JetBlue cancellations strands thousands in New York

JetBlue cancellations strands thousands in New York

Summary: Trying to fly out of New York these last few days has been a hellish experience.  JetBlue was hit especially hard and they ended up cancelling dozens of flights on Wednesday and Thursday and I was one of the unfortunate flyers that were stuck in New York after covering the Digital Experience event Wednesday night.

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TOPICS: Travel Tech, Wi-Fi
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Trying to fly out of New York these last few days has been a hellish experience.  JetBlue was hit especially hard and they ended up cancelling dozens of flights on Wednesday and Thursday and I was one of the unfortunate flyers that were stuck in New York after covering the Digital Experience event Wednesday night.  The cancellations started late Tuesday and hundreds maybe thousands are still stranded at JFK and LGA airports.  The most frustrating part was that JetBlue refused to notify people the flights were cancelled until 2 hours before departure and we were told that it was due to weather when some flights were taking off and the weather looked fine.  JetBlue was hit so badly in February with cancellations that their brand and stocks took a major hit and their CEO and founder was forced to step down in May.

Judging by all the cancellations and the utter lack of communications and poor customer service, it appears that JetBlue has not fixed any of their problems.  A woman next to me in line had booked her seat 2.5 hours with ticket in hand before her 5:30PM flight on Thursday only to find out from the on-screen schedule that her flight was cancelled.  Others had been waiting since Wednesday and they're still there today on Friday wondering when they're going to get home.  I was suppose to fly out on Thursday afternoon from JFK to SFO and I wasn't going to get a confirmed seat until Saturday night and it wasn't necessarily to SFO where my car is sitting.  I got a little creative and looked up a flight on Expedia and found a flight with US Airways from LGA to SFO for 6:45 AM Friday morning and immediately ordered it while I stood in the motionless customer no-service line for JetBlue.  Getting online using JetBlue's Wi-Fi wasn't simple either since everyone was getting dropped every 30 seconds if they were lucky to even get connected so it appeared that JetBlue's Wi-Fi network was about as reliable as JetBlue's flight schedule.  Two other passengers took my lead and the three of us took a quick cab ride to La Guardia airport.

Once we got to LGA, we found out that the US Airways flight we wanted was one of the 2 flights that was cancelled due to the fact that the airplane had not arrived the night before.  I knew this was a risk but it was worth taking because at least I could work within the United Airlines, US Airways, and American Airlines pool of available flights rather than dealing with JetBlue which has very few flights to begin with most of which had been cancelled.  JetBlue also doesn't partner with anyone else and they won't even help you schedule another airline let alone pay for it.  By 4:00 AM when the US Airways counter at LGA had opened, I got some outstanding help from Ingrid and Lennie.  Now I'm hoping I'll be home by 9:30 PM and maybe 6:00 PM if I'm really lucky while I write this story at the Gate waiting for my flight.  That means I will have spent 30 hours traveling but I'm glad I'm not stuck in New York until Saturday night.

The Sun Sentinel had this story about a man's 2 hour journey ending up to be a 25 hour nightmare but that actually wasn't that bad compared to my situation.  I was with a lady named Carol who will end up doing a 44 hour journey that ended in 100 miles from her original destination.  Carol was delayed in Oakland for 2 hours because of "computer issues" which caused her to miss her connecting flight at 7 AM Thursday morning.  Her 10:00 AM JetBlue flight was cancelled and so was the 1:00 PM flight.  The 4:45 PM flight was delayed to 11:45 PM but poor Carol wasn't able to get on that plane because hundreds of other passengers were desperate to get on the plane.  Thousands waited over night at JFK and many are still waiting there now.  You can forget about getting a blanket or a cot much less a hotel room since JetBlue declared all the cancellations a victim of poor weather while the sun shined on us while we stood in hours of lines.  This was my first (and last) time I will fly with JetBlue.

UPDATE 9:00 PM PST - I finally got home after traveling for 33 hours.

Topics: Travel Tech, Wi-Fi

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15 comments
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  • Kind of goes back to an earlier question

    have computers really made our lives better? Now with virus's, crackers, trojan horses and bad programming, it seems that incompetence is acceptable and below standard service the norm.

    Pretty sad really. Ironically the best service I get is from my chiropractor, who still uses 3x5 index cards for his patient information and a manila folder for any larger documents. My dentist is the same way, both are older men (in their early 60's) and both have the very efficient practices. Hell I even get a reminder call from my dentist 48 hours prior to an appointment!

