With a string of abysmal weather around its biggest airports during the holiday travel season, JetBlue has been dealt a rotten hand this week.
After cancelling hundreds of flights, the airline has passengers stranded all over the place and is struggling to get its crews, planes, and passengers where they should be.
And now, with exceptionally cold weather heading to the Northeast, it has stopped nearly all flights into and out of New York and Boston airports until Tuesday morning.
Despite the bad weather, many of the JetBlue customers stranded in Barbados, some of whom may not make it home until the weekend, blame the airline for mishandling the situation and keeping them in the dark.
New York-based dermatologist Tabasum Mir was supposed to fly out of Barbados at 2:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon, but the plane from New York didn’t even arrive until about 9 p.m. in the evening. Passengers had checked in and gone through security, and it was only via the airline’s iPhone app that some passengers found out the flight had been cancelled, Mir told Business Insider.
Another traveller, Brookes Moody, said JetBlue “did not give a specific reason [for the cancellation] over the loud speaker, but the staff said it was due to the flight crew clocking out — not because of the weather conditions, or backups at JFK.”
A JetBlue spokesperson said its efforts have been complicated by new FAA rules, which limit the number of consecutive hours pilots can fly, that went into effect on Saturday, making it harder to schedule extra flights to get people home and planes and crew in position.
Once the flight was canceled, travellers say JetBlue was unhelpful.
“Staying at the airport wasn’t an option. Everyone had to leave the terminal — which took a while because that time of night there was no immigration officer on duty,” Moody said.
Mir said passengers were given back their immigration slips one at a time, forcing some to wait for about an hour.
Things were not much better the next morning. Passengers were told a flight would leave around 10 a.m. in the morning and that they should be at the airport by 8 a.m., Moody said. But no JetBlue employees appeared at the airport until after 8 a.m..
Once everyone had checked in and passed through security, Moody said, they finally got some good information from the pilot, who explained that they were delayed because a plane had skidded off the runway at JFK, shutting down the airport for a few hours.
But “even then,” Moody said, “the Jet Blue authorities were unapologetic and seemed reluctant to be held accountable for any of the snafus.”
“There was virtually no Jet Blue presence at the airport. And no, they weren’t helpful when they were around.”
She posted this photo of travellers waiting at the airport on Sunday:
Like most airlines, JetBlue usually doesn’t pay for accommodations for passengers stranded by weather events. Mir said JetBlue didn’t pay for anything, but “luckily we were staying at a friends [sic] villa.”
The airline did cover the $US1,700 hotel cost for Moody and her family. Rabia de Lande Long, who has been stuck in Grand Cayman since her Saturday flight was cancelled, told Business Insider her hotel costs were also covered.
At least Mir and Moody made it back to New York by late Sunday afternoon. In an email Sunday evening, Alissa Myrick told Business Insider that she and her 6-year-old daughter were supposed to fly back to on Friday, and hadn’t made it home yet. They had been put standby on the Saturday flight that was cancelled.
They are now are confirmed for a trip home on January 10 — a full week late.
Asked about the situation in Barbados, a JetBlue spokesperson said “we are prioritizing adding extra North Bound sections to get customers back from the Caribbean.”
But now that JetBlue is stopping nearly all flights into and out of New York and Boston airports until Tuesday morning, the situation isn’t getting any better.
“I realise people joke about it not being so bad being stranded in Barbados,” Myrick said. “But people have to work and go to school.”
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