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  1. 1. Running head: JETBLUE AIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 1JetBlue Airways Case Study AnalysisMorgan Bocciolatt, Lindsey Hadlock, and Julie FruscioIthaca CollegeJETBLUE AIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 2JetBlue Airways Case Study AnalysisProblem DefinitionThe situation described in “JetBlue Airways: Regaining Altitude” is one that,unfortunately, more than a few people have experienced. The many problems that unfolded inthe course of only a few short days, were all caused by one main issue, a lack of communicationand communication training in a crisis situation.Company ObjectivesWhat once was a vision has now become a reality that defines JetBlue as a company.Neeleman envisioned the ultimate flying experience for his customers.Every seat would come equipped with a television that featured dozens of free channelsprovided by satellite signal. Finally, to keep costs down, JetBlue would offer a virtuallyunlimited supply of appealing in-flight snacks instead of soggy meals that no one reallywanted. (Argenti, 2009, p.100)It is obvious that David Neeleman and JetBlue set out to exceed customer satisfaction and ingeneral, tend to go above and beyond what the average airline has to offer. However, it seemsthat their goal of excellent customer service was higher in importance than teaching theiremployees how to communicate in emergency situations, such as the one presented to us in thecase study. It is essential for companies to find a competitive advantage to set themselves apartfrom other companies in their industry, however it is also crucial for these companies to find abalance and continue to value the basic fundamentals of communication.Data AnalysisJETBLUE AIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 3
  2. 2. JetBlue went from startup company to powerhouse of the sky in 2007 with overall growthin terms of destination and size. Run by CEO David Neeleman’s expertise and experience in theindustry, the company boasted in customer satisfaction and provided practical and luxuryamenities to all passengers. “Neeleman envisioned treating JetBlue’s customers…to comfyleather seats, paperless ticketing, and exceptional service by flight crew members” (Argenti,2009, p.100). Soon after 9/11 JetBlue and airlines worldwide went through mandatory alterationsin order to comply with safety demands and hypersensitive flying customers. In the monthsfollowing the horrific event “only three airlines managed to turn a profit…-the low-cost carriersSouthwest, AirTran, and JetBlue” (Argenti, 2009, 100). In the following years the bond betweencustomer and airline continued to strengthen. JetBlue seemed to be at the top of its career,ranking “highest in customer satisfaction among low-cost airlines in 2006 and among all majorairlines in the United States in 2005” (Argenti, 2009, p.99). The size and continuity of theJetBlue brand helped it endure changing markets and adapt to demands set by the industry.It seemed JetBlue could do no wrong until winter weather conditions got the best of themon Valentine’s Day 2007. Officials at JetBlue made a false accusation that the winter stormweather forecast would change. After the break in the storm failed to appear and the companydeclined to make cancellations they ended up paying for it in reputation, integrity, andreimbursement vouchers. With planes backed up from all directions, passengers, luggage andcargo were stuck for 6-9 hours. Some customers waited to board planes that would soon becancelled, while others waited for a take-off that would never happen. JetBlue failed toeffectively communicate the message to the customers. According to Argenti, “Nine of theairline’s jets sat idle on the tarmac for more than six hours before passengers were successfullyJETBLUE AIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 4offloaded and taken to the terminal” (Argenti, 2009, p.101). Things continued to get worse onthe days following this heart breaking system failure.
  3. 3. On February 15, airport personnel had to call police to help control the crowd at NewarkLiberty International Airport. The combination of “deteriorating weather conditions at JFK andflaring tempers, both inside JetBlue’s terminal, and aboard its planes exacerbated the company’scrisis” (Argenti, 2009, p.103). The endless ground delays were starting to aggravate the clientsand they were not being informed of the “big picture”. Flights were unable to take-off, butcustomers were receiving periodic updates that still gave them hope that their planes would landat their destinations. Flight attendants delivered apologies, snacks, and beverages, but thecustomers were at their wits end. They needed more than apologies; they needed answers.In the days following the crisis JetBlue customers tried to seek comfort in venting theirthoughts and opinions. They visited the Web site and called the hotline number hoping to get incontact with someone who could listen and compensate them for the hardships they endured.Instead they heard pre-recorded messages directing them to call back at a later date, due to anoverflow in call volume. The deterioration of JetBlue’s reputation continued when additionalflights were cancelled and luggage was declared missing. Multiple operation failures and anoverall communication breakdown invited the media to have a heyday.Newspapers and broadcasters worldwide were publishing headlines scattered with wordsof JetBlue’s mishap, which increased the damage done to their reputation. At the same time,Congress was calling for legislation on the coverage of airplane passengers, which preventedthem from being held in grounded planes for long hours. In order to establish customer rights“many suggested that the implementation of an industry-wide passenger bill of rights would benecessary to spur major airlines to action” (Argenti, 2009, p. 103). People all over were talkingJETBLUE AIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 5about and the need for change and an examination of customer treatment. JetBlue decided to beproactive and fix the problems they created instead of letting the damage fester and get worse.The JetBlue Airways Customer Bill of Rights was published in 2007, which established
