Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blue Airline Moments

The airline industry is in turmoil. I wrote about the general state of affairs a few months ago. Today, I just want to note my personal experiences on a single flight that further brought home to me just how bad things are getting.

I flew from JFK to San Jose on jetBlue this morning. By the way, they use a small" j" and a capital "B", with no space between the words. Why? I don't know. I bet they paid a small fortune for someone to come up with that name.

Back to the subject at hand, I've taken the same flight several times before and had no particular problems. Today, however, the airline gods got the best of me.

The flight was listed as "on time" with boarding scheduled at 8:20 AM. That time passed with no announcements made alerting us to any problem. Then, at the scheduled 8:50 AM departure time, the gate agent announced that they were one flight attendant short. No one could board the plane until another crew member arrived. No further announcements were made for the next 4 hours.

After waiting about two hours, I and a number of fellow travelers asked the gate agent, the operations manager, the senior member of the air crew, and generally anyone in uniform, what was happening. Different responses were given over the next two hours, but they all fell into the category of: we have been told that a flight attendant has been located and will arrive "momentarily".

We all had a lot of fun trying to interpret the meaning of "momentarily".

Well, apparently in the airline industry, "momentarily" means "about four hours", because that's when the missing attendant arrived. We then boarded, and eventually flew to San Jose, tired, but grateful to actually reach our destination.

Of interest, it seems that the entire jetBlue operation rested on finding a sole crew member to agree to come in on a scheduled day off and replace a missing employee who couldn't make the flight. You'd think that a major corporation would manage to have a spare around for instances like this, but, like me, you'd be wrong.

It was especially galling to be delayed this long as the role of a flight attendant these days is pretty minimal, with "service" reduced to handing out drinks and snacks. Oh yes, they also sell headphones, adult beverages, and pillows and blankets. The key selling point for the pillows and blankets was that, unlike the ones you used to get for free, these were "clean".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This has happened to me as well on a different airline. When operating margins are razor thin, having back-up employee systems is not a high priority.