three-hour wait!

Posted by: FormerWashingtonian | April 7, 2006 9:47 AM

I have a friend who works for United, and I can tell you that United treats its employees like dirt. It doesn't surprise me that this attitude gets transfered to the customers. Instead of hiring and training new employees, they might want to consider treating their existing employees like human beings.

Posted by: fairfax, va | April 7, 2006 10:12 AM

I have never flown jet Blue but regularly get in trouble with our corporate travel booking southwest over their preferred United. United is a miserable airline with miserable service. On a 6 hour flight to the west coast southwest serves a snack box, three or four rounds of drinks, and snacks. Attendents are courteous and helpful.

Posted by: Chet Brewer | April 7, 2006 11:14 AM

I had a one hour flight on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Taipei and was served an entire hot meal! The level of service on that airline was above and beyond anything I've ever experienced on a U.S. based carrier (my personal second runner up would be British Airways).

Once you've flown one of those airlines, the U.S. ones (Jet Blue, United, Southwest, Airtran) will never live up to your expectations.

Posted by: alex | April 7, 2006 11:37 AM

Jetblue lost $42 million in the fourth quarter, and thus had a full year loss for 2005. They will also have a full year loss for 2006 as well. Don't count on the amenities continuing as stated in the article if these loses continue. Jetblue can't do much to cut other costs. In fact, costs will be going up as things like maintenance warranties expire on their aircraft. Jetblue has enjoyed an ultra-low cost structure thanks mainly to being a new company (new employees, back-loaded finance deals on new aricraft, etc). Costs now have nowhere to go but up as the airline's cost structure matures. As evidenced by financial performance lately, these issues are already becoming significant issues for Jetblue. How will the Jetblue employees react over time if the company's growth slows and wages stagnate? Time wil tell.

Posted by: Brad | April 7, 2006 11:46 AM

Anyone who judges an airline by the meals, probaly choses a car based on the cup holders. The true test of airline the point A to point B test. United has treated me well. 2-3 trans-pacific and half a dozen trips to europe a year and no complaints and I fly steerage. I've been bumped to business, ahead of the guy complaining about service, put in business on another airline when UA flight canceled.

Try flying Jetblue to Shanghai.

Posted by: Jim | April 7, 2006 11:49 AM

I've been impressed with JetBlue's service. I agree with the above poster that airline in other countries are much better (my personal favoriate is Iceland Air). However, for low cost domestic service JetBlue is the best I've experienced.

I was won over by a good expereince dealing with a delay. The entire airport was experiencing delays because of heavy air traffic and a thunderstorm. Our flight had to circle the airport for almost an hour before we could land. The flight attendants and pilots were great. They keep us informed of where the thunderstorm was and how quickly it was moving over the airport, how long we were going to be delayed and exactly what number we were in the queue to land. They brought out more drinks and snacks to help make the wait more tolerable. They were on the phone with the ground crew getting information on connecting flights and finding out if connecting flights were also delayed or if flights needed to be changed. They actually came around talking to passenger and giving them personal information on their connecting flights. There was so much less anxiety between the pilots keeping us constantly updated and the flight attendants making sure everyone knew the situation with their connections. We didn’t have to sit there wondering what was going on and worrying about making connections. There was no mad dash off the plane to make connections or rushing to the counter only to spend another hour waiting in line to get a new connecting flight. The staff was pleasant the entire time (which I've found to be a rare experience with airline staff during delays). They also gave all the passengers vouchers for a discounted flight (a think it was $50-100 off your next flight).

I had already flown JetBlue a couple of times before this and liked the choice of good snacks, friendly staff, and roomier planes (my husband is very tall and often can’t fit in airline seats without sitting sideways but we’ve noticed this isn’t a problem on JetBlue). The experience with the delay won me over entirely. Delays happen, we just can’t control the weather, but I’ve never had another airline the handled a delay so well and made the experience merely an inconvenience rather than a trip to the third circle of hell.
Now if only JetBlue would extend their service into the Midwest……

Posted by: Chris | April 7, 2006 11:49 AM

I've never flown JetBlue, but the comments I've read reminded me about what I enjoyed about the late, lamented Independence Air. Of course I liked Independence Air's low fares (too low, I guess, since that what did them in), but what really impressed me was their service. I would have been happy to fly Independence even at higher ticket prices because the service was so great and they provided about the best experiences I ever had on domestic flights!

