There are lots of questions and comments about the incident onboard Flight 191 yesterday (the details of which are now a matter of FBI investigation) and what protocol we have in place for such scenarios. Here are the top 10 questions we’re getting and the facts as we know them:
1. You’re saying it’s a “medical situation” but isn’t it a security issue?
Initial reports indicated that Flight 191 was diverting to Amarillo due to a medical situation. As the events unfolded, it became clear that security was also an element of this episode, but not the overriding issue in our opinion. The FBI has said terrorism is not a factor in this incident.
2. What happened to the pilot? What was the health issue?
Although we do not know at this time what caused the pilot’s actions, the Captain is currently under the care of medical professionals and out of respect for his privacy, we won’t share further details about his private life.
3. Do we know what caused this?
We’re not privy to that information – but hope and trust he is getting the care he needs and we are offering our support to him and his family. We would like to acknowledge the professional and immediate action of the First Officer, the off-duty Captain, and the Inflight Crew – their focus was on the safety of the customers on board, and we believe they handled the situation perfectly.
4. How badly could things have gone if the Captain remained in or returned to the flight deck?
We think it would be inappropriate to speculate on what might have happened. We are confident in the procedures in place by the industry as well as at JetBlue that ensured a safe landing. Our Flight and Inflight crewmembers are trained to handle situations with the safety of the customers and crew onboard as their first priority, and to call upon customers for help when needed. Our aircraft are built with redundancies to protect the flight deck.
JetBlue was actually the first airline to install bullet-proof hardened cockpit doors, which are coded and virtually impenetrable. When the flight crew inside the deck close and lock that door, no one can get in.
5. What would have happened if there hadn’t been an off-duty Captain on the flight to step in?
Both Captains and First Officers are trained to fly our aircraft. Our First Officer was the pilot in command yesterday (in control of the aircraft from takeoff to landing) and the off-duty Captain stepped in to help.
6. What is the health screening for pilots/employees?
We’re fully compliant with the FAA mandate that all pilots under the age of 40 receive an annual health screening, and twice annually for those over the age of 40.
7. Do you have any resources for JetBlue crewmembers in distress?
JetBlue offers a peer-assist program for our Pilots and LifeSolutions, an employee assistance program, for all crewmembers. Crewmembers are also able, and expected, to call a safety time-out should they need it, and the company will support them 100%.
8. Have you done anything for the customers on board?
We’re extremely grateful to the customers who assisted with onboard security, and to all of the customers for following crewmember instructions. We communicated directly with all customers onboard Flight 191 Tuesday upon their arrival in Las Vegas, including a hand-delivered letter detailing their compensation: a refund for their one-way fare as well as a voucher for twice the value of their original ticket. In addition, members of our Care Team and local leadership from Long Beach, CA flew in to Amarillo yesterday to ensure that all customers were taken care of, and our leadership as well as our Customer Support Team are reaching out to each customer individually today to check on them.
9. What about the crew? Have you done anything for them?
The crew has been given time off and we are making all resources available to them. They have our thanks and appreciation for the professional handling of this situation.
10. Do we have anything to say to the customers that came forward to assist?
We’re sorry they were put in that situation, but are so thankful for their efforts. What the customers did to help our inflight crew was amazing and we really appreciate their efforts, and also the cooperation of everyone on board – it contributed to the safe landing.