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JetBlue Sued for $2 Million; Flushing Reputation Down the Toilet, Again!

If you buy Radically Transparent–or download chapter 1 for free–you’ll learn how JetBlue’s reputation was severely damaged when it stranded passengers for hours in February 2007. The company had to do a lot of apologizing and reputation repair–including the creation of a YouTube video and a passenger bill of rights.

The crap just hit the jet turbine again.

This time, JetBlue is accused of making a passenger give-up his seat and instead spend part of the flight sitting in the bathroom.

Gokhan Mutlu, of Manhattan’s Inwood section, says in court papers the pilot told him to "go ‘hang out’ in the bathroom" about 90 minutes into the San Diego to New York flight because the flight attendant complained that the "jump seat" she was assigned was uncomfortable, the lawsuit said.

Mutlu is suing JetBlue for $2 million, probably because of the way he was treated and the dangers he faced:

When Mutlu expressed reluctance to go sit in the bathroom, the pilot, who was not named in the lawsuit, told him that "he was the pilot, that this was his plane, under his command that (Mutlu) should be grateful for being on board," the lawsuit said.

The aircraft hit turbulence and passengers were directed to return to their seats, but "the plaintiff had no seat to return to, sitting on a toilet stool with no seat belts," court papers say.

You might think, "we’re only hearing one side of the story here." And, you would be right. JetBlue has declined to comment about the lawsuit–standard practice for any company subject to litigation. But, this incident happened almost 3 months ago!!

Surely the passenger complained to JetBlue first, before filing his lawsuit. Surely, JetBlue should have realized that–even if the passenger embellished the details–news of this kind would hurt the company’s reputation.

Reputation management begins the moment you make contact with a customer. It begins during the transaction and immediately afterwards. It does not begin simply because a customer decides to make a public complaint.

JetBlue, wake up! What might have only needed a personal apology and a free flight voucher to make amends, will now take legal fees, maybe $2 million in damages, and many wasted hours repairing your reputation.

(via)

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    My alternative title for this post: “New Class of Airline Seat Offered by JetPoo.” ;-)

  • http://www.srclarke.com Todd Mintz

    I guess their reputation went in the crapper again…

  • http://buzzmarketingfortech.blogspot.com Paul Dunay

    I totally agree Andy – companies now more than ever need to be ready to face a Reputation crisis.

    For those interested in assessing their readiness to handle a reputation crisis – I have put together a very short (12 question) survey that you are welcome to take at http://buzzmarketing.reputation.sgizmo.com/

    and this survey is sponsored in part by trackur!

    Paul Dunay’s last blog post..No Leads get Left Behind

  • http://www.bluetechnews.com Cesar

    That’s a lot of money and I think they will lose more money because their reputation becoming worst.

    Cesar’s last blog post..How to download from a Picasa Web Albums without Picasa

  • http://www.netaffinity.com Ela

    ‘Reputation management begins the moment you make contact with a customer’ this is so true, still many companies seem to ignore this simple truth.

  • http://www.michellesblog.net Michelle Greer

    The best way to avoid this is to hire ethical people in the first place. It’s just much easier to run a business that way because you don’t have to clean up your employees’ messes.

    Michelle Greer’s last blog post..$20 Will Help a Family Reconnect after the Burma Cyclone

  • http://www.jaankanellis.com Jaan Kanellis

    When will any airline wise up and simply take care of the customers first. I am sure all of us have horror stories for most airlines. Delta is my personal whipping boy.

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Can You Manage Your Email and RSS Reader?