Of course, for international flights, I have to agree with others that non-US carriers are the only way to go. Finnair and British Airways tie for the best flights I have had, with Lufthansa and KLM a close second (I've never flown any of the Asia/Pacific carriers). By contrast, my overseas flights on United and Northwest have been uniformly miserable.

Posted by: David | April 7, 2006 11:58 AM

No one's claiming JetBlue is always the best option. I have very little airline brand loyalty and go with whoever offers me the most direct route at the most reasonable price. However, when two airlines are equivalent or nearly so on those criteria, I look at amenities, and right now, I'll pick JetBlue over United for the Boston/DC route any day - more legroom, a TV, better snacks, and oh yes, friendly service. If I need to go to Atlanta, I'll AirTran or Delta, and if I need to go to Minneapolis, I'll fly NWA - no carrier's amenities are worth a connection if someone else has a direct flight. Unless you're flying a million miles a year and earning meaningful FF rewards, airline brand loyalty is stupid.

Posted by: mt | April 7, 2006 12:27 PM

I flew TED/United to/from Ft. Lauderdale last week and the service was quite good. Both flights were on time or early. Flight crew attitude was very good, meal service was meager as described but they tossed out extra snack bags (peanuts etc.) to those who wanted them.

In general, an improvement from what I've seen recently and no cause for complaint (other than the food issues, we have a layover and ate in the terminal so it was a non issue).

Posted by: fendertweed | April 7, 2006 12:33 PM

I've been flying as a vegetarian for 15 years, and this year was the first time I wasn't able to get food to accomodate my dietary needs on a long cross-country flight. Despite a request made at booking, and confirmed two days in advance of the travel, United had no veggie-friendly options during either half of a recent round trip journey between the west coast and the east coast. That's four hours each way with no real options except a bag of peanuts.

I used to love flying United in the late '90s, when all their meals were designed by Yan of "Yan Can Cook" and I had several different vegetarian options. Back then, I was logging 40,000 to 50,000 miles per year on the airline. With the rapid decline in service and food options, I've decided to avoid United in the future.

Posted by: frustrated frequent flyer | April 7, 2006 12:39 PM

I love jet Blue. Next to South its my favorite airline. I just love the TV . I can feel at home in my seat ,slip off my sandles and loosen my teeshirt and feel comfotable. You can have those other ailines with thier suits and ties.

Posted by: Mike | April 7, 2006 12:48 PM

"Anyone who judges an airline by the meals, probaly choses a car based on the cup holders. The true test of airline the point A to point B test."

Um, most airlines get you from point A to point B. That's like saying you should choose a car based on how many wheels it has or whether it has an engine. For the analogy-impaired, it's more like buying a car based on the options you can get for the cost, like my last car's base model (22K to drive it away, INCLUDING tax, tags, title, etc.) came with CD/cassette player; power locks, mirrors, and windows; security system, including a chipped key; and all the window, mirror, and other controls are softly lit when the headlights are on, making them easy to find in the dark. Does any of this affect my ability to get from point A to point B? No. Does it make my driving time more pleasant? What do you think?

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | April 7, 2006 12:50 PM

I'd like to put in a plug for Midwest Airlines. They have limited destinations, but the entire plane is first class seats and they bake chocolate chip cookies on board - really. I always fly them if I can and their flight attendants generally seem happy in their work. They won't generally be listed as the deep discount prices but if you go to their web site they have good deals (and only 30k miles to get a free companion ticket). I promise I don't work for them!!

Posted by: Allison | April 7, 2006 1:07 PM

I am surprized that no one has mentioned cabin comfort. I personally don't give a flying rat's ear about the food. However, I do care deeply about physical comfort.

United has a few "Economy Plus" seats that go to its best customers. However, unless I am flying on business with a full fare ticket (which is rare), I am always in sardine class where the seat in front of me literally hits my knees when reclined, and the seat cushioning generally seems to have been worn out a LONG time ago.

On the other hand, Jetblue (my favorite airline) has adopted a brilliant one-class service system. All of the seats are very comfortable leather with a good entertainment system. If you are in a hurry to get off, you can choose a seat in the first third of the cabin with as much or more room as other airlines. If not, you can choose a seat further back that has far more room than other airlines (34 inch pitch), and in which almost anyone can be comfortable.

