JetBlue Stuck on Runway, in More Ways than One

JetBlue, which once prided itself on customer service, is now known as the airline that held jet passengers on a New York runway for hours. Robert Mann, an independent airline analyst and former airline executive, talks to Alex Chadwick about that incident and other recent problems at the discount carrier.

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Travel blues continue for JetBlue, still canceling flights today after a snowstorm last week left travelers sitting on the tarmac for hours in New York. Robert Mann is an independent airline analyst. He's a former airline executive and he has a personal stake in this story. His wife Susan waited 12 hours for a JetBlue flight at Kennedy Airport, but never got on the plane.

Bob Mann, you worked as an airline executive for years. Why did this happen on this one airline?

Mr. ROBERT MANN (Independent Airline Analyst): Well, it is sort of interesting that this was an incident that occurred to JetBlue alone, whereas many other carriers operating at Kennedy didn't experience the same problem. From what I can gather, there was difficulty communicating internally within the company. For example, information listed on the Web site conflicted with information listed at JFK and was inconsistent with information offered by their customer service representatives at JFK. So clearly there was an internal inconsistency problem.

It also perhaps is an issue of bringing resources to bear. We expect airlines to operate with a magical 100 percent reliability. And we also expect them to very gracefully recover from service problems. And that's perhaps the biggest issue here with JetBlue, is that five days into this they're still struggling to come to grips with the problem.

CHADWICK: Is this going to have a long-term impact on JetBlue?

Mr. MANN: Well, I think it may in the following sense. The company has over the past year been attempting to attract corporate business. And it has tried to do that via its service image and to a certain extent it's reliability. With this sort of a persistent problem literally in the headlines every moment for the past five days, I think that strategy may be difficult to pull off.

CHADWICK: I mentioned your wife's experience earlier. She was supposed to fly out to a memorial service, actually, all the way across the country, to Oakland, California. Would she fly JetBlue again? I mean, obviously she liked the airline in the past. But what's her feeling?

Mr. MANN: I think she was remarkably accommodating in the whole thing, I think perhaps less critical than I was, or am, simply because she's perhaps a less frequent flyer. Perhaps she was, you know, more willing to give them a second chance. She has flown them in the past. She probably will fly them in the future.

CHADWICK: Well, what about you?

Mr. MANN: I've flown them in the past and I've actually had a very mixed experience with them. I find the delays in particular to be very aggravating. It's not an airline that I can rely on to be on time. And unfortunately their statistics bear that out.

CHADWICK: Robert Mann is an independent airline analyst based on Long Island.

Robert Mann, thank you.

Mr. MANN: You're welcome, Alex.

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