Monday, September 26, 2005

JetBlue: A Bad Day Becomes Good

Is a plane crash good for an airline? Never.

Well, make that “ALMOST never.”

The recent emergency landing of JetBlue flight 292 Wednesday, Sept. 21, in Los Angeles may prove to be a windfall of sorts for the airline.

The reason is the “color commentary” of cable network newscasters who covered the plane’s three-hour ordeal live.

One MSNBC commentator noted that, “if you’ve ever flown JetBlue, you know” that the airline has no business class, since “they like to treat all passengers as if they are in first class.”

One TV network mentioned that all seats in the plane are leather.

USA Today noted, “JetBlue airliners have satellite television monitors installed in the backs of seats.” (Surreally, passengers watched their ordeal live on CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC until minutes before the landing.)

Yes, you CAN buy advertising like this - but why bother, when it’s free?

Had this plane crashed, and had it not had a masterful pilot (who, noted another network gabber, landed *exactly* on the center line of the runway) this story would be quite different, of course.

But as it was, even JetBlue’s stock weathered the storm, opening sharply lower on the NASDAQ Thursday only to roar back higher than before the incident by day’s end.

The news was so good, a news release sent out the following day by CEO David Neeleman was left free to praise the professionalism of the pilot and crew, and note how the airline had cared for the passengers.

Obviously, this was “unearned” publicity. But clearly, a commitment to quality and the predisposition of TV talking heads to praise the airline’s service and now “near”-perfect safety record made all the difference in how this company was perceived in a time of crisis.

The message here is clear: Laying the groundwork now through good service and high quality can make all the difference later, when good will and positive messages really matter.

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