Most organizations I’ve come into contact with aspire to one of two things:
– Leapfrogging the competition to become the premier player in their category
– Doing everything possible to maintain their status as top dog in the industry.
So, it comes as more than a surprise to see one of America’s top airlines, JetBlue, abandon many of the key differentials that made it a high-flying, beloved carrier with an almost cult-like following and an A-plus rating on any customer satisfaction survey.
That’s right, Virginia, those days are gone with the wind. As Joe Brancatelli explains in his recent article, JetBlue management caved to the pressures from Wall Street analysts who wanted to see the airline deliver far higher profit levels a la American, Delta and United (Boo!).
So, say good-bye to:
– Checking one free bag of luggage
– Comfy seats offering 34 inches of legroom
– Any semblance of innovative, cutting-edge ideas.
And, say hello to:
– Fifteen more seats on each of JetBlue’s Airbus A320s. Can you say crammed?
– The introduction of slim-line seats which Brancatelli describes as “thinner, lighter, rock hard and stripped of most cushions and padding.” Ouch!
– A “refresh” of the airline’s already ageing fleet (as opposed to investing in new planes). To the savvy traveler, the word refresh translates to maintenance delays.
– And, oh yeah, paying for your checked bags.
So, in one fell swoop, JetBlue has abandoned what made it so special in order to chase the almighty dollar. But, at what price?
I’m not a big believer in alienating customers and I can’t think of many recent examples of top-ranked companies who abandoned the very strategy that got them there in the first place.
When customers got wind of what JetBlue was planning, the airline responded by saying, “Trust us.” I believe Captain John Smith of the RMS Titanic and George Armstrong Custer used similar expressions in the North Atlantic and Little Big Horn, respectively.
Instead of the oh-so-sketchy ‘trust us’ promise, I suggest instead a new tagline: “JetBlue is now a me, too.” That most certainly will manage customer expectations moving forward.
I love Jet Blah, Hayes. You always were the wordsmith.
Could not agree more, Steve. Sadly typical of so-called “strategic” decisions made by CFO’s and their bankers. Right up there with “New Coke!”
Truly visionary leaders change the game vs. gaming the system at the expense of brand equity built up through 20 years of hard effort, differentiated service and consistent delivery. Welcome to Jet Blah.
I’d agree @JetBlue’s decision may not be catastrophic, but alienating large numbers of loyal customers isn’t part of any success formula I’ve ever heard heard of either.
It’s a shame as not that long ago I was finally flying JetBlue a lot more often than the horrid United. They announced the changes just before we flew to San Diego for Thanksgiving. It’s too early to compare this to Little Big Horn and the HMS Titanic. Still, it’s sad when a leader steps down to join the pack.