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Can JetBlue get its operation together in time for summer?

April 26, 2022
4 min read
Can JetBlue get its operation together in time for summer?
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It's been a difficult start to spring for JetBlue.

The airline has seen severe impacts to its operation throughout April, with more than 2,200 flights canceled and over 10,400 delayed, according to FlightAware — that's a cancelation rate of 9%, and a delay rate of 41%, with average delay times ranging from 40 minutes to two hours.

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While operational disruption is something that every airline faces from time to time, the current issues have been exacerbated by surging travel demand as pandemic restrictions lift. With few empty seats on flights and tight schedules leaving little slack in the system — especially for low-cost and smaller airlines with tighter margins — it's been more difficult to recover from these disruptions, leaving passengers whose flights have been canceled potentially stranded for days.

The problem has become severe enough that the Air Line Pilots Association, the union which represents JetBlue pilots, took the unusual step of issuing a statement blaming a specific non-chief-level executive at the airline, head of airports and system operations Alex Battaglia.

"Battaglia was moved to his current position of head of Airports and System Operations in August 2021," the union said in a press release. "However, since then, JetBlue’s reputation among its customers has plummeted."

For pilots, the issues extend to difficulty finding hotel rooms when they become stranded away from home or planned destinations due to weather or other disruptions.

Pilots are "consistently unable to reach Crew Services in a timely manner for purposes of managing their schedules and responding to disruptions and irregular operations, which has compounded and extended operational delays on countless occasions,” JetBlue pilot leadership said in a "no confidence" resolution passed this week.

The reputational hit cited by the pilots has been evident in recent weeks, with headlines in New York and Boston — JetBlue's two key hubs — repeatedly questioning the airline's capabilities and standing.

The airline, for its part, has said it's working aggressively to get the operation back on track.

On Tuesday, JetBlue announced several steps to fix things, adding to previously discussed plans to cut 8-10% of flights from its summer schedule to allow more slack in the system.

The airline reduced its growth forecast for 2022, planning to grow its capacity 0-5% compared to 2019 levels, down from previous plans for 11-15% growth.

The revised growth plans, compared with summer schedule cuts, means that the airline's aircraft utilization will be down 10-15% compared to 2019, theoretically creating more buffer room to make up for disruptions throughout a given day.

"JetBlue is a growth airline, and we want nothing more than to bring our unique combination of low fares and award-winning service to more customers," chief operating officer Joanna Geraghty said in a statement. "However, by taking a more conservative approach to growth, we can bring resiliency to our operation and ensure our crewmembers – who are the best in the industry – come to work each day set up for success."

In a press release, the airline said it would also increase pilot training and recruitment in order to make up for training delays caused by the omicron outbreak earlier this year, as well as increased attrition caused by pilots leaving to accept jobs at other airlines, although it did not address the cause of those attrition rates.

Addressing complaints of long wait times from stranded customers, the airline said it would continue hiring more reservations agents, while "improving self-service capabilities on its website to offer customers additional options to make changes without calling."

"We recognize that we have to pivot this year," JetBlue chief financial officer Ursula Hurley said during a call with investors on Tuesday. "We can now take advantage of the reduced growth outlook to pursue other opportunities."

Featured image by Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases