JetBlue will cancel another quarter of its flights tomorrow in hopes that it can recover from hundreds of canceled flights since Wednesday's snow and ice storm. A fourth of yesterday's flights were canceled, as were a fourth of today's flights. The airline hopes it'll be back and running at its usual level by Tuesday.
Since the storm, at least 861 JetBlue flights have been canceled out of JFK Airport, and its spokesperson said, “It was turning from an operational problem to a safety and security problem for our workers. We canceled late departures, upset more customers, met overnight and said, ‘This has just got to stop.’” And the NY Times detailed one Friday night incident illustrating why:
Irving Fain, a New Yorker who said that his 6:05 p.m. flight Friday from J.F.K. to San Diego was delayed many times and then canceled at about 10:30 p.m., described a scene at gate 16 in the JetBlue terminal with angry passengers crowding around the gate podium, a gate agent calling security, and then passengers and a security officer exchanging heated words.
“It was really a disaster,” said Mr. Fain, who is 26 and works for a radio station. “Passengers screaming, ‘We pay your salary.’ The security guy screaming back. Fifteen minutes into this ruckus, they finally canceled the flight.”
And why did JetBlue have problems on Wednesday? For starters, JetBlue waited too long before calling planes back to the terminal. The low-cost carrier didn't have enough gates, either, to deal with the influx of passengers, and with other vehicles and equipment becoming frozen to the runway, a bad situation turned worse. And JetBlue also lacks agreements with other airlines that let them shift passengers to other carriers during emergencies. With the stories of the 11-hour waits on powerless and heat-less JetBlue planes at the JFK tarmac now legend, a passenger bill of rights is now a hot topic.
Aside from nightmarishly long waits averaging around 9-10 hours aboard planes stranded on the tarmac on Wednesday, there are also thousands of pieces of luggage to deal with. One passenger told WABC 7, "From behinds the doors, we did see them laughing at us. The crew members and the help they had with the baggage. They weren't working."
JetBlue's CEO David Neeleman told the NY Times he was horrified with what happened, but remained optimistic (for investors?), "Is our good will gone? No, it isn’t. We fly 30 million people a year. Ten thousand were affected by this.” Which makes us wonder, will you avoid flying JetBlue after this incident? Or do you chalk it up to a freak incident?
Photograph of the scene inside one JetBlue plane on Wednesday and on the way (finally!) to the terminal by passenger Lou Martins/AP