Hell hath no fury like a passenger scorned?

Is this a plane cabin or a cage match?

That’s the question I’d have been asking myself on-board the JetBlue flight to New York as I watched two women brawling, one armed with a can of pepper spray and the other with a razor and a wicked right hook.

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How can JetBlue be so wrong — and so right?

What happens when there’s a fundamental disconnect between a customer and a company? You end up with a case like Maria Mendoza’s, where everyone is right — and everyone is also wrong.

Mendoza and her family recently flew from Newark to Orlando so her husband could compete in a marathon. It was a terrific trip until the end, when they arrived at the airport for their return flight.

“We reached the check-in desk at around 6:45 a.m. and a representative informed us that Flight 28 was canceled,” she says. “We were surprised because we never received any emails or texts. He said that all he could do for us was to send us to JFK airport in NY or to Boston and then wait there from around 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. for a connecting flight to Newark. Or we could fly the next day. ”

This column is called Should I Take The Case, and it takes a completely unvetted consumer question and asks you if I ought to get involved. As a reminder, I haven’t asked JetBlue about this one yet, but I will if you tell me to do so.

Mendoza’s problem isn’t really about the delayed flights. It’s about how JetBlue treated her.

None of the solutions JetBlue offered worked. Their car was parked at Newark Airport. Also, their daughter has a chronic ear problem and couldn’t be on two flights in a day. What’s more, her husband had a 1:30 p.m. appointment in court. They had to get to Newark that day.

That didn’t go over well with the JetBlue staff, apparently.

“The representative became noticeably irritated and in a very rude, loud, and demanding tone he told my husband he needed to decide which of his excuses he wanted him to believe,” she says, “my daughter taking two flights or his court case.”

To which her husband, Edward, replied: “Both.”

That really set him off.

He walked away saying he had enough with us and he was getting a supervisor.

The supervisor never acknowledged us, looked at us, or even identified himself to us. He started typing away and listened to the representative’s story. My husband attempted to speak to the supervisor but as soon as my husband started to speak, the supervisor said he was being disrespectful for interrupting his conversation with the representative and even rolled his eyes at us.

We were shocked!

The supervisor also said that he had enough of us, and that we were not going anywhere because he was canceling our reservation, as he slammed his hand against the keyboard. He then walked away from us.

My children were terrified and kept asking why were the guys treating us so mean, and did not want to get on the plane. At this point, all the representatives had accomplished was to frighten my children who are only 7 and 8 years old, and the other customers around us who came up to us to ask us what was going on with those two.

Finally, another supervisor appeared. He offered to pay for Mendoza’s ground transportation from JFK to Newark. That worked, and the family was on their way.

But the Mendozas felt traumatized by the JetBlue employees. They decided to send a complaint letter to the airline, and in it they named names (I’ve redacted them in this post, since I haven’t yet asked JetBlue for its side of the story).

Here’s how JetBlue responded:

We take all our customer complaints seriously. We have sent your letter to our Orlando Leadership for review. They will remind our crewmembers of the importance of providing kind, helpful service to our customers, especially families with special needs. Any necessary training or disciplinary action will be addressed.

Airlines don’t guarantee their schedules, and you should realize this when planning your trip. There are many things that can and often do make it impossible for flights to arrive on time.

Some of these problems, like bad weather, air traffic delays, and mechanical repairs, are hard to predict and beyond the airlines’ control.

Although we strive for the highest level of customer service, that does not always constitute a refund, compensation, or fare adjustment. In fairness to all of our customers, we must respectfully deny your request for additional compensation due to the delay in your flight.

Nothing highlights the Great Divide between companies and their customers like this JetBlue exchange. Mendoza expected to be transported from Orlando to Newark without a hassle — a completely reasonable expectation on the face of it. JetBlue, and all of you reading this who understand anything about the airline business, will say it’s not reasonable to expect a carrier to keep its schedule.

Now, normally, an airline does a fairly good job of explaining that; you know its schedules are just a suggestion. Then along comes a work stoppage, a broken windshield wiper or, God forbid, a force majeure, and all bets are off. But sometimes it doesn’t, and when that happens, this happens.

Mendoza was wrong to expect JetBlue to guarantee her family would get to Newark on schedule. But she is also right. JetBlue was wrong to expect Mendoza to have read all the fine print associated with its tickets. But it is also right.

And that pretty much describes the ongoing issues not just between airline passengers and airlines, but also between customers and corporations.

Both are right. Both are wrong.

So now what? Should I go after JetBlue for compensation or assurances that it disciplined these gate agents in Orlando? Or should I let this one slide and pretend the divide doesn’t exist?

Should I take Maria Mendoza's case?

