A snowstorm in the Northeast last week could prove extraordinarily costly for JetBlue. Accustomed to positive press coverage, the company has been besieged by a multimedia attack from customers and reporters alike.
First there was the plane stuck on the tarmac for 10 hours while passengers suffered. Now, the airline has been forced to cancel about a quarter of its weekend flights to try to get back on schedule.
All Saturday and Sunday flights on JetBlue were canceled in and out of 11 airports: Richmond, Va.; Pittsburgh; Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Austin and Houston, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Nashville; Portland, Me.; and Bermuda.
As of 6 p.m., about 170 flights had been called off, out of about 600 scheduled for the weekend.
Paul Kedrosky has it right when he says this could have a long-term business and stock impact:
The inmates are running the asylum at JetBlue, with passengers now flipping out pre-boarding at the least sign of a possible delay. As an investment aside, this story has now crossed over from human interest to investment, with there being a large and growing number of people who will not fly JetBlue, and a long list of others who’ll try to avoid it.
Once again we are reminded that how companies handle a crisis can make a big difference with customer perception of the brand. People expect snowstorms to cause problems for airlines; they don’t expect to be trapped on planes, receive conflicting information, and see effects for days after the weather has cleared.