NEW YORK – Airlines canceled hundreds of flights in the face of snowy weather on Friday in a bid to dodge the sort of public relations disaster that sent JetBlue into a tailspin during and after a winter storm in February.
JetBlue (JBLU) called off 215 flights Friday because of a winter storm on the East Coast, aiming to avoid the days of cancellations and criticism that followed a storm last month, an airline spokesman said.
Delta also canceled more than 200 flights and American Airlines canceled about 120 flights to or from New York and other Northeastern airports. Northwest Airlines canceled about 35 flights to or from the East Coast.
The cancellations affected about one-third of all JetBlue flights. More than 200 of them involved flights to or from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, said company spokesman Sebastian White.
He said a few flights also were affected at New York's LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, and Boston's Logan International Airport. In addition, the airline had canceled 15 flights Thursday night, White said.
The storm is expected to dump more than a foot of snow on parts of the Northeast.
The airline has been under pressure to do better in bad weather since passengers were stranded in planes at Kennedy for up to 10 1/2 hours during a storm last month. JetBlue was unable to resume normal operations for days afterward because flight crews weren't where they were supposed to be.
White said Friday's cancellations were intended to ensure that crews would be available where needed, and that departure gates would be free in case weather forced planes to return, he said.
"We're hopeful the plans we have in place will be effective and allow us to recover quickly," he said early Friday.
JetBlue has been striving to regain customers' esteem since a Feb. 14 snow and ice storm left hundreds of passengers marooned on parked planes at Kennedy. The airline had hoped to get through the storm without canceling flights, but later acknowledged it waited too long to ask airport authorities for help getting passengers off the stranded planes.
"We've always tried to take a wait-and-see approach with the weather ... believing that people want to get to their destination late, rather than never," White said Friday. But since the Feb. 14 storm — and the maelstrom of complaints that followed — JetBlue has had "a shift in thinking," he said.
The airline pre-emptively canceled 66 flights on Feb. 26 because of snow. JetBlue representatives said the strategy succeeded in making sure the airline could resume normal service quickly, though some passengers expressed frustration.
In the last month, JetBlue also has unveiled a customer bill of rights that promises vouchers to passengers who experience delays. The airline also ran full-page newspaper advertisements apologizing to customers about the Valentine's Day problems.
Passengers whose flights were canceled Friday were offered refunds or a chance to rebook travel through April 30 without paying a fee for the change, White said.
New York-based JetBlue Airways Corp. normally operates about 600 flights a day to various destinations in the United States, Bermuda and the Caribbean.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.