When a family was removed from a Boston-bound JetBlue flight on Feb. 18 after a 2-year-old child refused to sit and fasten her seat belt, the story initially failed to make national headlines. But now, as the New England, New York and national media are calling more attention to it, JetBlue's PR staff has been forced to deal with the din of criticism.
First, in a March 7 statement to NBC 10, JetBlue said, "Flight 850...had customers that did not comply with crew member instructions for a prolonged time period. The captain elected to remove the customers involved for the safety of all customers and crew members on board." Federal aviation regulations, of course, require all passengers to be seated and buckled in before a plane can legally take off.
The JetBlue captain made a judgment call—a polarizing one at that—but one which was within his rights and which had to be made. It likely pleased some passengers on board, while making others passengers shake their heads and ask, "What is JetBlue thinking?" However, not every decision a company makes—whether it's an airline or not, can be a popular one.
JetBlue addressed the issue head-on in its BlueTales blog in a post dated March 9. After explaining the FAA's seat belt rules, JetBlue said it was not simply hiding behind regulations. "Even if we weren’t mandated by the FAA, we agree that when a plane is in motion, like any motor vehicle, seat belts should be buckled, and our inflight crew members need to be confident that everyone on board can comply with this safety regulation," said the post.
To counter accusations that it is not a family-friendly airline, JetBlue wrote, "Our inflight crew members are well-trained to accommodate the diversity that we see. It’s when safety comes into question that we have to act quickly and boldly, in order to ensure the safest possible experience for all of our customers."
While JetBlue's blog post proves the company is not tone deaf and is listening to the concerns of passenger mistreatment, it may be missing a communications opportunity by not directly addressing the critical comments that are piling up on the JetBlue Facebook page, or even posting a link the blog post. The JetBlue Facebook page says that "conversation is welcome" but, so far, the conversation has been one-directional—from customers to the company.
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