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Let’s kill economy class

One of the most troubling travel stories of 2014 was a report that airlines are considering a new class of service — and I use the term “class” loosely — called economy “minus.”
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Hey JetBlue, that’s no way to start a cruise!

Michele Kelly’s recent Alaska cruise got off to a bad start, and she blames JetBlue Airways for it. First, for not keeping its schedule — and then, for keeping its schedule a little too well.

Kelly’s flight from Boston to Anchorage misconnected in the worst way possible. A mechanical delay caused the first flight to miss its scheduled arrival time by a few minutes. But then her connecting flight left early.

A JetBlue representative suggested the airline might compensate her for the difference between her missed Alaska leg and the walk-up fare she had to pay to get to the ship on time, but you can probably already guess what happened when she tried to collect on that.

Yes, my friends, always get a promise like that in writing.

I’m sending this case to my “dismissed” file, for reasons that will become clear to you in a minute. (And if they aren’t, then you’ll want to vote in the poll — if I’m wrong about this, I’ll be happy to take up her case.)

A few details: Kelly, her husband and another couple were scheduled to leave from Whittier, Alaska, on May 31. They booked a JetBlue flight for the 30th, thinking it would give them enough time.

“Apparently that wasn’t enough,” she says.

Their itinerary was a little circuitous: Boston-New York-Long Beach-Anchorage, all on JetBlue. She’s either a fan, or someone who just wanted a deal. After all, the end-on-end fare combination through Long Beach is cheaper than the Boston-Anchorage through fare.

But flight one, from Boston to New York, experienced a maintenance-related delay, which really threw a wrench in her itinerary.

“Because of the delay, we were worried we may miss our connection to Long Beach, and when we landed we ran to the gate, only to find the flight had left early,” she says. “The flight was scheduled for 1:40 p.m., and we and a few others arrived at the gate at 1:38, only to find that not only had they closed the doors, the plane was already gone.”

Kelly asked a gate agent why the flight was gone. The agent “snapped at us” and ordered the couple to return to the customer service desk.

We went to the JetBlue desk at JFK to try and get on another flight. The only itinerary they could book us on would get us to Anchorage late Saturday night, after our cruise ship left.

We started looking for other flights that could get us to Anchorage in time, and found that there was no option with JetBlue.

We ended up booking with Delta, which cost us $5,324 for the four of us. This was $4,135 more than the original JetBlue itinerary. A supervisor at the desk mentioned that they could potentially refund us the difference between the two flights, so that’s what we figured we’d do.

But she figured wrong. When she contacted JetBlue requesting a refund, here’s what it said:

While we do not reimburse for expenses paid outside of being accommodated on the next available JetBlue flight whenever it may be, or we refund the flight cost instead as per our Contract of Carriage, if your flight qualified for credit compensation and meets the criteria for the Bill of Rights, you should have already received an email from JetBlue. If you did not receive an email, you may click on the link below to see if your flight qualified:

Although you were each issued a JetBlue credit equal to the fare paid on us, minus taxes and fees previously, we have issued each of you on your reservation an additional $50 service credit which has been applied to your individual Travel Bank accounts. We feel that this compensation is generous and protects the integrity of our guidelines, while ensuring consistency for all of our customers.

JetBlue credits are valid for one year from their original date of issue and must be used to book a future flight and can be used by whoever you wish.

We do hope that you will use your credit and fly with us again. We look forward to seeing you aboard a JetBlue flight sometime in the near future.

In other words, no can do on reimbursing you for your Delta flight.

So here’s why I’m saying “no” to this case. JetBlue is absolutely correct on the compensation levels offered to Kelly. Technically, it just has to refund the unused flight segment from JFK to Anchorage. The credit is a nice bonus.

Here’s where Kelly erred: When a JetBlue supervisor said, “We might be able to fix that,” she should have pulled out her iPhone and taped it.

You know, “State your name. Tell us what JetBlue agrees to do.” Short of having something in writing, that video is the only way I can think of that the airline will make good on an offer to reimburse the Kellys and their friends for $5,324.

And JetBlue? Ah, JetBlue! Why are they pushing back two minutes before their scheduled departure? I’m sure there’s some kind of airline logic behind that, but I’m starting to get a little tired of these games airlines play to rig their DOT on-time ratings. The government should note — and punish — airlines for pushing back from the gate early, in my view. But that’s another story.

Should I have turned down Michele Kelly's case?

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What to do about the travel industry’s timeout clauses

A casual observer might have thought that Anthony LaMesa was booking a last-minute JetBlue Airways ticket from New York to Cancun, Mexico, on a whim, perhaps to escape the frigid winter weather.

Appearances can be deceiving, though. LaMesa needed to fly to Mexico for emergency dental care. But when he found treatment closer to home, he discovered that he couldn’t change his ticket.

