JetBlue Airways rolled out a customer bill of rights Tuesday that promises vouchers to fliers who experience delays in a move it hopes will win back passengers after an operational meltdown damaged its brand and stock price.
JetBlue customers will be compensated based on the length of the delays. The vouchers range from $25 to the full amount of the ticket. The delays include airplanes unable to taxi to the gate within 30 minutes and flight departures held up for a minimum of three hours, according to a program copy provided to The Associated Press.
If JetBlue cancels a flight within 12 hours of its departure, customers can ask for a full refund or a voucher. JetBlue said passengers would also receive vouchers if flight delays are the airline's fault.
JetBlue also vowed to deplane passengers if an aircraft is delayed on the ground for five hours.
The airline said it expected to be fully operational Tuesday after a sequence of events led to the canceling of hundreds of flights and tarnished the reputation of JetBlue, known for its low fares and exceptional customer service.
Snow and extreme temperatures last week froze equipment and grounded the company's planes at JetBlue's terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, stranding passengers inside the aircraft for up to 10 1/2 hours.
JetBlue said it waited too long to call for help in getting the passengers off the planes because it hoped the weather would let up and the flights would be able to proceed.
The bad-weather delays and cancellations led to customer questions and complaints that overwhelmed the company's reservations system, and many of its pilots and flight crews wound up stuck in places other than where they were needed.
When the bad weather struck Feb. 14, JetBlue didn't have a system in place for so many stranded flight crews to call in and be rerouted to their next assignments, something it was working to rectify within a few weeks.
Since then, David G. Neeleman, JetBlue's founder and chief executive, has been making the media rounds, trying to convince people - investors and customers - that the airline will recover.
The service breakdown "was absolutely painful to watch," he said Monday.
JetBlue's shares fell more than 6 percent in morning trading Tuesday.
One travel expert suggested the airline had brought the crisis on itself by trying too hard to accommodate its passengers.
"Most airlines don't try to operate when there is an ice storm problem - they've learned that it's better to cancel all flights at the outset and then try to get back to normal operations as quickly as possible," David Stempler, president of the Washington-based, member-supported Air Travelers Association, told The Associated Press on Monday.
"JetBlue tried to do their best - tried to keep the system rolling," he said. "Their heart was in the right place, but their head was not."
Associated Press writer Deepti Hajela in New York contributed to this report.
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