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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What I look for in an airline is what I look for from the people in my life

Yesterday, I spent about 6 hours in Buffalo, at the airport, waiting to find out when I would get to go home. My JetBlue flight from Phoenix was diverted due to fog at JFK, after it had been delayed about an hour. At first, we all trudged off the plane and waited, and I expected to get home that morning. Not at 6 as planned, but that morning. Each hour we were told to check back. Around 9:30 we were told we'd be boarding. Some people stood in line; I sat and charged my phone. Just when we thought we'd be boarding, an announcement was made that the crew had timed out, that gate was closing, and we could go to another gate to find out what was happening. They said something vague about giving us food vouchers and that we could take a bus. That was it. No notice, no warning that this crew time out was imminent, no information about next flights.

Most of us went to the gate we were sent to; some went to another gate nearby. Both gates were busy boarding two other flights to JFK and barely moved. I did see the two sisters (one was 10, I believe, the other probably younger) being boarded onto one of the flights. The woman with a baby was waiting with all the rest of us. We had to rely on random snippets of information gleaned from passengers who pushed to the front and returned with what we hoped was concrete details. @JetBlue on Twitter apologized but couldn't tell us anything more. We were told we could go to a third gate for information, but when I arrived I heard the woman staffing that gate tell us she was having a bad day, too, before leaving. She returned shortly only to call and ask what to do with us. I heard murmurings about a 5 p.m. flight. Then out of nowhere an announcement came that they'd found us a crew and we would be boarding. Eventually, we did, and landed around 1 p.m.

The thing that bothered me most wasn't the delay, although that wasn't fun. My KLM flight from Amsterdam to Dubai was cancelled due to the plane's mechanical issues, and we dealt with it. No one wants to fly on an unsafe plane or into fog. But the utter lack of information given to us was appalling and for that, I do blame JetBlue. They should have foreseen that the crew would time out when they did and tried to get another crew in sooner. They should have told us that was a possibility. They should have kept us informed and had staffers to help us when that crew timed out. They didn't.

Today I got an email from JetBlue about a fare sale. Go short, go medium or go long. Travel between November 20th and December 20th. "Fares not available on Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, or Priceline," according to their website. I'm tempted, because I love traveling, I love the thrill of escape and discovery. But what I look for in an airline is what I look for from anyone I deal with: good communication. Trust. Knowing they are working to the best of their abilities. Yesterday, JetBlue wasn't. I did get a $10 voucher. I did get home, to a city where the Airtrain and my subway are back up and running. The Buffalo airport did have wifi. But I remembered telling everyone who asked in Scottsdale that JetBlue is my favorite airline, that I try to fly them as often as possible, that I was looking forward to flying them home after I'd flown Delta on the way out. I hope JetBlue can restore my faith in them, because they have a lot to offer as an airline. But they didn't live up to the service I've come to expect yesterday, and that's because they didn't tell us what was going on. It was chaotic and unprofessional and confusing. I hate that in my relationships with people, and in my relationships with airlines or any other business.

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