JetBlue Airways a New York based Air ways was started by David Neeleman, an industry visionary who promised to “bring humanity back to air trave.” Neeleman was born Brazil but raised in Utah, he was no stranger to start-up airlines. He helped build Morris Air, a Utah based airline. Through his connections Neeleman created a company that would boast of fleet of brand new airplanes, low fares and a host of customer friendly accompaniments that other airlines would be hard pressed to match. JetBlue Airways was able to reach the markets that were previously underserved. This made it quickly shoot to the top of J.D.Power and Associates customer satisfaction surveys. Soon their flights expanded operations to Los Angeles, Southern Florida and a host of smaller markets, such as Buffalo, New York.
JetBlue successfully launched in 2000, with passenger volume rising at an average annual rate of 3.6 percent over the previous decade and the net profits for the industry summed up to $7.9 billion. Despite all this the unthinkable happened in 2001. The terrorist hijacking and downing of four U.S. jetliners crippled the industry. Consumer confidence in the safety and security of air travel plunged and the booking rates went down by 70 percent. The industry which once boasted of generating millions of jobs and constituted 9 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product saw many jobs lost during the two months following the attacks.
Dealing with Crises
JetBlue was among the only three airlines that managed to turn profit in 2001 despite the hijackings. Its consistency and reliability set it apart from other airlines. The company’s branding efforts gave it identity in a crowded market. Due to its consistency in being on-time the airline was able to fill most of its available seats. With JetBlue serving 52 destinations with more than 575 daily flights and growth in its profits critics forecasted on the growing pains for JetBlue. Nevertheless the relationship between the airline and its faithful customers appeared to be sturdy.
Valentine’s day 2007 saw the weather change to a storm, this saw the planes get stuck in the runways ending up in a gridlock. Most of the airlines operating at JFK called off their flights earlier in the day. JetBlue passengers waited in vain to board flights that would eventually be cancelled. A corporate communications manager at JetBlue would later report that they had thought an opportunity would arise and the planes would take off. Passengers aboard JetBlue flights got trapped inside the planes for hours before passengers could successfully get out. Tensions seemed to flare during the delays and at one point police had to be called in after some customers became unruly.
The media’s interest in the disaster was huge considering JetBlue’s reputation as a successful airline. The newspaper headlines were sensationalized during the crisis. The headline of a “Newsday”article asked the question “Can JetBlue Recover?” which prompted response from many angry JetBlue customers.
Days after JetBlues operational meltdown at JFK, members o the congress called for legislation designed to prevent air travelers from being detained inside grounded airplanes for long. They argued that a bill of rights would entitle passengers to receive standardized compensation from airlines that fail to meet certain service levels. Realizing that they were at a crossroad JetBlue knew it had to choose its public relations battles carefully. There was much debate on how to handle the current situation of trying to win back customer confidence. David Neeleman came up with an idea of having a JetBlue customer Bill of Rights which would guarantee that the customer receives vouchers good toward future travel if their flight sat on the tarmac after landing for mare than a certain number of minutes.
In conclusion whilst Neelman saw it as a viable idea which would restore the people’s confidence in the airline, he would have to convince many influential people inside the company.
- JetBlue on Valentine’s day should have been transparent when communicating with its stakeholders who are the clients, staff and society that the weather was not looking good for travel. Reliability in conveying the message as was received from the weather forecasters lacked. Finally, JetBlue should have been timely in telling their clients about the flight cancellations, by not making things more beautiful than were (Cees,2001).
- Customers at JetBlue are valued and the airline saw to it that they were treated well. With this in mind the CEO David Neeleman should be the one to appear on national television following the crisis. By doing this the organization will show that it is concerned about its customers and the CEO will be able to handle the tough questions. Giving interviews will be imperative in answering most of the customers’ questions. The risks tied to this mode of communication you might have people giving ad hoc comments to reporters based on what may be faulty or only partially true information.
- JetBlue should take advantage of technology, consumers are trained to go to and organization’s website when news breaks as such I would recommend that JetBlue update their website to include any new information about situation. The company should arm people with facts and any new action they are taking this will be a weapon in fighting reputational damage.
- JetBlue’s Airways Customer Bill of Rights would seek to benefit the employees, customers and society as a whole. Since the bill of rights is being implemented due to the crises and considering the media coverage that surrounded it. I would choose the internet, through this mode of communication I can be able to reach a large number of people. I would send emails to clients and internally to staff what the bill would mean to them. The reputation of JetBlue would once again be restored since customers who have been travelling with them would remember how on-time it used to be and would want to take the gamble to see if the Bill or Rights would work. This would be a win-win situation for the customers since if the airline delayed they would have to be compensated.
Cees, M. (2001, 11 06). Investor Relations: A Tool for Crisis Prevention. Retrieved 08 19, 2011, from institute of international finance: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/seminar/2001/crisis/eng/Maas1.pdf