The Spectacle Blog

JetBlue: The Real Deal?

By on 3.2.06 | 1:30PM

So JetBlue had the lowest on-time arrivals for January. This is making headlines because JetBlue's supposed to be that different, hip, customer service oriented airline. In light of my travels with them last month, color me unsurprised.

This was my second flight on JetBlue. This one was to San Diego, but both were cross-country flights from Dulles to California. Last time was pleasant enough -- cheap fares, satellite TV, and generous snacks. This time, the satellite was busted, but the movies were still available. And to top it off, JetBlue sent a $15 voucher to compensate for the broken satellite a couple weeks later.

The return flight was the snafu. Admittedly, I cut it a little close. Between filling up the rental car and waiting for the rental car company shuttle to the terminal, I arrived at the San Diego airport at 6 a.m. for a 6:30 flight. I was marked for extra special security (Peggy Noonan recently detailed the misfortune of such a designation). It took precisely a half hour to go through that line (while my cousin's new father-in-law, who entered security as the same time I did, made it through the normal line in 15 minutes or so) and run to the gate. As I approached, the agent already knew my last name -- he knew I was supposed to be on the flight -- but said it was too late. The clock at the gate said 6:30. The door was closed. The plane sat there for ten more minutes before leaving. I couldn't join my luggage on the plane, the agents there said, because the jetway had already pulled away and the cabin was already pressurized. (Was this a line? do they really pressurize the cabin on the ground? Let me know at amspecblog - at - spectator dot org).

What was disappointing wasn't that they shut the door on time. (Although it stings that airlines can be hours late and very non-chalant about it, but when they want to be precisely on-time, tough luck!) I was late. My fault. I'm a fan of punctuality.

But the customer service afterward was atrocious. The manager's eyes glossed over, and she didn't do much to engage the problem or see if anything could be done. She turned into a bureaucrat, like those of any other major airline, authorized only to seem understanding and no more. What little she was willing to do -- have luggage delivered from Dulles, because I had to book on another airline to make it home -- was dropped by the airline. And so another trip to Dulles.

Long story short: JetBlue's not all that special. They've done a fine job of marketing their gimmicks, but when the chips are down, when you really need something different, in my experience they were painfully similar. And in the end, the sticklers for punctuality were the worst for on-time arrivals in January.

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