JetBlue Offers Passengers Rights, Compensation

JetBlue Airways officially announces a passenger bill of rights, even as it offers compensation to the thousands of passengers subjected to flight delays and cancellations last week. The company says that in the future, passengers will be able to count on vouchers and refunds if their flights don't take off, as well as a limit on how many hours a plane will sit on the tarmac.

Consumer groups have been asking for a federal Passengers Bill of Rights for a long time. But it took a Valentine's Day ice storm and the scenes of planes stuck on the runway for more than 10 hours to give the issue traction.

As members of Congress begin introducing legislation, Jet Blue is saying that it can regulate itself. The founder and CEO, Dave Neeleman, says its own Passenger Bill of Rights isn't necessarily a reaction to the threat of federal action. "We just want to do the right thing," he said.

Under the plan, JetBlue customers will be compensated based on the length of their delay — from $25 for being stuck on the taxi-way for an hour to a voucher for the full amount of the ticket for people stranded for more than 4 hours.

If your plane is sitting on the runway for more than five hours, the company promises to find you a way off.

But, the statement adds, if the delays and cancellations are "beyond the company's control," then it doesn't have to pay.

Neeleman says the compensation plan will cost the company around $30 million for this storm alone, with $10 million in refunds, some $l6 million in free vouchers, and $4 million in extra crew expenses.

Although he didn't rule out raising fares to pay for the plan, Neeleman says that if customers don't return to the airline, JetBlue may have to drop fares to get them back.

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