  4. 4. industry standards and corresponding compensation for hardships endured by JetBlue clients.According to Neeleman, “The airline had to do something novel, something impressive,something no competitor has ever done before to make amends to its customers” (Argenti, 2009,p.103). The document states customers will get vouchers for future traveling if flights remainedgrounded for a given length of time after landing. It also includes policies for departure, arrivaland ground delays, overbookings, and in-flight entertainment. JetBlue raised the industrystandards by committing to a plan that exemplified its goal to make the traveling experiencesimple and pleasant.When a crisis hits there are many ways a company, or individual, can react. Withmultiple system failures, flawed decision making, and a string of bad luck JetBlue could havegotten buried by the storm. However, with Neelman’s exceptional leadership skills in the daysfollowing the crisis, JetBlue showcased its professionalism by uniting to create an unprecedenteddocument, which changed the standards of air transportation.Alternative Strategies and RecommendationsWeather delays often keep customers from arriving on time to their desired destination.By implementing more communication throughout the JetBlue locations nationwide, thenegative effects of the Valentine’s Day storm could have been prevented, at the very leasthandled more efficiently. By handling the crisis communication more professionally followingthe storm and its aftermath, JetBlue could have avoided the logistical failures in the system thatled to further complications. Ultimately, with the implementation of the Customer’s Bill ofJETBLUE AIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 6Rights, JetBlue recovered from the Valentine’s Day Storm and created a very responsible planfor further crisis of a similar nature.Communication With Internal and External StakeholdersTo better communicate with internal stakeholders, Jet Blue should have implemented an
  5. 5. internal communication program. The communication program would include direct informationsharing for employees as well as an outside communication network to share updates withcustomers and other stakeholders. Extensive employee training would be needed in order toproperly utilize these communication alleyways. This will ensure that employees have the properknowledge and training to effectively communicate in a time of stressful crisis. The plan willalso utilize daily communication interactions, in order to prevent company disasters fromhappening in the future.JetBlue employees did not have a clear means of communication to remain updated andinformed throughout the Valentine’s Day storm and the days following. The lack ofcommunication within the company was a large problem, as it became essential to movecustomers from one place to another safely and efficiently. With a willing staff, theimplementation of a communication program will allow for employees to be in the know andoffer their assistance when needed.The first line of communication implemented within the program should be from theweather supervisors to the pilots and boarding staff. The most direct way to do this would bethrough a phone call or two-way radio device.• This will allow for pilots to know the status of operations pertaining to their plane andother planes. JETBLUE AIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 7o The pilots are then informed and can determine where to be on the runway inregards to their next action. The boarding staff will also have direct communication with weather supervisors and pilots.This should be done through a phone call or two-way radio device.• This will allow the employees to know whether or not to board people onto the planesand who will be exiting planes. The next line of communication should be between the boarding staff and the pilots and the
  6. 6. customers.• Pilots and boarding staff should update customers on the current status of planeoperations every half hour, or when a new revision to the plan has taken place.o This will help to keep the customers knowledgeable and calm during a crisis. After the direct communication between employees at the effected airport has changed, directcommunication to JetBlue companies at other airports need to be informed.• A phone call must be made to other JetBlue locations that would be directly affected bythe alterations at the primary airport.o This will allow for information sharing involving customer departure and arrivalswithin a network of JetBlue locations.• This information should then be passed to the boarding staff and pilots as to inform themof actions taking place at other Jet Blue locations.• This should then follow the chain of communication, and the boarding staff and pilotsshould directly inform the customers waiting.An email of modifications and altered information should be sent to JetBlue headquartersso that all JetBlue locations can have a uniform detailed report of what is taking place.JETBLUE AIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 8Headquarters from there can have a better understanding of the situation taking place, and canmanage any other movements that must be made in order for the changes to run smoothly. Theyalso can communicate with any other specific JetBlue employees or locations that might needfurther directions. Information should also be posted to the company’s intranet, in order to haveone central digital location employees can check for updated data.Customers will have the option when buying their ticket to receive a text message oremail pertaining to details about their flight. This will enable all customers to receive flight dataas soon as it is processed to JetBlue headquarters, allowing them to receive updated information.
