JetBlue offers compensation to those affected by winter storm


It pays to be a member of the airline loyalty program in many ways, some more subtle than others. In the case of JetBlue‘s TrueBlue program, that benefit comes in the form of better compensation offers for some passengers affected by canceled flights over the past week thanks to the severe weather affecting their hub operations in New York City and Boston. Going above and beyond their Customer Bill of Rights (under which most customers would not be due any compensation as they were not caused by “controllable irregularities”) the carrier has announced a compensation plan for the 150,000 passengers affected in one way or another by the more than 1,800 flights the carrier canceled over the past 5 days. The compensation is being offered on a sliding scale; those who faced multiple cancellations will receive more from the company. And TrueBlue members affected by multiple cancelations will get bonus points plus the cash/travel cert credit:

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JetBlue is also offering reimbursement on some expenses incurred by passengers on a case-by-case basis:

Customers who incurred out-of-pocket expenses between January 3 – January 10 as a direct result of cancellations will be reviewed and taken into consideration for reimbursement. Customers may submit their receipts and request for review to Hercules@jetblue.com. Only submissions with receipts will be considered for reimbursement and all submissions must be made by January 31, 2014. Customers who have already submitted requests via jetblue.com/contact-us will be contacted by a crewmember and do not need to resubmit.

In addition to the compensation being offered JetBlue also offered some insight this afternoon in to what exactly went wrong and why they were faced with so many affected customers and problems. COO Rob Maruster addressed the media this afternoon, providing some back-story into the situation and what operations decisions were made along the way which resulted in the current situation. Among the issues JetBlue faced, Maruster highlighted the closure of JFK on the morning of Friday, January 3, 2014 for snow removal as a major contributing factor. Rather than having the airport open at 8:30am with at least one runway open throughout the night (as previously expected) JetBlue saw the field completely closed from 6-10am. Or, as Maruster phrased it, “What we did not plan for and what we did not prepare for … was a 4 hour shutdown at JFK on Friday morning.” That closure caused planes to be out of position for 5-6 hours.

And things went downhill from there. Additional closures of JFK on Sunday caused further backlogs and the carrier was struggling to get back to normal operations. Eventually, with the polar vortex storm bearing down on the NYC area and knowing it would cause further issues, the carrier made the decision to cease nearly all flights in the area for 17 hours, essentially resetting the operation and letting them get back on or near schedule.

Running at high load factors and peak travel levels (meaning more flights so fewer spare aircraft or crews) leaves very little slack in the system for disruption. Maruster noted, “Before the storms we were already booked 90% full. We had very few rebooking options…that’s very frustrating for a customer.” The carrier has since added a number of extra flights to affected airports in an effort to get passengers back to where they want to be. Many of the extra sections will serve Caribbean island destinations where a single canceled flight can have repercussions lasting many days and where accommodations are harder to come by. Barbados, Grand Cayman, St. Maarten and Punta Cana will all see extra service this week. One complicating factor in the recovery is that JetBlue does not necessarily know how many passengers are still stuck versus how many found other means to their final destination.

Finally, JetBlue mentioned the new FAA rules about pilot rest and the impact on their operations over the weekend. While they do not attribute the scale of there issues to the new pilot rules they do mention that there was some impact, specifically compounding the delays related to the JFK closures on Sunday as, “The old pilot rules were somewhat more forgiving in terms of how much delay you can operate with.” That’s not to say the new rules are bad, but they are presenting more challenges for the carrier in the transition period.

One concern oft raised about JetBlue (and similarly about Southwest) is that they do not work with other airlines when flights are canceled to help accommodate affected passengers. Maruster directly addressed that issue when asked about it, though the answer was less than spectacular. He suggested that the high loads on all airlines were such that even if the agreements existed the passengers mostly would have been stuck, “Everybody is full this time of year; it is tough for everyone to rebook and move customers.” And in many ways that’s very true. Many passengers on other airlines were affected and unable to rebook on reasonable routings; some still would require many days to handle the impact of the cancellations. And with 150,000 affected passengers it is hard to think that dropping that number 2-3% is enough to really matter in the big picture. Still, for those few thousand customers it would’ve been pretty nice to not be stuck, even with the compensation being offered.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

9 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this. I was actually stuck in Las Vegas when my Friday flight was canceled. They originally wouldn’t re book me until Monday night. Luckily I ended up finding a Sunday flight on US air and after taking a refund only cost me $200 extra. Glad I did as the flight they tried to re-book me on was also canceled so I would still be there if I hadn’t found the alternative flight.

    I just emailed my receipt for hotel and the other flight and I am hoping to get credit for 2 cancellations even though I had taken my refund prior to the second cancellation.