    I didn't get that level of service from my last dentist. What's my point? I suppose I have many.

    1 - Customers (read: small businesses) need to demand better software.

    2 - Customer service is more than a title. We as consumers need to demand better service for our dollar and time (since time is money right?)

    3 - We need to start holding software developers feet to the fire. If they promise to deliver, then keep the promise (i.e. you better meet the requirements as written and signed for)

    4 - We also need to stop rushing developers to finish a project. The more they rush the more we suffer.

    5 - Operating systems companies need to be held accountable for their software as well. Just because an EULA or GPL or any other license says they can't be responsible... bulls***! They created it with the intent and purpose to be functional and stable. If it doesn't meet the requirements... hold their feet to the fire as well.

    Bottom line is this is a very wide spread and cancerous problem. One that has been perpetuated for many years. It's time we take a round turn and go back to how we did business efficiently and with customer service as a standard.

    It's reasons like this jetblue example (a company that has historically had issues!) is why I hate dealing with corps! ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • Coding vs. Software Engineering

      There needs to be a happy medium between the shoot-from-the-hip software coding paradigm and the methodical top-down software engineering approach.

      Most people tend to say that it's too expensive to properly engineer and code software systems that are fail-safe. We demand it for aviation and other safety-of-life issues, but tend to dismiss it when our ERP application is going to cost us $2M vs. the $250k budgeted. If more businesses looked at software acquisition as an investment in the business with a positive rate of return rather than a necessary cost of doing business, I think we wouldn't see PR disasters like JetBlue's very often.
      NetArch.
  • Bad weather?

    Could the bad weather been at the *destination*(s)? (Since there's no use taking off if you can't land...) There was a lot of bad weather all around yesterday.
    AySz88
    • It was a little bad weather the night before

      It was a little bad weather the night before that caused a massive chain of cancellations for JetBlue. The problem with JetBlue is that they simply don't have the scale or capacity to handle these issues and you're stuck with their bad service. They won't book you on a different Airline and they won't pay for it. They don't have that many flights to begin with yet they canceled most of their flights on Wednesday and Thursday.
      georgeou
  • It's always difficult...

    to assign blame to airport delays. The system is a lot more fragile than most
    people believe.

    A single lightning strike at JFK closes the airport completely for 20 minutes. I
    know this to be true at JFK, it's probably true at most airports.

    So, there's lightning at you destination, your plane can't take off. If it stays at the
    gate, the next plane can't come in. Because of the delay, the ground crew goes to
    the next scheduled plane. Now the next plane may be at the gate, but there's none
    there to operate the jetway, and the baggage crew is at another plane....

    One event can cascade into a whole series of delays, at more than one airport.

    There's neither the money, nor the personnel, nor, it seems, the will, to smooth out
    these operations.
    msalzberg
    • Problem is that other airlines didn't cancel most of their flights

      Problem is that other airlines didn't cancel most of their flights while JetBlue canceled the vast majority of their flights. You couldn't get any honest information from their people and they won't help you book with a different airline let alone pay for it. They can't put thousands of people in a hotel and you're on your own for 2 or 3 days and the hotels in NY are about $200/night for a bad one IF you can find one. You had no idea when you were going to get home. JetBlue simply doesn?t operate that many flights to begin with and they have no partnerships with other airlines to bail them out.

      Most other airlines had some cancelations but it was nothing like JetBlue cancelling a dozen flights per day for 2 days straight. When I went to US Airways, they tried to accommodate me by either scheduling me on a different flight or even sending me on a different airline.
      georgeou
      • I didn't mean to excuse...

        JetBlue, just pointing out how inadequate the system is.

        My daughter's Delta flight to LA, en route to Australia, is a perfect example. She
        has a 2.5 hour layover in LA. The Delta flight was delayed two hours by mechanical
        difficulties. She (and the other 19 SUNY students she was with), then missed their
        LA-Sydney Qantas flight. Qantas got them on the next flight. Unfortuntately, they
        then missed their Sydney-Brisbane flight. There were too many to put on the next
        flight to Brisbane, so they had to go in three successive flights.

        Different airlines, but the problems started with Delta, and just cascaded from
        there.

        Again, it's just that the system is stretched thin. Some airlines stretch it thinner by
        understaffing, overbooking, and not enough equipment, making it worse. I'd have
        to say the JetBlue falls into this category.

