JetBlue has faced its own set of problems while the nation struggles to overcome the polar vortex sweeping down from the north. Thousands of stranded passengers wait for a ride home, while pilots rest, complying with the new regulations.
On Monday, JetBlue cancelled all their flights arriving and departing from New York City and Boston, two of the busiest airports in America and JetBlue’s center for substantial operations, when the polar vortex blasted through the area bringing with it plummeting temperature and blowing snow forcing delays and cancellations. By Monday afternoon, JetBlue cancelled 425 flights, making up half of the day’s business. Logan Airport in Boston was the home to passengers stranded for two days. People in rumpled clothes could be seen sleeping in hallways, chairs and cots the airport erected for their comfort. JetBlue canceled an additional 120 flights for Tuesday.
While Southwest airlines’ spokesperson, Brad Hawkins, reported Southwest is posed to begin its normal schedule on Tuesday, JetBlue spokesperson, Tamara Young, reported a different story regarding JetBlue and the frustration the passengers waiting while pilots rested were feeling. Operations have been suspended in New York City, including Kennedy, La Guardia and Newark, New Jersey, because the weather forecast are predicting flash freezing and below zero temperatures and pilots need to rest.
Young went on to say that the new pilot rest guidelines that are in place and have hampered JetBlue’s ability to maintain the usual schedule. The new Federal Aviation Administration rules, which began on Saturday, have set rigid guidelines to ensure passenger safety and to prevent pilot fatigue. A mandatory rest period of at least ten hours is required before a flight, 2 hours more over the previous 8 hour break. In addition, the pilots must have the liberty of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep during their 10 hour break.According to Michael Huerta, Federal Aviation Administrator, this is the first time in two decades the pilot regulations have been scrutinized and rewritten.
Young stated, while the new FAA regulations were a factor in the flight delays, other issues also hampered JetBlue’s ability to service their customers. Flights delayed due to the weather prevented flights being completed during their allotted time, forcing pilots into their required 10 hour rest period, causing further delays and scheduling nightmares and forcing passengers to wait while pilots rest.
JetBlue has defended the decision to cancel flights for over 17 hours in 4 major airports, however compensation is on the way for the passenger who were inconvenienced the most. Chief Operating Officer for JetBlue, Rob Maruster stated the protection of its aircraft and personnel from the arctic temperatures and harsh conditions which could lead to icy conditions on the runways, led to the decision to ground the flights.
Maruster stated JetBlue was not against the new pilot regulations, but wonders if the implementation of the new laws would have been better in the spring when weather and busy holiday travel would not lend problems. approximately, 150,000 people were effected by JetBlue’s cancelled and delayed flights, according to Maruster, the company plans to contact many of those with numerous cancellations to apologize and discuss possible compensation even though airlines are not responsible for flight delays due to inclement weather.
Maruster added, the airline has added extra flights to Barbados and San Juan, where significant numbers of passengers continue to wait while pilots continue to rest. JetBlue problems continue as shares for JetBlue Airways Corporation dropped $0.39 cents, closing at $8.66 a share, the largest percentage drop for a major American airline.
by Deborah Baran