    Otherwise I love Jetblue with the live TV and tons of direct flights from NYC. This was the first time they were exposed a bit as compared to the larger carriers with more capacity and multiple hubs

  2. My flight was originally from La Romana to JFK on January 06 . I traveled by taxi from Juan Dolio ,San Pedro de macoris , my surprised didn’t received any notice advising flight was canceled . I am supervisor in a multi specialist Health facility , which was mandatory be at work on Tuesday 07 after Xmas . I decided travel to Las Americas airport thinking find a sooner flight . Unfortunately the sooner was for Monday 13 . Due to that situation I got very nerves and frustrated due to my job responsability , also I will not get pay . Jet blue sent me to a hotel in Santo Domingo on Monday , I had the taxi outside waiting for me outside more Than three hour . I need compensation for that situation

  3. Cont. /. On wednesday 08 in the hotel they advised about open flight at 3pm . I was not prepared , called the airline and setup my flight for sat 11 at 5.30 pm and ,left the hotel . I called today to confirm my flight for tomorrow , again to my surprise no flight sett up . According they sent me an email that I never received . Today I got my confirmation for Sunday 12 at 3.pm from Las Americas to JFK . Hope I could flight . I NEED THE Airline fax a document to my job saying the inconvenience in order they understand the situation . To Broadway Medical Services fax 914 376 7601 / phone 7636 . ATT office manager Dianne Sayegh c/o Laura J . Also all expenses I incurred paying taxi and more . Thank you

  4. I find it hard to believe that the shutdown/cancellation of my flight and numerous others on 1/6/14 could be blamed on “Hercules” (note email setup for compensation is hercukes@jetblue.com. Obviously there were internal factors within the company and operations that fueled these major problems.

    Jetblues biggest mistake was failing to communicate with their customers and keep them informed. Phone lines did not work, itineraries were erased from the online system and passengers were told to NOT go to the airport. After trying all avenues of communication we gave up and purchased new tickets on American Airlines and got home 3 days later. It took JetBlue 5 days to rebook us on a flight that would have delayed us an entire week.

    You can not leave thousands of people displaced and in limbo for unknown periods of time with little or no communication. This was where you failed and let your customers down the most. All customers who had flights cancelled and lengthy delays should be fully reimbursed for all out of pocket expenses incurred and this should be done in a timely fashion. How can you expect to regain the faith in your customers otherwise?

    1. This is especially in response to @Allison, but I hope everyone reads it.

      My flight was also cancelled on the 6th and the weather at both my source and destination were stable at that time. I was rebooked on a flight on the 8th, but only got to know that through my travel agent – I was on JetBlue’s phone line for 2 hours without success, and my itinerary suddenly disappeared from the online system. On the 8th, I was at the airport as the flight gradually started getting delayed due to a “maintenance issue” (they couldn’t blame it on “Hercules” this time – it was clear and sunny!) and eventually, about 2 hours after the scheduled departure time, the flight was cancelled.
      I’m surprised that I got home on the 9th – I’d fully expected another cancellation.

      They refused to communicate clearly, if at all, and it was a truly frightful and distressing experience. My emails were answered with vague apologies and unacknowledged responsibility. On the 8th, when the flight was cancelled again, I was told that they would arrange for my ground transportation this time. I later got to know that they had done no such thing, and thankfully I was able to make some last-minute arrangements.
      JetBlue, please note : False promises = Fraud.

      I recall that my flight TO the destination had also been delayed by 5 hours. I understand that there was a snowstorm at that time, but what’s unnerving is how JetBlue representatives told me 4 hours after the scheduled evening departure time that “they didn’t know whether the flight was cancelled”, and “if I didn’t know anyone in the city I could just spend the night at the airport”. It shows little empathy on their part and certainly displays their willingness to reach out to their customers!!

      So far I am yet to receive any TrueBlue points off their compensation plan (as mentioned in the article above), even though it’s past the 20th of January.
      I doubt that anything they will do will be able to recompense for the losses incurred and the trouble I faced during those days.

      JetBlue aggravates the situation by making it seem like they’re doing US a favour by offering compensation and reimbursements. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is all just a guise for publicity.

      I am deeply disappointed by JetBlue’s service.
      As a member of the affected community, I believe that we deserve immediate redress.
      It will take a while for JetBlue to earn back our trust.

  5. I sent receipts 2 times for re-imbursement on our cancelled flight from Bradley Airport , Hartford, CT to Orlando, FL on Jan. 4, 2014 and was told you did not receive the papers – not possible – they must be lost. I had UPS personnel scan them to Hercules@jetblue.com. , the amount is $330.00 and the confirmation number was OMIKMG. I just sent my husband back to scan it to you for the third time. You did not let us know there was a deadline on 1/31,14 until 1/27/14. Please send refund to Doris or Richard Chadderton, 80 Anderson Rd., Wallingford, CT 06492. We can be reached at (203}494-3304.

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