Welcome to the first edition of a new monthly column, A Tale of Blue Cities, authored by our very talented and witty Diane, a curriculum developer at JetBlue University down in Orlando. Each month, Diane will share warm and fuzzy stories from her experiences at JetBlue and flying the network. In this first edition, she reminisces on her work to assist colleagues impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
An Unexpected Holiday Gift
As a JetBlue crewmember, I am not unique. We have thousands of crewmembers who go out of their way each day to go the extra mile for our customers. It’s what we do.
That is why I am honored to have been part of a special team of crewmembers who were deployed by JetBlue in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to help those within our own company.
As the storm was decimating parts of New York and New Jersey, our leadership team and the Care and Emergency Response department identified thousands of crewmembers who lived in the affected areas. At the same time, a call went out to a group of Florida-based crewmembers who are part of our specially trained Care team. As Care team members, we are trained to facilitate the needs of customers in the event of an emergency.
But this deployment was different – this time we were helping our own.
Within hours of the storm, an emergency response center was established at the JetBlue training center in Orlando as Care team members from all parts of Florida arrived ready to begin what would become a two week outreach assignment contacting New York and New Jersey based JetBlue crewmembers to determine their status. Florida was chosen because it was out of the storm zone.
As images of storm ravaged areas flashed across the command center’s TV screen, we began amassing a database of crewmembers who had lost everything and now had no place to live, no food, no clothes and no car.
Working with our Crew Travel department, we started moving people to local hotels and some as far away as Westchester, just to find them shelter. We sent electronic gift cards to people’s smart phones so they could buy some necessities. Our Supply Chain, Materials and Technical operations teams delivered generators and gas to people who had no power. And in the command center, as resources for crewmembers were discovered, the energy in the room would become electric.
“I have a hotel with four rooms available.” Someone would call out. “There’s a gas station in Queens that has gas available and only a fifteen minute wait.” “Does anyone know where there are extra uniforms available?”
By the second day, it was apparent that we had a significant number of crewmembers who had lost it all. But the cavalry had arrived. The JetBlue Crewmember Crisis fund, a charitable fund established for crewmembers and funded by crewmembers had started distributing cash grants into crewmembers’ bank accounts. Counselors were available to talk to anyone in crisis. Crewmembers throughout the company donated extra uniform pieces and clothes and gift cards and made special donations to JCCF. Some crewmember groups donated the money allocated for their holiday parties. And all wished they could do more, because that’s what families do for each other.
For the thirty five or so Care Team members who worked long hours and rode the emotional roller coaster with our crewmembers in need, it was a labor of love. We became their sounding board, their lifeline, and their counselors and in some cases their hope that things WOULD get better. I don’t know that any of us realized the impact our work would have on us, but united in our efforts, we became bonded together – knowing that we had been given a rare opportunity to be there for others in a big way.
I have always been proud to be a JetBlue crewmember, but never prouder than when I saw the company’s response to helping its own. My fellow Care team members showed tremendous dedication, empathy and heart; they worked tirelessly and selflessly and they established relationships with their fellow crewmembers that will last long after the storm has become a distant memory. I am grateful and humbled to be in their company.
My work with our Care team has given me a new perspective on what’s really important in my life. I have been given the best gift I can possibly receive this holiday season – the gift of gratitude.
Having met some of our affected crewmembers, I want to express my gratitude to our leadership team, our crewmembers who deliver the JetBlue experience every day and to our customers, who choose to fly with us and make it possible for us to do what we love. Happy holidays and safe travels. Here’s hoping the New Year brings new hope and a new beginning for all those impacted by Hurricane Sandy.