“We lost control.”
—David Neeleman, CEO, JetBlue
David Neeleman could have benefited from the business common sense of old-timers like Frank Watts who had seen everything once and done it twice.
In the words of aviation consultant Tim Sieber, general manager of the Boyd Group, “There’s a lot more gray hair at older airlines than at JetBlue.”
David Neeleman and his young Turks ignored two laws:
Law #1 was Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Law #2 is what happens when Newton’s Third Law of Motion is ignored over and over again: “The Domino Effect.”
(To see the domino effect in action, visit http://tinyurl.com/35dx2h)
What follows is the sequence of events:
* It all started with a seven-year-old airline that did not believe in canceling flights, figuring that customers would rather get where they are going even if they are late than not get there at all. As a result, JetBlue had one of the lowest flight cancellation rates.
* On Valentine’s Day, Wednesday, February 14, an ice storm hit and the National Weather Service issued severe warnings. Virtually all airlines in the affected areas cancelled flights, sent passengers and crews home and contacted other passengers that could be reached to warn them not to show up. As a result, these airlines were back up and running in two days with a minimum loss of money and inconvenience to passengers.
* JetBlue management believed that the weather would break and that they would be keeping customers happy by flying, and itself happy with the inflow of revenue.
* Some JetBlue planes took off. Others pushed back from the gates and were stranded on runways, including the nine jets where passengers were imprisoned for between six and 10 hours.
* Those flights that were stranded for 10 hours would not have been allowed to take off, because pilots’ time in the cockpit exceeded the limits under FAA work rules.