Speaking of JetBlue, a couple of folks have pinged me to see if my opinion of the airline – I’m a longtime fan – has changed in the aftermath of this ice-storm precipitated disaster. The answer is pretty much no. It’s easier for me to say that, of course, because I wasn’t trapped on a plane at JFK for nine hours, but ultimately the reasons that I fly JetBlue – as opposed to, say, United – haven’t changed. Yet, anyway.
The fares have always been good, they fly to Boston while Frontier doesn’t, they allow you to travel with a small animal in the cabin (unlike Frontier – I’m not putting Az in a cargo hold under any circumstances), the TV is free (which is particularly valuable if you’re traveling with an angry pet), the customer service is usually excellent (the mentioned SLC based customer service reps are absolutely outstanding), the non-cattlecar seating configurations (more legroom behind the exit row, and no additional charge for exit row seating as on United – whom I loathe), and so on. That’s all good, and with the exception of the fares – which may be upped to offset the cost of the promised improvements – it’ll all probably remain that way.
What JetBlue does exceptionally poorly – and this debacle has hopefully exposed once and for all – is plan for adverse weather conditions. Like most frequent travelers, I understand that in most cases, there’s not a lot that airlines can do when blizzards and ice storms and so on hit. What they can do, however, is have contingency plans in effect well in advance, and more importantly not base their routing and crew movement on best case weather scenarios.
My problem with JetBlue during the Denver blizzard, for example, wasn’t that they canceled my flight, but rather the fact that they took so long to do it. Way past the time when it was blindingly obvious to virtually everyone that DIA was going to be shut down (both Frontier and United had canceled their entire schedules, some 1000 plus flights all told), JetBlue continued to insist that my flight status was unchanged. Until, of course, it was canceled two hours before the flight.
Because of the aforementioned benefits and the fact that I’ve generally been well treated by the airline (they once scheduled a delivery to my house of a book – Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – that I’d left in the seatback), I’m certainly inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. But if they don’t show a marked improvement in their ability to adjust to dynamic and chaotic weather conditions, I’m not sure anybody else will.