NEW YORK – The test of JetBlue's (JBLU) ability to roll with winter weather conditions while still upholding its somewhat ruffled reputation for good service came days after unveiling its customer bill of rights.
The airline canceled 68 flights scheduled in and out of John F. Kennedy International Airport on Monday because of snow, affecting flights to or from Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Va.; Washington, D.C., Portland, Maine; and Chicago.
The cancellations were an attempt to make sure crews and planes were situated so the company could quickly resume operations after the storm, JetBlue Airways Corp. spokeswoman Alison Eshelman said.
But customers early Monday described delays, bad communication from crew members, and general frustration that echoed complaints that led to the company's bill of rights following a travel meltdown due to a Valentine's Day ice storm.
The company also canceled flights into and out of Chicago and the Washington, D.C., area over the weekend.
Doug Rosenberg and Segun Akande, both 22-year-old college students at Duke University, had their flight from New York to Raleigh, N.C., canceled after being delayed on the runway for hours.
"It was so bad," said Akande. "We were waiting on the plane for so long. You would think they would tell us to go back to the terminal after an hour or two."
Rosenberg said the airline did a poor job telling passengers about what was going on and offering service after the flight was canceled. "I never witnessed this bad of service in my entire life," said Rosenberg.
Eshelman confirmed that the students' flight was supposed to depart at 9:45 p.m. but that its departure was delayed until 11:47 p.m.
She said the plane left for deicing on the runway, but due to the weather in New York and Raleigh the company canceled the flight. It was turned back to the terminal by 2:45 a.m., she said.
Eshelman said that in accordance with the customer bill of rights, each of the 100 passengers would receive $100 vouchers good for any future flight and their choice of either a refund or accommodation on a future flight.
"I'm not upset that the flight did not take off," Rosenberg said later Monday morning after rebooking his flight and finding out about the voucher. "I just wish there was better communication."
Up to 7 inches of snow were expected to fall in the city from Sunday night into Monday, the National Weather Service said.
Earlier this month, JetBlue was heavily criticized after bad weather stranded passengers in planes at Kennedy, its main hub, for up to 10 1/2 hours.
The company, which had hoped to ride out the bad weather without canceling flights, later admitted it took too long to call airport authorities for help in getting the passengers off the grounded planes. It couldn't resume normal operations for days because flight crews weren't where they were supposed to be.
More than 1,000 cancellations were caused by the Feb. 14 winter blast, and more than 100,000 passengers were affected.
Passengers whose Monday flights were canceled were being notified by e-mail and by telephone. They can rebook through Thursday without paying extra or can request refunds or credits for future travel, JetBlue said.