        My recent experience with American isn't all that great, either. Overbooked, unable
        (or unwilling) to answer questions, and indifferent/rude service.
        msalzberg
        • Stretching thin is an understatement for JetBlue

          Stretching thin is an understatement for JetBlue. If American or United cancels 10 flights for example, they still have 100 other flights over the course of two days to recover from the damage and they can even offload the stranded customers to other airlines. It isn't going to be easy or pleasant but at least you're not stranded indefinitely for 2 to 3 days sleeping on the floor at the airport.

          With JetBlue if they're forced to cancel the same 10 flights, they only have 10 other flights which are already filled with discount flyers to 100% capacity to begin with. Those 1000 people from those 10 flights are stranded for 2 to 3 days with no option to fly other airlines unless they go find their own ticket like me.
          georgeou
          • Yep. JetBlue has an inventory...

            of about 125 planes, and they fly to 54 destinations. American has a fleet of about
            640 planes, and United about 400. If you have more equipment, equipment
            problems become more managable.

            AA and UA, of course, have between them over 150 years experience in the air
            transport business.

            I've always felt that the airline business is not like any other (with one exception).
            There have been any number of businessmen who've tried (and failed) to run an
            airline (when Frank Lorenzo took over Eastern, I knew the end was near for them).
            The mission of these businessmen is "fill the seats." Unfortunately for them, and
            their employees, the mission of an airline is "move passengers from one place to
            another quickly and efficiently." While these aren't mutually exclusive, the latter is
            more important than the former.

            The passenger rail system is the same. Some years ago, the Long Island Railroad
            hired a new president. His credentials? He ran the largest freight rail system in
            Australia. He was a disaster as a commuter railroad president. A load of grain can
            sit on a siding for two extra hours - people can't.
            msalzberg
          • Good explaination

            I agree with you. Furthermore, US Airways, United, American, probably some others will offload passengers to each other and the customer gets taken care of. JetBlue will never send you on another airline because that would cost them too much money. I realize that JetBlue makes very little money on tickets since they're so heavily discounted, but they can't keep this kind of reputation up forever.
            georgeou
          • TO YOUR QUESTION

            JETBLUE WILL ALWAYS BE A COMPETITIVE LOW COST AIRLINE.THATS BUILT INTO THERE MARKETING.THERE IS A CHOICE WHEN YOU FLY.JETBLUE WILL ALWAYS BE A CUT ABOVE THE REST.
            bluemx1
          • One last note, somewhat off topic..

            US airline security is a joke. Just flew from Rome to London to NY. In both Rome
            and London, security was thorough, fast, and staffed by pleasant people. In both
            airports, carryons (LHR only allows ONE carryon - that includes purses! Plenty of
            room in the overheads on that flight) were searched a second time at the gate - a
            visual search, not an X-ray scan. At LHR, we merely changed terminals, and had to
            go through again, but it was not onerous at all, and was more thorough than here.
            msalzberg
        • TO YOUR QUESTION.

          JET BLUE DOES NOT OVERBOOK THIER FLIGHTS,LIKE ALL OTHERS.SAVING YOU THE HEADACH OF WONDERING IF YOU WILL HAVE A SEAT WHEN YOU GET THERE.tHEY ARE A LOW COST AIRLINE.FAR ABOVE WHATS THE NORM,FOR WHAT YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.
          bluemx1
  • OPEN YOUR EYES!

    Im sorry.But i cant see you over jetblues new J.D. POWER AND ACCOCIATES AWARD FOR 2007,NO.1 BEST OVERALL LOW COST AIRLINE FOR CUSTOMER SATISFACTION. BUT PLEASE CONTINUE TO FLY USAIRWAYS.YOU WILL SOON SEE WHY THEY WERE RANKED DEAD LAST!
    bluemx1
  • STRECHED

    IVE SEEN USAIRWAYS FALL TO THIER KNEES CHRISTMASS 2004 IN PHILLY.ONE OF THIER BIGGEST HUBS OVER WEATHER.LOW MORAL WITH THEIR EMPLOYEES.PEOPLE DIDDNT MOVE FOR OVER A WEEK.THERE BAGS IF THEY WERE LUCKY.WERE SENT UP TO 2 WEEKS LATER.DONT CRY OVER A LITTLE SPILLED MILK!ALL AIRLINES GO THRU THIS.IT IS IN NO WAY RELATED TO HOW BIG THE AIRLINE IS OR HOW MANY JETS THEY HAVE.YOU CANT HELP IT.BUT YOU GET THRU IT.TWO DAYS LATER YOU GET ON A PLANE AND IT GOES FLAWLESS. .
    bluemx1