The Letter from JetBlue CEO

February 22, 2007

I’m upgrading my evaluation of JetBlue’s performance in this crisis. I was a little tough on them before, but overall, they are doing pretty well given their situation. I say that in part because I have a great deal of respect for Shel Holtz and he is giving them pretty good marks. Also, because one kind commenter (thanks Paul!) on this blog today provided a copy of the letter sent DIRECTLY from CEO Neeleman to I don’t know how many.

Here’s the letter:

Dear JetBlue Customers,

We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry.

Last week was the worst operational week in JetBlue’s seven year history. Following the severe winter ice storm in the Northeast, we subjected our customers to unacceptable delays, flight cancellations, lost baggage, and other major inconveniences. The storm disrupted the movement of aircraft, and, more importantly, disrupted the movement of JetBlue’s pilot and inflight crewmembers who were depending on those planes to get them to the airports where they were scheduled to serve you. With the busy President’s Day weekend upon us, rebooking opportunities were scarce and hold times at 1-800-JETBLUE were unacceptably long or not even available, further hindering our recovery efforts.

Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration and inconvenience that we caused. This is especially saddening because JetBlue was founded on the promise of bringing humanity back to air travel and making the experience of flying happier and easier for everyone who chooses to fly with us. We know we failed to deliver on this promise last week.

We are committed to you, our valued customers, and are taking immediate corrective steps to regain your confidence in us. We have begun putting a comprehensive plan in place to provide better and more timely information to you, more tools and resources for our crewmembers and improved procedures for handling operational difficulties in the future. We are confident, as a result of these actions, that JetBlue will emerge as a more reliable and even more customer responsive airline than ever before.

Most importantly, we have published the JetBlue Airways Customer Bill of Rights—our official commitment to you of how we will handle operational interruptions going forward—including details of compensation. I have a video message to share with you about this industry leading action.

You deserved better—a lot better—from us last week. Nothing is more important than regaining your trust and all of us here hope you will give us the opportunity to welcome you onboard again soon and provide you the positive JetBlue Experience you have come to expect from us.


David Neeleman
Founder and CEO
JetBlue Airways

There is a lot I like about this letter. The tone, the unqualified acceptance of responsibility, the information about what is being done, the compensation. But what I like best is that it is direct. I don’t know how many were sent. If I as JetBlue, I would want as many sent as who read the newspaper accounts. Not possible, but that means I would send it to any and all where it would not be considered spam.

One key principle of crisis communication today is directness of communication. Don’t allow the media to carry your message. You have more options than ever to communicate directly–take full advantage, and I see JetBlue doing that.

Here’s what I don’t like: why allow people to sit on the airplane for six hours. Pull up to the gate and let them get off for Pete’s sake. There is no mention of that or sense of understanding that is really bad behavior–almost to point of kidnapping. Also, while there is mention of a comprehensive training program, this is light on details. Not everyone would be interested in the details, but what would have been better in my mind would be to say that for those interested, a complete description of our program will be posted on our website for the next three months. And if it is still in development, explain what is there, what will come yet, and when the updates will be.

One Response to “The Letter from JetBlue CEO”

  1. […] Early last year, JetBlue had a customer service nightmare on their hands after a winter storm. Hundreds, if not thousands of customers were stranded in the Northeast, and subjected to awful delays and phone hold times. This was a defining moment for CEO David Neeleman and the 7-year-old company at the time. The letter he wrote to customers can be found here. […]

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