Crisis Control

Maintaining positive relation with your clientele is not always easy especially in situations that out out of you control. However, your company or leader will be the one held accountable for the way clients are treated and accommodated during a difficult time. The following story from Ragan’s PR Daily  is a perfect example of this. Although I think this problem could have been handled better, the airline, Jet Blue, was really really with rough situation.

If you live in the Northeast, you’re well aware of the nasty storm that left millions without power, forced travel delays, closed schools, interrupted Halloween plans, and killed at least 11.

There was also that JetBlue flight on Oct. 29 that was downrightdisastrous.

Originally bound for Newark, N.J., the plane was forced to divert to Hartford, Conn.’s Bradley International Airport because of the weather. That is where everything began to go wrong.

The plane sat on the tarmac for seven hours, in Hartford, from around 1:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. More than 100 passengers were left without functioning toilets, food or water in the last few hours of the delay. What did JetBlue do? Nothing, it appears.

Even the pilot was not getting answers from the airline, so he pleaded with air controllers for help. According to audio obtained from LiveATC.net, the unidentified pilot said he “can’t seem to get any help from our own company. I apologize for this, but is there any way you can get a tug and a towbar out here to us and get us towed somewhere to a gate or something? I don’t care—take us anywhere.”

According to accounts from those on the plane, passengers were told everything from the plane needed to be de-iced to an emergency on another plane as a reason for delays. This clearly wasn’t true, so passengers were lied to. That’s a huge issue. JetBlue needed to be honest and open with those on board.

All airlines must adhere to the Passenger’s Bill of Rights, which was enacted in 2010. If the evidence presented shows that JetBlue kept these passengers on the plane for more than three hours, they’ll face stiff fines. The U.S. Transportation Department is investigating the incident.

JetBlue doesn’t seem to be doing too much in terms of damage control, other than a lone blog post. On Sunday, it posted a blog to address the weekend’s issues, entitled “Dreaming of a White Halloween? Information Regarding This Weekend’s Storm.”

The post’s opening line: “Some people dream of a white Christmas; apparently Mother Nature was dreaming of a white Halloween this weekend. Winter reared its ugly head earlier than usual yesterday, causing a major crease in air travel.” All but one of the 18 comments when this article was published was negative.

JetBlue needed to take a more serious tone and not make light of the situation. I’m sure those stuck on board weren’t dreaming of anything but getting off the plane and into their own homes.

The airline is also being blasted on its Facebook page. Even worse, there is no engagement from anyone at JetBlue on that page, allowing negative comments to go unanswered.

Its Twitter account is directing those to the blog post about what JetBlue is doing for passengers, which is refunding their tickets.

JetBlue must do more than offer free tickets. It must show it truly cares and appreciate its customers. JetBlue’s CEO should be out front and showing concern.

By staying quiet and just using the blog, JetBlue is making a huge mistake. If it doesn’t act quickly, its reputation will be damaged for a long time to come.

Jason Mollica is the president of JRMComm, a public relations and social media marketing consultancy. Find Mollica on Twitter @JasMollica.


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