JetBlue’s “Customer Bill of Rights” is Chump Change

JetBlue CEO David Neeleman is very sorry indeed about the recent inconveniences. And to show you how much he cares, he’s offered a personal video message and a “Customer Bill of Rights”. Never mind that he’s also collecting your personal information.

But let’s give this guy the benefit of the doubt and take a look at this so-called “Bill of Rights.” Neeleman values your time so much that he’s willing to pay you about as much as an assistant manager at Taco Bell: a little more than $10 an hour for any flight delay. You’ll get a $25 voucher if your flight is delayed 1-2 hours. You’ll get a $50 voucher if your flight is delayed for 2-4 hours. And if your flight gets delayed 4-6 hours, you’ll be entitled to a voucher for a one-way airfare.

Of course, the delay must be subject to a “Controllable Irregularity.” What the hell is a “Controllable Irregularity?” Conveniently, JetBlue offers no definition. It isn’t in its Bill of Rights, nor in its Contract of Carriage. It could be anything really. A snowstorm. A slight change of the lights. A gremlin tearing out one of the engines. A passenger resembling William Shatner.

Meanwhile, the customer is stuck for hours on the tarmac with nothing but blue chips and soda for dinner.

But let’s say that the customer’s flight is delayed and the customer can’t find hotel accommodations, as the many people who were recently stranded discovered to their horror. (Consider the case of Marcia Makley, who was given a voucher for a hotel that had no vacancy and spent $175 on a cab ride. She was also unable to retrieve her luggage.) Well, there’s nothing in JetBlue’s “Customer’s Bill of Rights” that informs the customer that she’ll get a room for the night, nor is there anything about securing the luggage. Meanwhile, if we examine American Airlines’ current conditions of carriage, we find this:

If the delay or cancellation was caused by events within our control and we do not get you to your final destination on the expected arrival day, we will provide reasonable overnight accommodations, subject to availability.

Of course, American gives itself an out clause with “subject to availability,” but it’s an infinitely better promise than JetBlue.

And here’s a section from United’s Contract of Carriage. Not only does the contract contain a clearer definition for an “irregularity,” but we have these remedies for a flight exceeding two hours:

(A) UA will transport the passenger without stopover on its next flight on which space is available in the same class of service as the passenger’s original outbound flight at no additional cost to the passenger.

(B) If UA is unable to provide onward transportation acceptable to the passenger, UA, with concurrence of the passenger, will arrange for the transportation of another carrier or combination of carriers with whom UA has agreements for such transportation. The passenger will be transported without stopover on its (their) next flight(s), in the same class of service as the passenger’s original outbound flight at no additional cost to the passenger.

(C) If space is only available and used on a UA flight(s) of a lower class of service acceptable to the passenger, UA will provide a refund of the difference in fares pursuant to Rule 260 (refunds — involuntary).

(D) If UA is unable to arrange alternate air transportation acceptable to the passenger, UA shall refund the flight coupon(s) for the unflown portion(s) in accordance with Rule 260 (refunds — involuntary).

So with United, after two hours of delay, there’s no pussy-footing around. You’ll get on the next flight and, if not on United, then on another carrier. By contrast, JetBlue gives you a mere $25.

In other words, JetBlue is trying to repackage customer service that is inferior to its competition and pass it off as philanthropic. (And, by the way, there’s nothing in JetBlue’s current Contract of Carriage that specifies anything for delays.)

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