Super Storm Sandy

The Northeastern part of the United States was recently met with a powerful hurricane that wreaked havoc across many communities. As a result of “Super Storm Sandy,” airlines that are based in or serve those areas were faced with countless cancelations and customer reaccommodations. JetBlue is an exceptional example of an airline that has the technology and know-how to plow through such a catastrophic event.

On Oct. 29, Hurricane Sandy (also dubbed Super Storm Sandy) hit New York City and the Northeastern seaboard of the United States, leaving a trail of devastation from floods, fire and widespread power outages.

Unfortunately, JetBlue Airways was severely impacted by the hurricane and was forced to cancel nearly 1,700 flights, affecting more than 160,000 customers. However, due to its proactive approach to passenger reaccommodation combined with its responsive social media team, JetBlue managed to maintain a good level of customer satisfaction despite the bad situation.

Airlines around the world are starting to take a more proactive approach to massive irregular operation management by canceling flights as early as possible and advising customers with necessary information. This keeps customers at home or in their hotel rooms versus in long lines at the airport.

Communities Devastated By Recent Hurricane

Super Storm Sandy ripped through New York City and the Northeastern Seaboard, leaving many families and residents without power and, in many instances, shelter and food. JetBlue Airways, along with Belgian Waffle truck Wafels & Dinges, worked tirelessly to provide hot meals for those in need.

For example, JetBlue began canceling flights on Oct. 27 for flights departing Oct. 28 through Oct. 30. The airline proactively notified customers throughout the week with specific itinerary updates and general information regarding its operations. Additionally, the carrier waived change fees for flights impacted by the storm, making it less costly for customers to get on new flights or cancel their travel plans entirely.

Technical automation is also enabling airlines to improve how they manage these events. Automating the rebooking process during an operational interruption helps airlines manage schedule changes for passengers, reducing the manual work needed and accomplishing rebooking in a more timely and cost-effective manner. JetBlue was better able to analyze, manage the operation and rebook passengers using the rebooking automation, customer value prioritization and what-if scenario features of IROPS Reaccommodation (from SabreSonic® Customer Sales & Service).

“Sabre Airline Solutions’ IROPS Reaccommodation solution was especially crucial for us during two major hurricanes in 2011 and 2012 — Hurricanes Irene and Sandy,” said Jill Chaston, JetBlue’s manager, crew support. “The automated rebooking capabilities provided our crewmembers and customers with the best solution possible so we could quickly accommodate customers based on their travel itinerary and proactively notify them of itinerary changes.” On Oct. 28 alone, the airline was able to process more than 68,000 passenger name records (PNRs) through the advanced technology.

JetBlue‘s approach to managing operations during Super Storm Sandy enabled its workforce to focus on what really mattered — its customers. While customers understand that an airline cannot control weather, they do know that airlines can control their response to an irregular event. Providing a positive experience in the midst of chaos can go a long way toward creating a customer who will be loyal for life.

By the same token, ignoring customers and using weather as an excuse to provide a poor experience can also cause an airline to lose a customer for life. In today‘s world of instant feedback via social media, focus on customer experience takes on a whole new dimension.

JetBlue Impacted By Hurricane Sandy

JetBlue Airways was among countless businesses in the New York City area affected by Super Storm Sandy late last year. The airline was forced to cancel almost 1,700 flights, which impacted more than 160,000 customers. However, through advanced technology and know-how, the airline minimized the impact to its customers by cancelling flights prior to the event and keeping in constant contact with its customers.

Airlines saw a huge increase in posts on both Twitter and Facebook during Super Storm Sandy, with JetBlue experiencing the largest increase in posts to its social media sites (283 percent increase on Facebook and 351 percent on Twitter). Despite this huge increase in social media traffic, JetBlue remained dedicated to responding to customers. As a result, it was ranked by Socialbakers (a provider of a leading global solution that enables brands to measure, compare and contrast the success of their social media campaigns) as the most “socially devoted” airline impacted by the storm. Its responsiveness paid off with customers who posted positive sentiments such as:

  • “Kudos to JetBlue! Call centers are crazy backed up, so they‘re managing today‘s insane flight cancellations/changes through [direct message] DM.”
  • “JetBlue is amazing and smart to be proactive in advance of Sandy. This is why everyone loves JetBlue!”
  • “JetBlue, I‘m impressed how you guys are handling Sandy on social media.”
  • “I love that JetBlue is using Frankenstorm hashtag “#TheCoolAirline.”
  • “JetBlue is the best airline I have ever flown. Especially through hurricanes. Getting me home was never this easy.”
  • “JetBlue, you are sending a trend communicating and trying to help your customers. Thanks for that!”
  • “It‘s been so great to witness JetBlue‘s very real and human assistance to travelers affected by the storm.”

JetBlue provided excellent customer service by canceling flights in advance and proactively notifying customers, using automated tools such as IROPS Reaccommodation to manage flight rebooking and communicating effectively with customers via social media. As a result, it has acquired customer loyalty, a valuable commodity in the airline industry.

IROPS Reaccommodation is a true end-to-end solution that automates the management and rebooking process during an irregular operation, providing a positive customer experience while managing costs. The solution is invaluable during minor irregular operations (such as thunderstorms and fog) and vital during significant irregular operations such as Super Storm Sandy.

With IROPS Reaccommodation, airlines can automate their end-to-end processes with key features that:

  • Dynamically calculate customer value for rebooking based on PNR attributes (derived from configurable airline values),
  • Generate revised origin/destination itineraries based on passenger value to the airline and then automatically rebook the PNRs,
  • Allow users to quickly evaluate multiple operational impacts including passenger displacement, rebooking scenarios and associated disruption costs using enhanced what-if capabilities prior to submitting the solution to em>,
  • Notify passengers of itinerary changes via SMS/text messages or email according to customer preference (with TripCase® Custom Messaging)
  • Automate the process to revalidate or exchange electronic tickets after reaccommodation.

IROPS Reaccommodation

See how you can minimize costs by automating the reaccommodation process during an irregular operation resulting in a strong customer experience.

In addition to taking exceptional care of its customers, JetBlue, despite its own hardship as a result of Sandy, banded together with some of New York‘s finest food trucks to provide hot meals to those communities most impacted by the hurricane.

Building on an existing relationship, JetBlue contacted Belgian Waffle truck Wafels & Dinges to help with relief efforts.

“As one of our previous business partners, we reached out to them to gauge their interest in supporting New York’s hardest-hit communities,” said Alison Croyle, JetBlue corporate communications manager. “They were more than willing, and from there, it grew to a connection with David Weber of the New York City Food Truck Association, whose members were happy and eager to step up and help out with this effort.”

On the first day, 11 trucks delivered food to four locations in the Rockaways, Staten Island and Hoboken. During the next 96 harrowing hours, JetBlue sponsored the distribution of 25,000 meals throughout the region.

JetBlue is one example of an airline that takes advantage of modern technology to help overcome catastrophic events and forge ahead. As a result, its customers are happy, its business is strong and a significant number of people — airline passengers and those in the general communities impacted by Sandy — have weathered the likes of the hurricane thanks to the efforts of JetBlue‘s dedicated staff.