  7. 7. If the variations to the original plans made will affect customers with flights in the daysfollowing, emails and text notifications should be sent to them as well stating the newinformation that pertains to their fights.Customer information centers should be set up to answer phone calls pertaining toalterations in flight plans. This will allow customer confusion to be handled and will keep thecustomer more informed and better cared for. Information should also be posted on the companywebsite for customers to check if they so desire. This provides another communication channelfor customers to receive data.Communication during the crisis should have continued with the plan stated above.Sending out apology emails about delays and situations where waiting was widespread wouldalso be helpful in maintaining customer loyalty. Following the crisis, emails as well as lettersshould be sent out to customers apologizing for any inconveniences caused by JetBlue services;the emails and letters should potentially provide incentives to keep those customers affectedwithin the crisis, to continue to use JetBlue services. Within the emails or letters a link to acomments or concerns section available on the website should be added. This way, everyoneJETBLUE AIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 9affected has a way to give his or her input. A phone number should be listed, and morerepresentatives should be available to answer phone calls. The automated recording, “We areexperiencing extremely high call volume…We are unable to take your call” should not be used(Argenti, 2009, p.102). This will enable any customer who wants to express their feeling with anactual person can do so, allowing for more customer satisfaction dealing with the consequencesof the undesirable situation and how the crisis is being managed.Neeleman stated “We had so many people in the company who wanted to help, whoweren’t trained to help” (Argenti, 2009, p.102). Therefore, training pertaining to this newcommunication program needs to be implemented requiring all existing employees and any new
  8. 8. employees hired within the company to fully understand the communication process and knowhow to proceed within the program. This is essential because a communication program isuseless if employees to not know how to follow the process correctly and use the program tomaximize communication benefits.Implications of this alternative communication program will help the company managecrisis communication internally as well as with external stakeholders. Extra expenses will be afactor, but in order to rebound successfully from a crisis these actions need to be taken. Althoughpaying more employees to answer phones and send out information emails will cost more in thelong run, this will overall show how dedicated JetBlue is to customer loyalty. Customer loyaltyis of utmost important within the airline business, as there are always other options to choosefrom.Media Message: David NeelemanThe corporate communications team at JetBlue should have arranged for DavidNeeleman to appear on the national television news and talk show circuit following thecrisis.JETBLUE AIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 10After a crisis situation, it is best to admit organizational faults and then move forward in creatinga communications plan in order to gain back customer attention. After the JetBlue crisis, DavidNeeleman should have gone on the news and made a pubic apology for the problems thecompany had and the mismanagement of the situation. This apology needs to be quick anddirect, not elaborating but mentioning that in the very near future a new customer appreciationstrategy will be implemented.Since the Customer Bill of Rights has been created, Neeleman should go onto newsbroadcasts and talk shows and apologize again, but focus mainly on what the company is doingto gain back lost customers. He should talk about what the Customer Bill of Rights is and how itis geared to reconnect the customer to JetBlue.
  9. 9. This would be beneficial to JetBlue because after admitting their faults, they can thenfocus all their attention at creating a new sense of customer loyalty. It shows that they areactually making a difference within the company and backing up their claims to change.The main risk could be that the audience could misinterpret a component of Neeleman’sdialogue. Another risk is that Neeleman could misspeak in one of his interviews and the audiencecould get the wrong impression about JetBlue and their actions to reinvent customer loyalty.JetBlue Corporate Advertising ProgramSince Jet Blue has just undergone some major customer expectation setbacks, animageadvertising program would be most beneficial to the company. By reestablishingthemselves inthe market with a new focus, new customers as well as existing customers will be presented withthe improved JetBlue focus on customer appreciation.Marketing Customer Bill of Rights to External and Internal StakeholdersMarketing the Customer Bill of Rights to internal stakeholders will consist of:JETBLUEAIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 11• putting the Customer Bill of Rights and information about it on the company intranet,• sending out emails to all internal employees and investors with the Customer Bill ofRights and information about what it is, and• putting training information on the intranet and in emails in order to prepare employeesfor questions about the new program.o This will allow all employees to feel integrated into the new program and willallow them to be able to have a part in the company affairs whether they directlyinteract with customers or not.Marketing the Customer Bill of Rights to external stakeholders will consist of:• putting the Customer Bill of Rights on the company website, and posting news updatesabout it, so that customers’ attention can be focused to this new implementation that
  10. 10. solely benefits them,• sending out emails to customers with the Customer Bill of Rights and what it implies inorder to gain back previous customers and inform them of the new benefits to travelingwith JetBlue,• publishing a press release stating their apologies and how this new Customer Bill ofRights will change how they run their operations at JetBlue with a customer first mindset,• posting the Customer Bill of Rights on their social networking sites, as another way toreach the customer and inform them of the new changes, and• sending out text messages to customers informing them of the new Customer Bill ofRights and to check out the website to find out more.JETBLUE AIRWAYS CASE STUDYANALYSIS 12Effect on JetBlueJetBlue did implement the Customer Bill of Rights and it can be found on the companywebsite. Although this was a costly and risky move for JetBlue it overall proved effective, asJetBlue has continued to remain a prestigious airline company. It proved to the customers thatJetBlue really stands behind what they say and their focus goes to keeping the customer happy.JetBlue was dedicated to solving the problem with the customer in mind. This overall wasrewarding not only to the customer but also to JetBlue as a company, enabling them to remain awell trusted and reliable airline.JETBLUE AIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 13ReferencesArgenti, P. A. (2009). Corporate communication. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.JETBLUEAIRWAYS CASE STUDY ANALYSIS 14