Not only that, but as been pointed out numerous times above, Jetblue staff treats you like they actually care.

Posted by: Ted | April 7, 2006 1:25 PM

Another good airline if you're headed west is Frontier--you always fly through Denver, and they don't have the luxury seats, but they have excellent customer service and all the crew we've encountered have been very friendly and understanding with our toddler woes. They have pretty good snacks on longer flights (mmmm, doughnuts) and DirecTV for $5. They offer 1/2 price fares for infant (under 2 years) seats as well--most airlines have stopped this.

Midwest is great too, my dad flies them often enough between Phoenix and Milwaukee that some of the flight attendants bring him extra cookies!

Posted by: KD | April 7, 2006 2:16 PM

I've flown coast to coast 6 times in the past 3 months; always on Southwest. I don't know if another airline had cheaper flights because I didn't even bother to check. I have heard JetBlue is as good/better but they don't fly that route. Given my experiences with the horrible customer service, expensive change policies and silly FF rules on the major US airlines; I avoid them if at all possible. On American I once heard a flight attendant curse at the man in front of me because he didn't have small change for his drink.

Southwest means I can change my ticket or use it up to a year later for no fees, always get cheerful but not freakishly happy service and can have as many sodas, peanuts and snack boxes as I want.

Posted by: Faith | April 7, 2006 3:26 PM

Can we nominate foreign airlines? A relative and I flew British Airways in November for a vacation trip. Flight over was great -- free wine with dinner. Return flight was another story. On our return day, both Dublin and London's Heathrow were fogged in. Our flight from Dublin was delayed so we missed our connecting British Airways flight from Heathrow to BWI. Our options were to either stay overnight in London OR get the only other flight to Dulles. A family member was going to pick us up at BWI, and getting a message midair to meet us at Dulles instead was a headache. We got a seat on British Airways on standby to Dulles. (Heathrow is as big as a city, be forewarned before you go.) Again, we got free wine with dinner, free movies and a selection to choose from, sleep mask and socks for the 6-hour flight. Attendants were very polite and accommodating. Unfortunately our luggage did not make the flight we were on, which included mementos from our vacation. Lo and behold! British Airways delivered our left-behind luggage to our door the next day! Just tossing in my 2 cents' worth.

Posted by: Very Infrequent Flyer | April 7, 2006 4:13 PM

"Try flying Jetblue to Shanghai"

I haven't flown JetBlue anywhere but I have flown to Japan 3x from LAX and San Francisco in the last year and "sardine" would be the appropriate description for United Economy. I have never been so uncomfortable in my life and I'm 5'8" 170lbs. It's absurd. I paid $700 to be in pain for 11 hours. I cannot afford the expense to go business class. I did try for a voucher on e-bay but that's another $1000 for my wife and I and we missed it. Next time I will gladly pay hundreds of dollars more not to fly United because they don't provide a sane amount of space for an 11 hour flight.

The United crews were great. I have had some bad experiences in the past on domestic flights but the international crews were excellent and provided good service. Too bad this wrecks it as the DC-10's that we flew should be either retired or retrofitted so one does not have to experience excruciating lower back pain because the seating too tight.

Southwest is consistently the best for me domestically. I have also had good experiences with Frontier and Midwest Air. My wife deos not like Southwest because there are no seat reservations but the price and friendly service sometimes win her over.

Posted by: Bobby | April 7, 2006 6:13 PM

I can't believe that people complain about legroom on United. It's the only major airline that provides a decent legroom option in economy with the exception of Midwest, which is an excellent airline but limited destinations. If I am going to Milwaukee then I don't hesistate for a second. If every airline had service like that then I wouldn't be a 1K on United.

You only need to fly UA 25,000 miles a year to get Economy Plus (E+) on any fare and there is even a shortcut offer that allows less frequent fliers to qualify for $300.

On the Airbus I think the legroom is a much as 36" on UA E+.

It's unbelieveable that people complain after paying $700 to fly nearly halfway across the world and do you really think that other airlines have more space in economy? No they don't. The industry standard is a lousy 31 inches. Does "you get what you pay for" seem reasonable. It's incredible how cheap people are re airfares compared to other expenses in life. They gladly pay $600,000 to live in a shoddy cracker box house in a DC suburb but OMG, $1000 to fly to Japan. What a ripoff!

