JetBlue - Doing the right thing?

20 Feb 2007|Added Value

I was sad when I heard of JetBlue’s recent problems last week and their resulting challenges. I liked JetBlue, I liked the brand and what it stood for. And for the most part they’ve historically done a good job at following through on their promise of “bringing humanity back to air travel.” And while I’ve done my time cooling my heels in JetBlue terminals waiting for delayed flights, that was a compromise I didn’t mind making. After all, I was one of those privileged passengers taking advantage of free internet, my own in-flight TV, cool blue chips, and saving money!

But in the last year, the bloom was beginning to fade for me. The terminals were looking a tad shabby, the ticket agents seemed slightly stressed, and free internet wasn’t such a unique experience anymore. And the fact that I had to shop for my lunch no matter what airline I flew meant I could buy my own blue chips or just about any other gourmet snack I desired. I didn’t want JetBlue to become just another commodity airline, but the signs were there.

So when things fell apart for the airline last week during the east coast storms, it seemed almost par for the course, but certainly not fair. I was sad for the brand that had meant something to me.

However, today’s response from the airline gives me some hope. They are certainly doing the right thing – a sincere apology from CEO David Neeleman, an aggressive Customer Bill of Rights and a heartfelt sincere explanation and request for a second chance via YouTube. Amongst all the debate about legislating airline customer service, I feel that JetBlue is taking a determined stance and showing the customer-centered strategy I admired them for in the past.

But I have one little concern that makes me wonder if their stock will indeed recover and make good on one analyst’s prediction of the stock’s downturn as “an interesting trading opportunity“…. Can a CEO who looks a little stressed out, who stumbles through his lines, who is so casual in his appearance, and a little overly humble in his delivery, be tough enough to pull his company out of this mess? I wonder in this case if a little too much authenticity and humanity might erode brand trust, rather than reinforce it. Time will tell, but I do hope JetBlue’s attempt to do the right thing really will make them better in the end.

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