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February 2007


vaspers the grate

Wonderful advice.

I think also the CEO must do something self-sacrificing, atoning for the sins of the company.

Even a weird publicity stunt, say fasting on a pillar and communicating via carrier pigeon, for a solid week.


I don't think anyone would argue that there isn't an airline getting it 100% correct. Even Southwest isn't perfect. And I agree that JetBlue has had a very heavy PR response, better than most in terms of steps taken. But what it appears you're saying is that because of a captive audience, such as your Atlanta/Delta situation, why should the airlines bother with crisis response PR in the first place? Even if you hate Delta, what are your options?

The airline business could benefit by taking a page out of the wireless telecom marketing playbook (minus the cheesy advertising). Because customers have a choice based on service, reliability, price, etc., the companies must actually walk the talk or face losing customers.

Of course, is there a chance of that happening? Probably not. But it would certainly be refreshing to see an airline speak with customers over the long term like they're afraid of losing them.

Laura Ries

That's fine Rob and Yvonnne. But what other airline are you going to fly? Unless you buy your own airplane or can afford factional owership, Delta, American, United, USAir, AirTran all have even worst problems that JetBlue.

I have had so many bad experiences with Delta but what am I going to do? I live in Atlanta and Delta is the only choice to many destinations.

Marketing is a battle won not just on the strengh of your brand but on the weaknesses of your competition. All the other airline brands have much worst records in terms of customer service and they are just as guilty of leaving passengers for hours on the runways.

Of course, there is Southwest. But they don't compete much in head-to-head combat against JetBlue. At least not yet.

In the airline business the best of the worst will win.

Yvonne DiVita

Laura, I agree with Rob. I used to be a die-hard JetBlue fan. If JetBlue didn't fly there, I didn't go there. Now...even though I wasn't on any of the planes during the fiasco - I doubt I will fly JetBlue for a very, very long time.

I don't care what the CEO says. I'm bored and distrustful of him... I don't care how sincere he sounds. The key for me would be the customer service folks... get them on TV and in print. I want to hear what JetBlue did to help them prevent this ever happening again.

As for a customer bill of rights... oh please! That was a JetBlue standard BEFORE this incident...it just wasn't "in writing."

JetBlue did more than stumble, from my point of view. They grabbed their customers as they went down and used us as landing mats. That's not easily forgiven.

Laura Ries

The problem is that everytime we write about an example of a company that does a great job with branding, they go and goof it up. Overall, I think JetBlue has done a lot better at responding to this crisis that any other company in a long time. Are they perfect? No. They may have run some ads (I would not have) but the focus of the response has been with heavy PR. I have seen David on EVERY show, when is the last time you saw another CEO do that? Not too often. I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the JetBlue case. And we'll see a year from now how the brand does.

Many companies that we have mentioned as brilliant marketers also screwed up. Volvo convertibles the ultimate in unsafety. And now Red Bull comes in Monster sized cans. Go figure.

Tom Asacker

But JetBlue DID run ads.


Laura - I am a big fan of yours and agree with most of your positions, but I have to disagree with your assessment of JetBlue's handling of the situation. You listed 4 steps an organization should take in a crisis situation, and I agree with all four. However, in the case of JetBlue, the steps were not performed in a manner that I would consider a 'textbook case' for us to follow.

While it's true that Mr. Neeleman went on TV everywhere and apologized, he didn't take responsibility. He dumped responsibility onto 'us' or 'the airline,' but when Matt Lauer asked him about responsibility, Neeleman's response was "it rests with the CEO, although I wasn't responsible for that portion of the business, I had restless nights...." So in essence, he's saying, 'it's our fault, but not necessarily my fault."

Then when describing what actions will be taken he claimed that all the necessary steps had already been enacted. JetBlue has hired more staff, fully trained them and put full contingency plans into place so that this doesn't ever happen again. And oh yeah, they also created a customer bill of rights. Does anyone believe that was accomplished in four days?

Finally, the customer bill of rights isn't a document showing how JetBlue is going to fix anything. It's a document that agrees to compensate passengers for when this happens again! Neeleman repeated over and over about how they would learn from this experience and never repeat it. Yet their 'solution' is a document that was created to pay passengers for when it does happen.

I agree with you that the correct fundamental steps were taken by JetBlue. Where we disagree is in the execution of those steps.


Dead on. I just had this conversation with some of my team members over lunch today.

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