Also, economy on international flights is bad on any airline and it's not a very pleasant experience. That's the only way that it is feasible to transport people to Japan for $700. On UA you at least have the option to pay a bit more for E+, qualify by loyalty or the $300. And if you are very loyal then you can pretty much avoid flying economy at all while paying close to rock bottom economy fares both domestic and international. That's one hell of a generous scheme. Only UA and AA offer this among major carriers worldwide. On BA, LH and other international carriers you have to pony over the $6,000 or you are sitting back in monkey class.

I fly UA over 100,000 miles a year and they are obviously very generous to people like myself as they should be, but if the general service level and performance was poor then I would avoid them. I also never have tried the Ted affiliate because I don't fly to these US "leisure" destination but having E+ on an Airbus is a nice feature.

Of course I can see that an infrequent flier is going to chase price and probably pick Jetblue if all things are equal. I am also happy that the LCCs compete and keep UA in line.

Flying Southwest is a horrible experience with their infamous "cattle call" boarding. I have flown this airline on rare ocassions and it is a "no brainer" to select B6 over WN.

Posted by: Dr. Doom | April 7, 2006 6:55 PM

UA does not fly DC-10s. The person probably flew NW to Asia.

Posted by: Dr. Doom | April 7, 2006 6:57 PM

I am amazed at all the whiners and complainers out there who think they deserve the sun, moon and stars for their airline ticket. Airfares are at historic lows and here's a news flash: your ticket entitles you to nothing but a seat on that airplane. Want to go from NY to LA? Try driving and see how much it costs compared to flying. No other form of transportation gives you the ability to wake up in NY and go to sleep in LA all in the same day. What's that worth to you? Don't even factor in the loss of productivity for the 2-3 day drive. I guarantee it's more than you're paying to fly.

The supreme factor in choosing an airline should be safety, not blue potato chips or satelite T.V. Does anyone remember the Jet Blue emergency landing at LAX? Did you know it was a result of improper maintenance on the nose gear? Are you aware Jet Blue sends their airplanes to Central America for maintenance because it's cheaper? That's so they can spend money on truly important things like leather seats (which by the way are the same size as every other airline seat) and satelite TV. A lot can be said about how "terrible" the service is at United, but this airline has been serving our country for over 75 years and has a safety record second to none. Let's see if Jet Blue can say that just 10 years from now.
In the mean time sit back in your leather seat, eat you blue potato chips and enjoy watching you aircraft's emergency landing on the satelite TV.

Posted by: The Boody Man | April 7, 2006 6:58 PM

Northwest does not fly DC-10s to Asia. They still have a couple flying to Europe, but they'll all be replaced by the end of the year by A330s.

Posted by: Dave | April 7, 2006 7:15 PM

I'm paying for an airline to get me from point a to point b. The meals sucked, I could have cared less when they went away.

My attitude is this -- you want amenities? Pay for them. Go sit in business or first.

If you want a $250 transcon, don't expect amenities. If you want amenities, go pay for first or business. Simple enough, isn't it?

Posted by: Tonyw | April 7, 2006 8:36 PM

The service and attitude described for the "no-frills" flight on Ted sound *exactly* like those on the past few United (not Ted) flights I've taken from Chicago to California. I now know enough to buy a take-away meal before I board, but it was a long flight the night I had to run to make my connection and was offered a $5 "dinner" of crackers and cheese.

Posted by: Wayne | April 7, 2006 9:16 PM

Those of us who are old enough to remember flying before airline deregulation was passed in 1978 were spoiled by the service that domestic carriers used to offer. Braniff served full cooked breakfasts on 45-minute flights. We're talking bacon and sausages, not bagels. American had piano bars on the upper decks of their short-lived 747s. Unfortunately, we won't see that kind of service at coach fares any more. The economics simply don't add up. People who expect luxury service at bargain prices are going to spend the rest of their lives being disappointed.

Posted by: Scott | April 7, 2006 9:52 PM

I have never had a bad experience with United. The service has always been good and the customer service representatives, flight attendants and pilots are some of the best in the business. The one time I did fly Southwest I was not impressed with the cranky customer service rep or the cattle car loading of the airplane.

