perils of improper planning - a Jet Blue Experience

My friend Beth always says “Proper planning prevents poor performance.”  How I wish Jet Blue Airlines was friends with Beth….  I am sure that the hundred of thousands of people that suffered, and continue to suffer as a result of Jet Blue’s improper planning would agree with me.

Wednesday morning, New Year’s Day, the Nor’easter named Hercules was all over the news.  As the Daily Beast wrote, “Hercules had the the ingredients—fluffy flakes, strong winds, and record-low temps—to virtually shutdown everything from Boston to New York”.  The weather reports varied slightly but Hercules was due to hit the New York area by mid-afternoon Thursday.

After experiencing the impacts of major destruction to our home, lives, and community due to Hurricane Sandy, my husband and I heed storm warnings.  We follow Beth’s advise.  We properly plan!

Twenty-five members of my family, from various states, were ticketed to fly to Florida between Friday evening and Saturday morning.  We were all headed down south to attend a 60th birthday celebration for my husband’s brother and one of his childhood best friends.  This was a once in a lifetime experience, which took month’s in the making to orchestrate and was connecting generations of family and friends.  Let’s not even mention the financial cost involved.

Needless to say, when news of the storm first appeared everyone was concerned.  My husband and I woke up early New Years Day and immediately logged on to Jet Blue.  We saw that they had issued an advisory alerting travelers that they would waive change fees for Friday travel if you booked prior.  I immediately called Jet Blue to get more information for us and for our group.

There were limited flight options prior to Friday, and the timing of when the storm was actually going to start was still unknown.  “You have one shot to make a change,” warned the sweet woman I spoke to at Jet Blue.  “So if you are not sure what you want to do, why don’t you wait a little while.  Normally, depending on how many people rebook, we extend the waivers.  That way you can fly out on Saturday and completely avoid the storm. Everything should be fine by then.”

Based upon her advice we waited.  Sure enough by 12:30 in the afternoon, New Year’s Day, Jet Blue allowed us to switch our flight to Saturday AM.  My husband and I immediately made this change as did four other family members.

Nervously, I continued to obsessively watch Jet Blue’s flight status.  By mid-day Thursday delays began to be posted.  Jet Blue and other airlines began to cancel flights for Friday.  I was thrilled that we chose to switch our flight to Saturday.  We didn’t have to worry.  We’d make it!  But I continued to worry about my other family members who were traveling on Thursday evening, especially as I watched the delays mount.  Some of these people were elderly!

Hercules was a bad snowstorm.  About a foot of snow fell in some areas, but by Friday evening all was clean.  Our flight was scheduled to depart at 9 AM on Saturday.  My husband, niece, and I woke up early.  We wanted to make sure to give ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport and through security.   Before we left the house, my husband checked his emails. “You got to be kidding me!” he exclaimed. “Our flight was cancelled!”

I didn’t believe him. I thought he was joking. After all it was a beautiful sunny day with absolutely no wind.  I logged on to Jet Blue and sure enough flight number 1701 was cancelled. It was the ONLY one that was cancelled between JFK and Fort Lauderdale. The 901 flight, scheduled to depart at 8:09 was available. I immediately grabbed the phone to contact them.  We fortunately live close to the airport.  We could make the 901 or the 001 which was due to depart at 10:21 and get into Florida at 1:25.  Hey, for that matter there were a lot of flights we could take and still get to the party.

My husband contacted the other members of our family we were traveling with to alert them to the situation.  As I held onto the phone I tried to check flight availability.  There was nothing available for Saturday or Sunday even.  I thought this was a mistake.  It wasn’t.

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