JetBlue's comms ills hurt patrons and staff equally

With its reasonable ticket prices, dozens of free TV channels, and an "everyone sits in business class" mentality, JetBlue has been the darling of the turbulent airline industry for years.

With its reasonable ticket prices, dozens of free TV channels, and an "everyone sits in business class" mentality, JetBlue has been the darling of the turbulent airline industry for years.

But that pro-consumer image came crashing down over a period of three days earlier this month when a not-so-severe ice storm in the Northeast caused the airline to strand thousands of travelers. For one reason or another, it was JetBlue that froze worst in the face of this relatively minor adversity. And the spotlight, so previously sympathetic, shone on the company's glaring internal communications problems.

There was a major breakdown in communications between the people making the decisions and those on the planes and in the terminal who had direct contact with a furious and curious mob of stranded travelers. As a result of all of this, CEO David Neeleman has issued the JetBlue Customer Bill of Rights, a document that promises to inform customers, in a timely manner, of delays and cancellations and to compensate them financially for any inconvenience they may face.

That's fine. Of course, it had to ensure the public knew JetBlue shared its outrage. But we'd also like to hear a lot more about their plan, if they have one, for solving the communication problem the company has within. Throwing money and promises at consumers isn't the solution for what happened. The airline needs to sit down and figure out where the communications breakdowns that go unseen everyday happened and why.

It's unacceptable for a brand known for customer service to have nearly all of its employees telling customers: "I don't know." Not only do you risk losing customers, the next to go will be the staff, who will share the same contempt for the management whose substandard communications policy put them in that position.

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