Posted by: Tony | April 7, 2006 9:57 PM

Thanks folks for hanging with us here at United. It's not been easy the last few years. Everybody has lost a lot of pay and benefits( some of us upwards of 60% pay loss ). Our pensions have been decimated (lost 75% of mine), and we've had to increase our working hours for a whole lot less pay.

That being said, the vast majority of us still love our jobs and are proud of our United heritage. This airline goes all the way back to the very beginnings of commercial air service, meaning noisy, open cockpit biplanes flying airmail across the country. Our ancestors were trying to prove the reliability and viability of such a product of air service. And prove it they did! The airline business grew by leaps and bounds and produced an era of glamour. Yes, those days are gone as economics have taken over, and created the situation we now have.

I know there are a few bad apples out there, and at every airline I might add. Please know however, that for every one bad apple employee you run across at United, there are hundreds of employees that are honestly trying their best to give our customers a superior product. When I say "trying our best", I truly mean that. Times have changed, and the amenities available to us for serving you, the flying public, have drastically been reduced. Please send those cards and letters to management expressing your displeasure with the way things are, so they can be changed.

9/11 just about did us in. It's so frustrating to see what 19 terrorist punks were able to do to this country as well as my airline. We've all changed from that, and to my astonishment, United is still pretty much intact. The entire industry has changed and is still in the process of changing.

When I walk the halls of our flight training center and see all the history of United Air Lines captured in photographs and displays, it makes me proud to be a part of this great airline, and even more determined to not let anything happen to United on my watch.

I, along with thousands of my fellow employees, are truly grateful for your loyalty in many cases, and your business. I promise that I will continue to do my best to not let you down.

Posted by: Jeff | April 8, 2006 1:03 AM


Well said, Jeff.

Posted by: The Boody Man | April 8, 2006 5:36 PM

You know, it's funny how everybody hates the hometown airline. Atlantans gripe about Delta, in Chicago it's United and American...

So the startups make their money on the backs of their employees, and now the bigs have to match fares. That gives you two groups of airline workers. The legacy carriers' have lost pay, benefits and pensions, and the LCOs never had them to lose. Who's going to be happier?

Sure, Jetblues have the good attitude. But give them a few more years of lousy benefits, along with the loss of their "profit sharing", and see how it goes. Southwest is a great example, their flight attendants used to be fun and happy, now crabby and tired.

I fly on everybody, and two things I can count on. (1)They all have good ones, but you only hear about the bad ones. (2)Every day at every airport about every airline you hear "I'M NEVER FLYING THIS AIRLINE AGAIN!!"

If you want good food, nice service, and all the goodies, pay for upgrades. That's what it costs to provide the level of service we were used to before $199 fares to Europe.

Posted by: eduardo | April 8, 2006 6:14 PM

I guess you have to ask yourself, "Why am I being loyal to ANY airline who treats me badly? I'm bringing revenue to their company and I deserve a certain level of civil customer service." What or who makes an airline? Ultimately it's the people. I've read the blogs listed here and some of the logic used is unbelievable. If your airline, or the airline you're loyal to has to reach down to the operating crews and cut the salary, benefits or pension of its lowest paid employees, are you loyal to it just because of its legacy or length of time business? Yes, stand for what you believe in. Put up with disappointments at your job, but when the company you've worked for or flown with for years, who you've sacrificed over and over for begins taking food from your baby's mouth or altering your retirement, isn't time to rethink where your loyalty lies? And here's where the logic used in some of these blogs rubs people the wrong way: Bad things happen to good people. It's easy to provide excellent customer service when things are great. Anyone can do that. What sets airlines (and customer service oriented companies) apart is the customer service you receive when things are horrible. Employees at legacy carriers are not happy. We all understand why. What the public wants to see for those employees who are unhappy to either leave that legacy carrier or rise above it and deliver civil customer service to the paying public. One blog above suggests "every carrier has its bad apples, as all carriers do." You can say that about any industry at any time. The airlines though are in the Transportation/Customer Service Industry and the truth of the matter is that legacy carriers have THE corner on lousy customer service right now. Just check the DOT reports or ANY consumer reports for that matter. We are not talking 'bad apple here and there', employees are upset and the consequences of being upset when you go to your job every day is that you'll treat your fellow co-workers bad and inevitably the customers who pay your salary. This is why the legacy's are having a rough time. It's not ALL the price of fuel. Loyalty is a good thing, but please be discerning with whom you give that loyalty to.
One last thing, comparing apples to apples here, United's A320 domestic airplane configuration has 138 seats, 12 in first class, 36 in Economy plus with the 36" pitch and 90 seats that have only a 31" seat pitch. Don't forget you are now having to pay extra for E+ seats. In contrast the low cost carrier Jet Blue's A320 plane configuration with 156 seats is row's 1-10 (60 seats) have a 32" seat pitch while the rest (rows 11-26, 96 seats) have a 34" seat pitch. It's ALL first class. Oh, and anyone can use any of the 3 lavatories on board Jet Blue's A320. On UA, you have to be 1 of the 12 first class customers on that plane to use the forward lav. And I guess you should since you've probably paid 100's maybe 1000's of dollars more to sit in the same plane, using the same amount of fuel, going to the same destination as those seated in the rear of the plane.

