JetBlue Flight 504 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Newark, New Jersey was diverted to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut at 1:30 on Saturday because of a freakish snow storm affecting the East Coast. Passengers weren't allowed to deplane until 9:30 that night and were forced to remain on the tarmac and in the aircraft for seven hours with no food, water or working bathrooms.
The situation already reeks of terrible customer service, but the airline industry often has their own particular spin on egregious situations which somehow is supposed to explain any and all miserable experiences passengers are forced to endure - of course for the sake of our safety. When a dozen passengers called 911 hoping to get an answer why they were not allowed to leave, there were no explanations given. When an unidentified pilot called for help to JetBlue and asked his own company to provide a tug and a towbar, no one from the company responded with any help.
When the plane first landed the passengers were told the plane would de-ice, refuel and fly to Newark. During the seven hour debacle, no logical answer was ever given by JetBlue. In 2010 the Federal Aviation Commission required that an airline has to provide water and snacks to passengers and the option to deplane after three hours on a domestic flight. If the government determines the airline violated the tarmac delay rule, the airline could be fined $27,500 per passenger. Consumers are not entitled to any of the fines. Pilots did not want police to board the plane until hours later when a taped recording stated:
"I got a problem here on the airplane. I'm gonna need to have the cops on board."
The ordeal was finally over when police and firefighters came on board to attend to a diabetic person and a paraplegic flier who had difficulty with the circulation in his legs.
The JetBlue website boasts the highest customer service rating among low-cost carriers. According to JD Powers and Associates, the airline scored high grades for the seventh year in a row. The company offers free television, free snacks, leg room and "award-winning service."
"JetBlue is also America's first and only airline to offer its own Customer Bill of Rights with meaningful and specific compensation for customers inconvenienced by service disruptions within JetBlue's control."
In a JetBlue statement, the organization apologized and blamed the situation on an "unusual combination of weather and infrastructure issues." The next day however passengers had trouble finding new flights - many of them decided to use ground transportation to get back to Newark and their final trip destinations.
So what could JetBlue have done? Good, bad, or indifferent passengers are entitled to the truth. Two-hundred passengers sitting out on the tarmac should have been enough of an impetus to alert an official who had the power to do something and make a positive decision. It was the airport that finally sent a towbar and tow to Flight 504. JetBlue couldn't even get it together to help their own company.