“When I booked this ticket, I thought I had the 24-hour cancellation window for a flight, which has been publicized all over the news,” he says. He didn’t. The 24-hour rule has an important, but often unarticulated, catch: It doesn’t apply to flights booked fewer than seven days in advance.
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Happy holidays? JetBlue slams grieving grandson with booking fee, walk-up fare

Micha Klootwijk /
Micha Klootwijk /
If an airline tells you it offers a more humane way to travel, should you hold it to that promise?

That’s the question raised by David Seltzer’s case on JetBlue Airways, a case that comes to us at an appropriate time of year.

Seltzer’s grandfather died unexpectedly a few months ago, and he immediately paid JetBlue a walk-up fare of $1,258 to fly from Long Beach, Calif., to New York, so he could be with his family. JetBlue then piled on the fees, charging him $20 for a phone booking and then hitting him with a $104 fare differential when he had to change his return flight again.

Seltzer then did what many distraught passengers do after the funeral. He politely asked the airline to adjust the price to a so-called “bereavement” fare. After all, Seltzer wasn’t just a random passenger requesting a fare adjustment, but a loyal, card-carrying JetBlue frequent flier, according to his mother, who contacted me for help.
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An inconvenient truth about loyalty programs


Is your loyalty for sale?

Would you remain true to a company, no matter what it does, in exchange for a platinum card or the promise of “free” or discounted product?

Target is hoping so after more than 40 million customer credit-card numbers were compromised on Black Friday. Its response? A 10 percent-off bribe offered to holiday shoppers last weekend.

Perhaps the retailer knows its customers too well. Give ’em a few bucks off — or better yet, something “free” — and they’ll overlook anything. (Never mind that almost nothing is free and that the definition of “free” we’ve come to accept is misleading, harmful and wrong.)
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Is JetBlue scaring passengers into buying travel insurance?

Christopher Parypa /
Christopher Parypa /

If you’re a frequent flier, maybe you’ve already been roughed up by an airline, rhetorically speaking. I try to stay away from planes myself. I fly very infrequently and I book airline tickets even less.

When I have a choice in domestic airlines, I prefer to fly on JetBlue or Southwest. They’re just my kind of carriers.

It’s a personal choice.

But this afternoon, as I was booking a seat from Orlando to Washington, and after getting through what seemed like a dozen irritating “upsell” screens, JetBlue showed me this:
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Oh no! JetBlue breaks guitars, too?

jetblueAdd the word “breaks guitars” after any company, and everyone knows exactly what you’re talking about.

“Breaks guitars” is synonymous with terrible service, bureaucracy and corporate arrogance. And you’d expect an airline to be particularly sensitive to it.

For those of you who missed the whole United Breaks Guitars episode, here’s a recap: Back in 2009, United Airlines destroyed country musician David Carroll’s checked guitar and then basically ignored his damage claim.
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When do JetBlue’s vouchers expire? Whenever it says they do

Christopher Parypa /
Christopher Parypa /

JetBlue is one of only a few airlines that issues flight vouchers when a fare drops after you book it, and if you use a service like Yapta, you can get notified when the price of your ticket falls.

But is the voucher worth anything? That’s what Jerry Gershner wants to know — and if I agree with his interpretation, he’d like me to help him fix it. I’m not sure if I do (or if I can) but maybe you can help me sort it out.

Here’s what happened to him: A few weeks ago, he booked JetBlue tickets for him and his wife.

“One day after I purchased these tickets, the fare dropped by $50,” he says.

He called JetBlue, which issued two $50 vouchers. So far, so good.
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Does JetBlue owe her anything for amorous passenger incident?

Sunshine Pics/Shutterstock
Sunshine Pics/Shutterstock
To say that Cristi Mitchell felt uncomfortable on a recent JetBlue Airways flight from Phoenix to Boston might be something of an understatement.

During the redeye flight, an amorous couple seated across from her partner and her 8-year-old son engaged in several sex acts. No need to go into details, but let’s just say they covered every angle.

“I was shocked and really uncomfortable,” she said. When she mentioned the behavior to a flight attendant, the crewmember tried to stop the copulating passengers.
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“There were angels all around me on that JetBlue flight”

Christopher Parypa /
Christopher Parypa /
Early boarding privileges are typically reserved for frequent fliers and passengers with obvious disabilities. But on a recent JetBlue Airways flight from Boston to Los Angeles, gate agents granted special access to a passenger whose need wasn’t that apparent, and perhaps even in violation of their own airline’s policy.

Elaine Regienus-Gravbelle, who was recovering from a double mastectomy and two other minor surgeries, was on her way to way home to Redondo Beach, Calif. She asked a ticket agent if she could get on the plane first.
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