Posted by: lh | April 9, 2006 9:33 AM

I tend to agree with lh above. For me though, if you haven't flown with Jet Blue yet, either because you haven't had the chance, or you are stubborn, don't like change and loyal to other carriers, I strongly urge you to venture beyond your comfort zone and come see the difference for yourself. Sign up for trueBlue flight gratitude, Jet Blue's frequent flyer loyalty program and THEN make an informed decision for who should keep your business.

Posted by: mcgilicutty | April 9, 2006 9:48 AM

Regarding the blog above about the Jet Blue landing at LAX. An FAA study reports that United had the highest accident rate among the top 10 US carriers, for the period of 1990 through May 1996. Shall we write/read about the United's Emergency landing Mon, 12 Jan 1998 in London? And the faulty aircraft flap? Every airline's #1 priority is SAFETY. This is more an Airbus issue than a Jet Blue maintenence issue. Why would someone criticize an airline for 'maintaining' an aircraft in Central America? It's cost effecient. No one in this industry skimps on safety. No one. But don't beat up a carrier for being cost effecient. Don't forget, legacy carriers have plenty of A320's as well. I'd like to check the legacy carriers maintenence records and subsequent fines! Perhaps if legacy carriers would be more cost effecient, they wouldn't have to file bankruptcy and cut employee wages, benefits and retirement. What we SHOULD be celebrating is the heroing efforts of that are some of the news files that were broadcast that day:
UPDATE: The airplane has landed safely. The landing gear did not collapse, but instead skidded the entire distance of the landing roll.
A similar problem with sideways landing gear struck an America West Airbus A320 in 1999. That plane landed safely at Port Columbus International Airport in Ohio, and no one was injured.
“While rotated nose landing gear is uncommon, it has happened in the past, with a similar outcome — safe landing, no injuries,” Greczyn said in an e-mail. “Last night’s incident concluded exactly as Airbus expected it would. Flight crews are trained to handle such situations and aircraft are designed to withstand such landings.” This link is the video landing.
And finally, this link...

Posted by: boody hoo hoo | April 9, 2006 10:59 AM

I am a pilot with United Airlines. I've never flown on Jet Blue, but I have a lot of friends who've gone to work at Jet Blue after being furloughed by UAL, I've read only one previous posting by someone who seems to understand the business realities surrounding Jet Blue's operation. Everything is new, to include the people and there payscales. No one at Jet Blue has reached the top salary offered by contract there yet (they haven't been in business long enough). Time will tell how they'll end up. Happy service, and dumb business practices will send them the way of Independence Air. Personally, I don't hope for the demise of another airline. I have too many friends working at all of them.
And as for foreign carriers being better than U.S. carriers, I wonder how much U.S. carriers would do, if they were "subsidized" by the U.S. govt? Does the British Govt subsidize health care costs for British Airways? I know that the U.S. Govt. doesn't subsidize health care costs at UAL. Once again,there appears to be a drive to 'outsource' another U.S. industry in order to serve the consumer(no matter what the damage to the U.S. economic infrastructure). Let's outsource air travel to China. $30,000 per year is a fantastic salary there. And when China gets annoyed at U.S. meddling in Far East affairs,it can just shutdown U.S. air travel. Let's hear it for 'Wal-Mart Air'!