  • http://www.exposedseo.com seo dude

    What about the other passengers who needed to use the toilet? They could have sat him on the floor somewhere.

    seo dude’s last blog post..Why affiliate marketing is better than Adsense, PPC marketing.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Michelle – I agree, but then again, who knows if the employees were acting on their own or under company policy.
    @Jaan – yeah, the airline industry is probably too much of an easy target for reputation management. When JetBlue stranded passengers, it was one of many airlines that did. JetBlue stood out because, at the time, it had a rare, stellar reputation in the industry.
    @seo dude – making him have to make way for a passenger that need to go #2, then putting him back, would have been insult to injury–I would definitely want $2M in that case. ;-)

  • http://www.devbasu.com Dev Basu

    I think there’s a big divide in how commercial enterprises view their customer’s abilities to impact their reputation. In the past, it would go as far as a report to the BBB, consumer court, or perhaps offline media such as papers. Companies need to wise up and understand that it takes a disgruntled customer 5 minutes to write a negative review of their customer experience and then syndicate it all over the web. With networks like Forbes and CNN now paying more attention to blogs, the impact of such negative PR is quantified exponentially. Great post Andy!

    – Dev Basu

  • http://www.repmanblog.com steven cody

    Spot on, Adam. Pun intended. JetBlue might very well become jetWho if they keep bungling customer relations and reputation management. Interesting to see this once high flyer once again grounded by its social ineptness

    steven cody’s last blog post..TO: Sue Simmons FROM: Sammy Glick, publicist

  • Mark Panitz

    something isnt right here we know that pilots
    can not leave the cockpit during a flight (as per
    FAA rules)
    so how could the pilot told him pilot of a JetBlue flight from New York City to San Diego ordered him to sit in the bathroom after a flight attendant claimed his seat. The attendant apparently felt that her jump seat was uncomfortable;
    how could that piolot do that when he cant leave the cockpit?

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Mark – they leave the cockpit all the time. As long as the copilot is still at the controls. I see them leave to go to the bathroom or grab coffee all the time.

  • http://www.mwi.com Joshua Steimle

    Has anybody verified that this actually happened? Everyone seems ready to jump on jetBlue, but what if this guy is totally lying about what happened?

    http://www.newyorkpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com/2008/05/jetblueloo-follow-up-what-really.html

    Maybe everything happened just as this guy claims (although I find it hard to believe), but when you’re a big company you’re going to get hit with libelous claims no matter what you do or how well you do it. Of course that just means that reputation management is that much more important for large companies since they’re a bigger target.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Joshua – the problem is that JetBlue is not responding, so we’re left with the assumption that this is a true account.

  • http://www.arthurfreydin.com Arthur Freydin

    This really does sound a bit hokey. An attendant taking a seat while kicking out a paying traveler? Just sounds ridiculously outlandish.

    Arthur Freydin’s last blog post..Web2.0ize Everything!

  • Mark Panitz

    the guy wasn’t even a paying customer he was flying on a buddy pass in the first place
    (to me that means Space available ONLY (no seats you get left behind

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Mark – I believe he still had to pay for his ticket. Besides, if you start the flight with a seat, you should get to keep your seat. Don’t you think?

  • http://www.mwi.com Joshua Steimle

    Read the link I posted. Apparently the guy was friends with the captain, begged to get on board although the flight was full, he voluntarily gave up his seat for a stewardess who then fell asleep in his seat, he didn’t want to wake her up and wasn’t sure what to do, they didn’t let him sit in one of the jump seats (which is exactly what they’re supposed to do–only staff are allowed by law to sit in those seats, per my understanding), and now the guy brings a lawsuit.

    Does $2M sound reasonable for his “pain and suffering” even if exactly what he says happened really did happen? I’ve had to sit on toilets for a long time before but I never sued anyone about it. It’s this type of stuff that’s making our health care costs go up, this is why corporations are always trying to protect themselves instead of “being real” because if they treat us like human beings they get sued. Everything has to be systematic and there aren’t any exceptions for situations that naturally arise when you’re dealing with human beings, so we all get treated like objects. I mean, that’s what happened here. The captain tries to help a guy out who’s begging to be let on the flight, and then the guy turns around and sues. So do you think the next time you really, really, really need to get on a flight even if you have to stand in the aisle the whole time do you think they’re going to let you?

  • http://www.futurefactory-software.com Musashi

    I dont believe this story. The post from Joshua Steimle puts a very different light on this story.
    Big lawsuits for ridiculous situations are a big problem in the US.