February 10, 2010

Who’s afraid of a little snow?

Certainly not JetBlue!  We like making snowmen and having snowball fights with other airlines.

But ice? That’s a different story.  We won’t even invite ice to one of our parties.

JetBlue today canceled most flights to and from New York City due to winter weather conditions. Today’s forecast calls for mixed precipitation ranging from freezing rain turning to sleet and snow, and here’s what that does to airplanesIcy conditions are nasty business for aviation.

With the forecast calling for icy conditions throughout the day, we decided to cancel flights rather than wait-and-see with our customers in the airports.  Why?  Because on the suckiness scale, getting a call that your flight is canceled while you’re still at home, at a hotel, or at your family or friend’s house is a lot better than getting up early, going to the airport and waiting for hours with the possibility of flight cancellation to come. Still sucks. Just a little less.

So we’re essentially closing up shop for the day – a decision that’s definitely not made lightly.  Unfortunately, when airlines cancel a high number of flights in a day, they will have a few more to cancel the next day because aircraft and flight crews are out of position.  All of the decisions we’re making about today’s operation are also taking into account tomorrow’s, and Friday’s operation.  We will keep those roll-over cancellations to a minimum, but we’re still likely going to see a few more.

You may be wondering why we can’t just stop the airline, park the planes where they’re supposed to be, and make sure the pilots and inflight crewmembers are in a local hotel and ready to go when the airline wakes up on Thursday.  That would work if we could park aircraft overnight in the cities affected by weather, but we try to avoid that.  Ice would build up on the wings overnight and it would take hours to deice all of the aircraft we normally start the day with at New York’s JFK, let alone Boston, Washington’s Dulles and the Mid-Atlantic cities.  So we put those planes in warmer weather ports for the night to get them to the frozen North first thing in the morning the day after the storm, then start the operation from that point.

Also: Flight crews have strict duty periods, which means after they are on duty for a certain period of time, they must go on mandatory rest.  This is a safety rule and one we happily watch like a hawk.  However it’s impossible to position enough crews before a storm in order to have a perfect recovery after the storm.  So, sometimes a crew will have to go on a rest period but we don’t have another crew positioned at that city, and we have to cancel a flight.  That means that even if the sun is shining, we could still have weather-related delays and cancellations due to crew issues.

We really wanted to get our customers to their holiday weekend destinations.  But you don’t mess with Mother Nature.

If your flight was canceled, you can rebook it through Feb. 28, or get a credit for the value that is valid for one year, or get a refund.  Please call us at 800-JETBLUE (800-538-2583) to make that happen.

Thank you and stay warm!

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