Executive humility - at last!

JetBlue founder and CEO David Neeleman messed up big time during last week's winter storm (well, his airline messed up), but at least he was willing to take the heat - and we're not talking about some PR-driven apology that has all the earnestness of voice mail. We're talking about a guy who really seems sorry - almost falling-on-your-sword sorry. He told the NYT's Jeff Bailey that he was "humiliated and mortified" by the breakdown in the airline's operations. The disastrous week seemed particularly ironic for JetBlue, which has prided itself on top-notch customer service that no doubt played a huge role in the carrier's stupendous growth. But when companies grow too much too fast, bad things are bound to happen, especially in this kind of bruising, service-oriented business. JetBlue apparently was betting that the winter storm would break and it would be able to keep flying with little disruption. But the storm didn't break and thanks to a rickety communications system, pilots and flight attendants got stuck in the wrong places. The airline was still cancelling flights on Monday. From the NYT:

The reservation system was also overwhelmed, with customers unable to get through to human agents to check on a flight. In an unusual arrangement, the company employs nearly 2,000 reservation agents in the Salt Lake City area, many of them women who work at home. Mr. Neeleman said he would adjust their work agreement to require them to work longer hours during difficult periods. Mr. Neeleman said he would announce a compensation system for passengers tomorrow. He is hoping to win quick forgiveness from customers and to demonstrate that he takes the airline’s failings seriously. “This is going to be a different company because of this,” Mr. Neeleman said. “It’s going to be expensive. But what’s more important is to win back people’s confidence.” He did not say if higher fares might be in the offing.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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