Update: The Latest From JetBlue
UPDATE: If you've been following the JetBlue saga, here's the latest. The airline's new customer bill of rights is out, and there's at least one whopping surprise: A customer involuntarily bumped is entitled to $1,000.
As to the kind of delays that gave the usually well-regarded airline a black eye in the past week, JetBlue has more promises, and they go well beyond anything any other airline has ever promised. If a passenger experiences a ground delay of 30 to 60 minutes, they'll get a $25 voucher. One to two hours, the voucher jumps to $100. Two to three hours and they get a voucher equal to what they paid one way. More than three -- a round-trip voucher equal to what they paid for their roundtrip ticket. The rules say nothing about payment being contingent on the delay being JetBlue's fault.
And by the way, after five hours JetBlue will "take the necessary action so passengers can deplane." Makes you wonder why they can't do that after four hours, or three, as a new consumer group is demanding of all airlines.
If the other airlines didn't already hate JetBlue for last week's publicity and the heat it's brought to the industry, I think they'll hate them now for setting this particular set of new standards --- unless of course the promises derail congressional action.
Here's what I reported earlier:
Mea culpa, pleads JetBlue in what seems to be a sincere effort to win back the trust of passengers after leaving hundreds stranded on the tarmac for up to 10 hours during last week's storm. Following that debacle was a weekend fraught with flight cancellations as the airline scurried to catch up to the backlog.
The airline promises to unveil a new internal passenger bills of rights this afternoon. We'll update as soon as the document is released, but meanwhile, one element has already leaked: JetBlue will promise to give passengers a $25 voucher whenever a flight arrives at least a half-hour late; $100 for flights one to two hours late; a one-way ticket if flights are two-three hours late; and a round-trip ticket if a flight is more than four hours late.
We have to assume that the payments will be made only if JetBlue feels a delay is its fault. Weather delays usually don't fall into that category, but JetBlue founder David G. Neeleman has already admitted that it wasn't just the weather that got JetBlue into such a jam. The payments are said to be retroactive for the stranded passengers from the recent storm, so obviously the airline isn't just blaming the weather. (You can check the JetBlue Web site for a message from the tired-looking chairman.)
It's pretty clear JetBlue should have canceled more flights rather than load up planes and let people sit. Of course the leaked element of the promised passenger bill of rights doesn't directly address that scenario -- and who doesn't believe that sitting on the tarmac is way worse than a merely late flight?
Neeleman promised improvements in several areas, putting the cost at $20 million to $30 million for doing things like tripling the size of the staff responsible for pairing up available crew with planes ready to roll, and paying inconvenienced customers.
The big question remains: Will Jet Blue's bill of rights help head off a campaign to get Congress to impose a passenger bill of rights on all airlines? That push, dropped in the wake of 9/11, got picked up again six weeks ago by a determined woman spurred into action by being kept on an American Airlines plane for six hours, without moving. The JetBlue fiasco undoubtedly gave her great new fuel.
But will a government edict help? What do you think?
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