Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

JetBlue's Fatal Customer Service Flaw

August 26, 2011

If you fly a lot, it’s probable that you have your favorite well as airlines you avoid at all costs. Your preferences are based on experience: this airline has a better on-time rate, that airline offers first-class upgrades, yet another lets you use frequent flier points more liberally.

Southwest Airlines, of course, sits at the top of the heap for customer satisfaction, for the very reason that the company values its customers during both good times AND bad (which is the key element of a good customer service program.)

On the flip side, many individuals who are fans of the popular East Coast airline JetBlue have some bones to pick with the company. A great airline during good weather and open skies, the airline has a reputation for falling down big time when there are delays due to weather and other factors.

During a snowy February in 2007, JetBlue experienced an infamous fiasco that reportedly cost the company about $30 million. Because of a policy the airline has of never canceling flights, when the winter storm hit the Northeast and Midwest, the company kept several planes at many different airports on the ground for hours, not allowing passengers to disembark, with many more passengers waiting in terminals. Ultimately, the airline was forced to cancel most of its flights anyway, angering thousands of passengers. The company’s reputation as a customer service organization took a very serious dent that day: one from which it still hasn’t recovered.

The company’s other fatal customer service flaw, writes blogger Spencer Osborne on the Web site Seeking Alpha, is that it does not partner with other airlines to get passengers from delayed or canceled flights moving again on other planes. Instead, JetBlue attempts to rebook all passengers on its own future flights, which sometimes results in passenger delays of days instead of hours.

Osborne wonders about the sanity of any company that continues to pursue two such damaging customer service policies: never canceling flights and refusing to re-book passengers on other airlines.

“If a passionate fan of the company like myself can become so frustrated that I consider avoiding the airline,” writes Osborne, “what happens to the hundreds of people that have had their vacations ruined?”

While JetBlue does have a “Passenger Bill of Rights” that was put into effect after the 2007 snowstorm disaster that earned the company a lot of negative press, Osborne says the policy is exceptionally limited.

Customers’ “rights,” says Osborne, are dictated by JetBlue with little recourse for or involvement by the customer.

“Customers cannot contact JetBlue’s Bill of Rights department, and are given an e-mail that tells them what JetBlue deems as appropriate for a solution. Most ‘compensation’ only happens with something the airline terms as a ‘controllable irregularity.’ Obviously the weather is out of the control of any airline, but could JetBlue control getting you there as soon as possible on the next flight after the weather event? In my opinion, JetBlue seems to be able to make the ‘weather’ excuse last up to a few days! That is simply not reality.”

Unfortunately, too few companies seem willing to face reality when it comes to helping their customers during both the good times and the bad. Until JetBlue learns that, it will continue to see its customers – both casual and loyal – walk away.

Southwest Airlines, anyone?

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Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for ContactCenterSolutions. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell