JetBlue canceled almost a quarter of its flights but said it planned to restore full operations on Tuesday, a week after a snowstorm created a travel meltdown for the low-fare airline.
The six-day siege of angry and disgruntled travelers at JetBlue's terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, its New York hub, appeared to ease on Monday as service desks functioned more smoothly and customer calm prevailed despite the cancellations of 139 of 600 scheduled flights at 11 other airports.
Last week's snow and bitterly cold temperatures froze equipment and grounded the company's planes at Kennedy, stranding passengers inside them for up to 10 1/2 hours. JetBlue, which prides itself on low fares and great customer service, said it waited too long to call for help in getting the passengers off the planes because it hoped the weather would let up and the flights would be able to proceed, the AP reports.
The bad-weather delays and cancellations led to customer questions and complaints that overwhelmed the company's reservations system, and many of its pilots and flight crews wound up stuck in places other than where they were needed.
Monday's cancellations gave the airline the time to get equipment to the proper places and helped make sure all flight crews had legally mandated amounts of rest before flying again, JetBlue spokesman Sebastian White said. Planes were being repositioned on Monday to be ready to go on Tuesday morning, he said.
When the bad weather struck Feb. 14, JetBlue didn't have a system in place for so many stranded flight crews to call in and be rerouted to their next assignments, something it was working to rectify within a few weeks, company founder and Chief Executive Officer David G. Neeleman said. The service breakdown "was absolutely painful to watch," he said Monday.
One travel expert suggested the airline had brought the crisis on itself by trying too hard to accommodate its passengers.
"Most airlines don't try to operate when there is an ice storm problem - they've learned that it's better to cancel all flights at the outset and then try to get back to normal operations as quickly as possible," David Stempler, president of the Washington-based, member-supported Air Travelers Association, told The Associated Press on Monday.
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