Posted by: In the Business | April 10, 2006 1:33 AM

I just wanted to echo the poster who said good things about British Airways. Flew them from BWI to Heathrow two years ago for the first time in years (old enough to have flown the line when it was BOAC) and was tremendously impressed by the professionalism and courtesy of the staff, quality of the food, etc. They were also fine on connecting flights within the UK. The experience was so pleasant, in fact, that I am flying British Airways again in a month's time, even though there were cheaper flights to Heathrow out of BWI. While I don't care much about conditions on hour long flights, when I am flying the Atlantic I will pay extra for comfort and service.

Posted by: Jack | April 10, 2006 11:13 AM

I couldn't care less whether I'm served a cup of coke or a can. I usually just bring a bottle of water. Frankly I never liked the beverage service; it seems they always pull out that damn cart just when I decide to get up to use the restroom. And having the choice between a cookie or peanuts really doesn't do it for me either.

I'm generally so uncomfortable on a plane to begin with due to the lack of leg-room and the inevitable screaming baby, that short of getting upgraded to first-class (which is NEVER going to happen) or getting plastered and passing out, there are not many options that will make my flight more enjoyable.

I hate flying, and receiving a full can of coke certainly won't change that.

Posted by: If this is your biggest complaint, you're doing alright! | April 10, 2006 12:38 PM

The government may not subsidize airlines directly, but they sure do give them a lot of help. These legacy carriers that stay in bankruptcy proceedings seemingly forever become cash generating operations at the expense of all else, for they must prove to the bankruptcy judge and their creditors that they have some revenue coming in. And this, in part, is why you see the unbelievably low fares the public has been spoiled with the past few years. This kind of pricing depresses revenues across the industry, making it difficult for solvent carriers to price their fares reasonably.

Posted by: A subsidy by any other name | April 10, 2006 1:15 PM

It seems like everyone who flies or has posted here is just waiting for the shoe to drop. I have flown on JetBlue, Southwest, United, Delta (AAAAAAA, never again), Frontier, Alaska, Independance, North West, American and America West, quite the abundance within the last year. Yes, I fly a lot. Let me tell you, there is a reason that I listed JetBlue first. They are incredible. I have a very hectic schedule and had to change my flight more than once. I changed it online in 3 minutes for a LOW $30 fee, compared to $100 fee with most others. I was able to assign my own seat instead of clammoring over everyone and thier dog (literally) to pray for an isle. And on one trip there was a crying baby on the plane. But the inflight crew did everything that they could do to help that exasperated mother. I think she wanted to cry, too. Possibly more than anyone else on the plane. JetBlue has fabulous options, I never have to fly into LAX. Have you ever been to LAX? I think it took me a month to get out of there last time. JetBlue has lots of options and are growing at the speed of light. When was the last time an airline said, "Oops, this isn't working, let's do something else?" Well, JetBlue does that. I think they are great and they have become my airline of choice. The snacks are good and you can bring a lunch on if you want. If JetBlue is going where I am going, I go with them. If they are not, I "Speak Up" and beg for that route. I would like to say that I suggested Austin, Tx and here it is. I was on a FULL flight there last week. I was a little worried that I would have to be strapped onto the wing to get on the plane it was so full. JetBlue is great. I am buying stock because I believe that this company will just continue to "soar". Yeah, they had one unprofitable quarter, after 18 of profit. Ask Delta if they know what "in the black" means!

Your Friendly Fellow Flyer

Posted by: Blast | April 10, 2006 1:56 PM

Jetblue really is impressive. In addition to the standard leather seats with generous legroom and 36 channels of live TV, they also offer 100 channels of XM satellite radio.

As for snacks, it's unbelievable. All you want. Munchie Mix, Cashews, Blue Chips, Cheese and Crackers (flights longer than 3 hours), Biscotti, Chocolate Chip cookies and animal crackers.

For hot beverages, they offer Dunkin Donuts brand coffee, hot cocoa and even instant chicken noodle soup!

Finally, they've begun offering little "shut eye" kits on eastbound redeye transcon flights. The free kits include an eye mask, ear plugs, lip balm, body lotion and a hot moist towel before landing.

All this from a "low cost carrier"! They are worthy of your loyalty.

