Why Did JetBlue Fail?

In all the brouhaha over JetBlue stranding passengers on airplanes for hours last Wednesday, one thing I haven’t seen explained until now is why this specifically happened to JetBlue. Usually when we hear a story like this, it’s at a major hub airport like Detroit that’s primarily served by one airline. JFK is a hub for JetBlue, but unlike Detroit or Atlanta, JetBlue is hardly the only airline with a lot of planes there. What did JetBlue do wrong that other airlines at JFK didn’t? The New York Times seems to have figured that out. In brief:

  • Other airlines canceled more flights sooner due to the weather.
  • Communications within the company broke down. Pilots and flight attendants were not able to get assignments.
  • The reservation system was overloaded so passengers could not get through to humans.

A lot of this is blamed on both the rapid growth and low cost structure of JetBlue. They hadn’t built enough slack into their systems to handle an event like this.

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