Ahah. GET IT?! THE JET-BLUES!
Because let me tell you…my experience with JetBlue yesterday was one for the books. I made friends, got free food, got home like five hours later, and received some future travel credits. Oh yeah. I’m no cheap date.
Let’s go through the timeline of events together, shall we?
JetBlue Flight 506 is scheduled to depart Fort Lauderdale at 5:30pm on Wednesday. I arrive at the airport rental car center at 2pm. I’m a very responsible traveler, as you can see.
Checking into the flight is actually quite painless. With the TSA lines at new record highs, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to stroll straight up to the agent and get through the checkpoint. From returning car, to security checkpoint, to waiting terminal, it takes no more than 45 minutes. Around 2:45pm I find myself with little more than two hours before my flight.
Warning sign number 1: Fort Lauderdale is not a JetBlue hub. They have limited flights in and out of FLL and as I approach my gate, I notice almost all of them are currently experiencing delays, each a minimum of at least an hour at this point. The anxious crowd next to me have been waiting since 2pm for a flight to Philadelphia which is now being displayed as departing at 5:55.
With this much time at hand I am tempted to avail myself of some of the airport’s services. They have a Pei Wei, a Chili’s, Shake Shack, and this new Food Network Kitchen featuring recipes from their network stars. Ooh it’s tempting but that would just be eating out of boredom. They invented Pokemon Go for that. I am able to use the service for about an hour until the battery drain combined with poor GPS signal stop my quest to be the very best that no one ever was.
5:00pm: Boarding process begins. No real complications here. The only benefit of being seated two rows from the rear of the plane is I get to board sooner than the other passengers, after those requiring assistance, Mosaic members, families with children, active service members, and Priority Legroom passengers. I make my way to my seat (always an aisle) and notice that only the window seat is taken. I cross my fingers, hoping for an empty middle seat to enjoy some more freedom and space.
5:18pm: Boarding is almost complete and still I am sans neighbor. Until THEY show up. A couple of middle-aged gay men saunter onto the plane, late. As they get closer to the rear I figure one of them is probably going to be seated next to me. No biggie. But apparently one of them feels otherwise. He begins to freak out, exclaiming loudly ‘oh no this is not going to happen’ ‘I do NOT fly without him next to me’ ‘how could the airline even THINK of allowing this to happen’. Now, as a former travel agent, frequent traveler, and overall decent human being, I know airlines are under no obligation, unless paid for, to honor or adjust seat reservations. Any number of things could have happened that would end up with them being seated separately. Either they or their agent did not make reservations when booking. They could have been standby passengers just lucky enough to get on. They have booked last minute and had no reservations anyways. Either way, get on the plane, accept your fate, and let’s all try to be friends on this otherwise supposed to be short, simple, and sweet flight back home. No drama for three hours, please? I’m hoping that the more sensible one is the one I am seated next to. The next part is kind of a surprise and happened quite quickly. The flight attendant very politely, expectedly, and respectfully inquired what the problem was. Hostile #1 is belligerent and upset that they are not seated together. A very routine question, ‘are you supposed to be traveling together’ is proposed. Now Hostile #2 who was otherwise sensible is in on the action. ‘How dare you ask that’ ‘what is that supposed to mean’ ‘what do you think’ ‘why wouldn’t we be’. Iono. I think they’re fishing for a scandal. But here’s the kicker: Hostile #1 says to Hostile #2 quite loudly and for everyone to hear ‘don’t pay attention to her, she’s obviously from JAMAICA’. Now, to be fair, we all know that Jamaica is not known for being the most friendly to homosexuals. But this is completely out of line and she has shown no sign of prejudice. She has been nothing but professional and accommodating. Next thing I know the gate agent is back on the plane escorting the two off. Silver lining: the seat next to me is available again.
5:55pm: The whole debacle has caused an additional delay, but at least now we are taxiing on the runway. Our flight attendant is in the middle of the safety briefing and has just gotten to the ‘if the plane should suddenly experience a drop in pressure’ part when the captain speaks. ‘Uh…ladies and gentlemen, our grounds crew noticed a leak on the plane as we were taxiing, we’re going to uh…need to bring the plane back to see if it’s a short problem or a long problem’.
I’ll give you a moment to guess what kind of problem it was.
No really, go ahead, ponder. Take bets.
Are you ready.
It was a very, very, LONG problem.
‘Uh…ladies and gentlemen our uh…mechanics are telling us it’s a hydraulic leak in the landing gear, this plane is actually not gonna be able to take off anymore. We’re going to have to deboard everyone and get everyone on a different flight.’
Did you get it right? Good for you.
At this point we are now deboarding, and as I was seated at the very rear of the plane, yours truly wasn’t getting off anytime soon. My view was basically this.Worse, the mob at the gate all flooded the poor agent at once. And because I was at the end, the line for the gate agent at E10 stretched to E6.
It’s time to leverage some social media and harness the power of a good Tweet. So, I started with this.
Which resulted in this.At this point resolution was clearly not going to come from the gate agent miles away. So I called the 1800 number and cooler heads prevailed. I was able to secure a seat on the next flight home and get one of those coveted extra legroom seats for free.
I was actually happy this resolution so I did say so. And they responded. But the next part was hilarious. I off-handedly tweeted that while I was happy with the situation, I was hungry and could use some Terra chips. Next thing I know I hear my name being called to one of the gates and I can’t imagine for what reason.
It was actually to give me Terra chips! The airline had seen my tweet and informed the gate agents to get chips from one of their planes and hand me four bags along with meal vouchers. I felt like a VIP. They knew my name, shook my hand, made sure I was alright and comfortable, and gave me my snacks.
Sometimes it’s okay to ask for something. Sometimes you don’t have to be afraid to see what you can get. If I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have received. What a crazy ordeal. Oh and my flight? Scheduled for 8:30. Didn’t leave till 11.
But still. A shoutout to JetBlue. They saw a situation that was clearly in the wrong, and they worked to fix it. I’m happy with the turnout. In fact I think they went above and beyond. I’d gladly and readily fly them again, and it’s nice to know they’re out there listening.