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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

JetBlue: The Gods Must Be Crazy

In 1980 a South African-made movie came out about an empty glass coke bottle which was tossed out the window of a light aircraft flying over the Kalahari Desert. The bottle was found, unbroken, by a native from a  tribe so isolated they had never had contact with the outside, modern world before. At first they found many uses for this strange gift, but as the gods had only given them one bottle, they soon started fighting over it. In the end, it was decided that the object was more trouble than it was worth, & so the native who found it sets off on a trek to give it back to the gods by throwing it off the edge of the world, wherever that might be. The movie was called The Gods Must Be Crazy, & to this day it remains a cult classic around the world.

In the modern world of the United States, a low-cost airline by the name of JetBlue Airways might also be wondering whether the gods must be crazy. Because that's certainly a word that comes to mind when you look at a series of events over the last several years that seem to have befallen the popular airline.

After using up 3 km of runway, the
aircraft was still perfectly on the centreline.
1. Crazy Plane
In September 2005, a JetBlue A320 encountered what seemed to the world-wide news audience as a rather crazy landing gear malfunction. The nose wheel had rotated 90 degrees after takeoff & was stuck facing perpendicular to the fuselage. With extreme skill & precision, the flight crew landed the aircraft safely. It was later revealed that this was in fact the seventh time this had happened to an A320 globally. The nose gear & various components within it have since been redesigned, & it hasn't happened again since.

2. Crazy Flight Attendant
In August 2010, after landing in New York, a flight attendant had a reported altercation with a passenger in which he claimed he was hurt. Frustrated by certain passengers ignoring his requests to remain seated until the aircraft stopped at the terminal, the flight attendant began ranting over the public address system & verbally quit his job. He then grabbed two bottles of beer from the airplane's stock & activated the emergency escape slide at the rear door. He slid down the chute & ran across the tarmac. An hour & a half later, he was arrested at his home.

3. Crazy Pilot
In March 2012, an A320 captain suffered what was believed to be a complete mental breakdown mid-flight. After incoherent conversations with the First Officer & erratic behaviour in the cockpit, he ran out of the cockpit, screaming & yelling about "religion & terrorists" in front of the passengers. He then tried to re-enter the cockpit but the First Officer had already locked him out & changed the security code. The ranting continued whilst various passengers tackled him to the floor & sat on him whilst the First Officer, with assistance from a third off-duty pilot onboard, diverted the flight to the nearest suitable airport. They were on the ground within 20 minutes. The captain was removed in an ambulance stretcher.

4. Crazy Passenger
And just last week, an "unruly" passenger caused a cross-country flight to be diverted as well. An economy class passenger whose seat-back TV was not working, was offered an alternate seat in a special couple of rows that also offer extra leg room. Passengers pay extra for this small luxury, & one such woman already seated there objected violently to the man being given the seat at no extra cost. After abusing the other passenger & physically "interfering" with cabin crew, an onboard US Air Marshall intervened & restrained her whilst the plane diverted to Denver, where she was taken off the plane by police. Neither the airline, nor the passenger however, wished to press charges against the woman & she was subsequently released to find her own way home.

 JetBlue is in fact an amazing airline. 

They've won multiple awards over many years for high levels of customer satisfaction, & it's not hard to see why. The airlines' five official core values are "Safety, Caring, Integrity, Fun & Passion", & their mantra is to "throw in a little thing called humanity". That's a huge call, considering most low-cost airlines barely get past throwing in a little thing called "service". And whilst some cynical person will always have a gripe or a bad experience they can't wait to tell, you just have to read the feedback on their facebook page to see comments like "you guys are awesome", or "your staff are always great", "your customer service was the best!", & "you always take care of me like family". And when the occasional negative comment is posted, they're on to it straight away in a friendly, courteous manner, discussing compensation & looking for solutions. In researching this article, I was even contacted by an Australian passenger who was planning a trip to the US. And there was only one airline she was interested in flying on - JetBlue.

Happy workers, happy customers - JetBlue customer support. Photo JetBlue

In the daily business of transporting millions of Americans, which the rest of the world knows are all crazy anyway, stuff can go wrong anywhere, anytime, on any airline. The airline business is a crazy business, & no airline is immune to the problems. Many others have suffered much worst than the events mentioned above. Personally, I think the gods think we're the crazy ones for thinking we can take air travel for granted, as the scale & perplexity of what we have today would have been unimaginable only 100 years ago.

And personally, just personally, I wish JetBlue all the very best with it.

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