Someone here needs to take a bullet

I once worked for a woman whose favorite expression in times of crisis was, ‘Someone here needs to take a bullet.’ And, sure enough, she and her lieutenants would decide which staff member would fall on his or her sword, accept blame for the latest client servicing debacle and, in effect, take a bullet. Neeleman_3

Yesterday, Bill Neeleman took a bullet for JetBlue’s ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre.’ The image-tarnished airline’s founder and CEO was forced to step down by the board. It was a good move since Neeleman is so closely associated with the company’s horrific anticipation of, and response to, a nasty Winter storm that crippled his carrier’s service and wreaked havoc on tens of thousands of passengers.

Switching the top dog of a damaged organization, though, is usually nothing more than a superficial gesture. And, in this case, Neeleman is really just being kicked upstairs to a chairman’s job.

I’m convinced that JetBlue will never win back its lost customers or its once-stellar reputation. At the time I first made that statement, many pushed back and said I was wrong. But, in my mind, JetBlue has become a generic term in the crisis communications dictionary that paints an immediate visual image of tired, angry passengers stuck on planes for nine hours or more while an inept airline management struggles to figure out what to do. Sadly, no amount of advertising or viral marketing will ever overcome that image. JetBlue has become the Enron of airlines. And, yesterday, Bill Neeleman took a bullet for the screw-up.

Don’t be surprised if new CEO Dave Barger’s first move is a name change. Americans will never forgive JetBlue, but so many of our fellow citizens are out-of-touch and unmindful of current events that a name change might be just the ticket for JetBlue to escape its current turbulence, find some smoother airspace and, perhaps, enable Dave Barger to avoid a future bullet aimed in his direction.

10 thoughts on “Someone here needs to take a bullet

  1. lunch idiot- you really are an idiot, and now i dont have to assume that, i know it. even if i wanted to shell out the cash to sit the family in first class, it just wouldnt happen. if you ever leave pr and have the fortune to make real money, you might try and fly first class. and when you do, you will notice most, if not all, of the people are business people, looking to catch some sleep or do some work or both. they dont want kids next to them-period. i cant remember a single flight when i saw a child in first class.
    so yes, when i fly for business, i try and make use of the flight. when i fly with the family, its coach, and i try and make my kids as comfortable as possible.
    but thanks for showing us all what a true moron you are. and stop hiding behind the lunch boy moniker…try being a real man (err, boy).

  2. Hey Repman, what PR advice would you give to a widely accessible media executive who has established himself with a bad public reputation (“Badrepman,” for short)? Badrepman repeatedly takes public positions–related to Badrepman’s specific area of purported expertise–that are consistently proven to be wrong, uniformed or logically inconsistent.

  3. First Med Supply Guy says that he wouldn’t fly Jet Blue for business becuase it lacks first class seating and upgrades. You also mention how you can throw your child infront of a TV screen while on board.
    Your last post talks about $39 flights.
    So, should us posters think that you throw family in the cheap seats, have the TV on for Junior, and when possible us first class for yourself?
    Well, at least I no longer have to assume things about you. Now I know.

  4. I-man, try taking the same poll next winter when an ice and snow storm is approaching the NYC area and see what response you get. As President W tried to say, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’ People will stay away from JetBlue in record numbers come the first big storm of the season.

  5. Rep- I got to say you are taking a beating on this one- even the lunch boy hasn’t come to the rescue. By the way, I did your little experiment today and asked 10 random people at a golf course what was the first thing that came to mind when they heard “jet blue” and this is the breakdown:
    “TV in seats” by 5 people
    “Blue chips” 1
    “Delays, hours on a runway” 2
    “Friendly staff” 1
    “39 dollar flights”
    And I gotta tell you- that is pretty much what jet blue is about- so I guess people are getting jet blue’s message.
    I got your point, as did andrew and dr. Harte. Our point is that you are wrong here.

  6. Check it out Repman – you are definitely missing the point on this one. For some reason you are being as stubborn as our President on this one. I’ll bet you never flew Jet Blue. Any person who flies from NY to Florida and back during the winter as I have done for the past 3 years knows that it outshines its competitors by plenty. Not only are the employees well trained and polite (show me another airline which you can say that about, but the pilots themselves are highly visible. The seats are comfortable and the TV makes the trip shorter. You wouldn’t want to compete with them Dr. Cody.
    So, the CEO wasn’t prepared for the emergency that happened. Is the mayor of NYC always prepared. BTW, what happened to the other airlines when the storm hit? Anyway, ease up repman. Your stress level will go down

  7. OK, let’s agree to disagree. But, mark my words: Med Supply, Jr., and Andrew Foote IV will be learning all about the JetBlue crisis (and, how it undermined the company’s image, reputation and business model) in their 2023 university journalism/medical supplies courses.

  8. Med guy: you missed the point. JetBlue has become synonymous with bad flying examples. Do me a favor and stop 10 people walking along Teaneck Road today and ask them the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the name, JetBlue. Guarantee you hear the words “delays” and “disaster.”

  9. I have to agree with Med on this one, Rep. Beyond JetBlue’s stalled communication immediately following the crisis, they responded appropriately with an apology, the customer bill of rights, etc. Since then, I’ve heard many people echo Med’s sentiments: JetBlue is back on track and offering stellar service. JetBlue passengers are very much like Apple enthusiasts – they are loyal. If a company admits fault (which they did) and modifies its practices, consumers will forgive them. JetBlue may not be 5 stars, but they are a 3 star in a field of run-down, 1 star legacy carriers like Delta and American.

  10. you couldn’t be more wrong with this post. i have flown jet blue 2x since the valentines day debacle (hadnt flown them in 2 years prior) and the experience was great. the flight attendants (or whatever they are called) actually wore a smile, the flight landed early and many passengers in the terminal were saying how they now want to fly jet blue b/c “it couldnt possibly happen again with the microscope on.”
    what i was “surprised” about was a comment that pilot made when we landed early. he said “look what we can do when there is no ice on the ground” a lot of people were laughing and it all goes back to jet blue’s way of running their airline.
    the people that were stuck for 9 hours will never go back. the rest of us still enjoy bigger seats, tv’s for the kids, and one of the more pleasant flying experiences around. the only time i wouldnt use them would be for biz travel b/c there is no first class or upgrades.