JetBlue Rules … but read the fine print

JetBlue customer Bill of Rights

The jetBlue horror story of travelers interminably stuck in planes as cancelled flights stacked up due to ice storms, has become legend. Many other airlines face the same difficulties due to weather emergencies but the focus was intensely on JetBlue this time for two reasons:

1) JetBlue has a stong compact with its Customers (capital “C”) and is supposed to be different. 2) the real problem was communication – leaving travelers stranded and confused with little or no warning.

Well, in a swift turnaround that will undoubtedly deeply impact the airline business and serve as a case study in rapid response PR, JetBlue has turned obstacle into opportunity with a signature Customer Bill of Rights and impressive action to back it up. The reality of Congressional action also undoutedly prompted the airline to take the initiative.

In a halting speech, obviously sincere and down-to-earth, jetBlue founder and CEO David Neeleman delivers a YouTube video “Our promise to you” that has so far received over 40,000 views and 119 comments. I would have trained Neelman to be smoother and more precise in his delivery but his intent was unmistakable: contrite, apologetic, touching. He betrayed a trust, and he knows it.

It is prominent on the home page of the jetBlue web site - links to the Customer Bill of Rights, the video, an apology, an invitation to communicate, how much cash you get in the event of cancellations, departure delays, overbookings. A key point – not once in all the communication is the weather or any outside force blamed. jetBlue takes full responsibility. 

How did Wall Street react to the masterful jetBlue PR moves.? The stock quote says it all: JBLU: $13.19  +0.29 +2.25%

What about the fine print? All refunds outlined by jetBlue are in the event of a “Controllable Irregularity.” I was unable to find a definition of this in all their communication. Is weather a controllable irregularity? Instructions from flight control? Can any legal types, or those familiar with the airline industry, shed light on this? Will the “controllable irregularity” clause come back to haunt jetBlue?

THE APOLOGY: “You deserved better – a lot better – from us last week and we let you down. Nothing is more important than regaining your trust and all of us here hope you will give us the opportunity to once again welcome you onboard and provide you the positive JetBlue Experience you have come to expect from us.” Sincerely, David Neeleman, Founder and CEO, jetBlue


  1. [...] Two days ago I posted about the odd two words that jump out in the much heralded new jetBlue Bill of Rights. Money will be given to passengers for delays due to a … Controllable Irregularity. It is comforting to see that a host of other bloggers, many of them hardcore travelers, are just as dumfounded. What the @#*! is a controllable irregularity, asks one. [...]

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