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JetBlue Bids to Recover from Snow Cancellations

The airline JetBlue faces mounting criticism for mishandling a snowstorm last week in the Northeast. The company is announcing its own customers' bill of rights in the wake of the cancellation of hundreds of flights. Daryl Jenkins, an independent airline consultant, discusses the carrier's stumble with Renee Montagne.

Jet Blue is a small airline, it cancels 1,000 flights, can it recover?

Of course it can. This was a very bad week for them, brought upon themselves by a lot of their own mistakes, to be sure. But, a year from now, they will put this behind them and will continue their growth.

Could JetBlue have foreseen these problems?

Yes. This was kind of a disaster waiting to happen for them. They have this policy of never canceling flights, or trying to as little as possible. And this one really caught up with them.

Can you explain this for people who have not followed the story?

What happened was, when the weather report came in they thought they were going to have a day where it kind of was part rain and part ice and sleet and snow. And they could, in between these banks of rain and snow, take planes off.

So, the whole time during this storm, they're landing planes at the beginning, and at the same time they're putting planes out on the runway. And they were out on the runway and it didn't rain. It just iced all-day long.

So these planes had to go to be de-iced. And then they knew that they weren't going to be able to take them off. And they couldn't take them back to the gates because they'd been landing all these other planes. All the gates were full.

And they had communications problems?

They had all sorts of communications problems with their travelers. The travelers weren't able to get through [to] the reservation line. So this was a very serious policy mistake on JetBlue's part because they really didn't have the infrastructure in to handle a very large ... irregular operations day.

JetBlue says that it was trying to get its passengers to their destinations. Some passengers are charging the airline with just trying to make money. What would convince someone to book a flight now with JetBlue?

JetBlue is still probably the greatest domestic airline, next to Southwest. They really do go to extraordinary measures to be good to their customers. This is certainly a black eye on them. But it's a black eye from which they'll recover.

What would you, as an analyst, be watching for as JetBlue tries to rebuild its reputation?

They're going to, a little later today, be announcing a new passenger's bill of rights, which applies to their passengers only. This is really kind of a unique step.

I think the problem that we all had with JetBlue in this really big meltdown they had in the last week was that we just expect so darn much from these guys. And we've come to expect a lot. So this was very hard on them.

And so they're going to have to go out, they're going to have to do things to the people who they terribly inconvenienced.

And, at the same time, I think what they'll do is they'll probably run some sales, and some other things, and when fares get low enough people have a tendency to forget.

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