Posted by: Murmur | April 10, 2006 11:00 PM

Thanks Boody hoo hoo for the good info, but since you didn't seem to provide a web link for your "FAA study" that United had the highest accident rate among the top ten carriers from 1990-May 1996 I did some searching and I couldn't find any such "FAA study". Then I realized the dates you listed seem odd, not to mention over a decade old. Hmmm, seems like some selective data manipulation. Did you know Jet Blue had the most incidents in September of 2005 of any airline? See how easy it is to manipulate data to make a point?

Just to be clear the Airbus nose gear problem is not really an "Airbus problem". A common cause of it is improper reassembly of the nose gear by mechanics. United has had a fix in place for about 2 years now. Interestingly, the other carrier that you mentioned, America West, also sends their aircraft to the same chop shop in Central America for maintenance that Jet Blue does. I guess you wouldn't know that since you seem to get all your information from "".

I reject the claim that every airline's #1 priority is safety. I've seen too many scary operators in my day to believe that. The most recent that comes to mind is ValueJet (now known as AirTran). I hope the traveling public realizes the FAA is not the watchdog they claim to be in keeping airlines safe. In reality it's the front line employees and their commitment to safety. A lot of it has to do with standing up to a supervisor and saying you won't sign for an airplane you feel is unsafe. This is also why it is good to be unionized when that supervisor tries to fire you for not following orders.

I can't believe this whole debate was started from some prima donna Post reporter who was crying about not getting a whole can of Coke. Really Caroline, you need to get a life.

The reality is most people will buy their tickets based on price, not cans of Coke or safety.

Good night and Good Luck.

Posted by: Jet blooser | April 10, 2006 11:01 PM

I just want the airlines to pressurize the cabins to a nice air pressure, that will prevent ears popping, baby's crying, and people that are sensitive to changes in air pressure from being in pain. I hate flying because of this. I've heard it doesn't take much more fuel to pressurize a cabin to a comfortable air pressure...

Posted by: anonymous | April 11, 2006 1:49 PM

Don't know if anyone is reading this, but United had bad customer service before 9/11. It was headed for bankruptcy before...horrible customer service in 2000 with national apology from the chairman. I admire Jeff's loyalty, but frankly, United's heyday was probably closer to 20 years ago.

Posted by: business class | April 11, 2006 5:37 PM

I have flown many times on various carriers over the years, and the lack of customer courtesy these days is sad.
Why trim on the small comfort items that can make a client smile. I'm sure the CEO's arent cutting back.

In the past we could be assured of a great meal and decent films to keep the family entertained on 5 hour plus flights. We expected the service and safety to be excellent,trusting the airlines to get us there in one piece!

Our yearly flights to Hawaii have been a real eye opener.
Aloha and Hawiian have always been good,Hawaiian bumped us to a first class flight on AA, that was great, but if I had paid for first class I might have been dissapointmed at the shabby feel of the cabin.

Now we have to carry lunch boxes like some poor field trip group.
Pretty amazing what someone might pay for a bite of your kids In & Out burger at the 2 hour point of a trip LOL
There must be a better way to do things folks!

Posted by: Aloha Bound | April 14, 2006 3:22 PM

I firmly believe that you get what you pay for. Juts think about the booking process, checking at the airport and arriving to your final destination. There are hundreds of employees and millions of dollars invested to make that simple process run smoothly. I certainly wouldn't want to run an airline, crazy competition, low fares, etc. I understand that I can't expect gourmet meals or first class service on economy. Customers that complain about service and ammenities are the same that do not hesitate to spend thousands of dollars buying designers bags. Gime a break. As an airline consultant, I can assure you that airline loyalty doesn't exist. Customers buy airline tickets based on price, simple. I fly 90% of the time. I can see how rude airline customes can be.
I see customers complaining about "On Board Food for Sale" sold for 5 bucks !!! give me a break. How much you spend @ the airport concesions? I am just realistic. Try to fly in Europe where 90% of the airlines are low cost where even water is for sale. Here in the US airline customers are spoiled.. the Euro-model of Low cost airline is coming.. wait until you have to pay for EVERYTHING. Unless you pay for a premium seat do not expect more than transportation from point A to B.

The reality Check guy.

Posted by: YOU GET WHAT U PAY FOR. | July 11, 2006 9:43 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company