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JetBlue Adds Trips to Fetch Stranded Fliers as NYC Shutdown Ends

Tuesday, 07 January 2014 10:50 AM

JetBlue Airways Corp. is adding 19 extra flights to help rescue passengers stranded as far away as South America after winter-weather disruptions forced a temporary suspension of service at four U.S. airports.

The carrier is resuming operations at New York’s Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, New Jersey’s Newark Liberty and Boston Logan, building to a full schedule by 3 p.m. local time. About half the additional flights are to the Caribbean and South America, said Anders Lindstrom, a JetBlue spokesman.

JetBlue’s 17-hour Northeast shutdown that began Monday was designed to buy time to get jets and crews into place after storms lashed the Northeast U.S. and then Chicago. The New York-based airline cut about half of Monday’s schedule, the deepest pullback by any major U.S. carrier, according to industry data tracker FlightAware.com.

“The big test is whether service restarts as anticipated,” said Robert Mann, a former American Airlines executive who now runs aviation consultant R.W. Mann & Co. in Port Washington, New York.

JetBlue’s extra flights were targeted at airports that had the greatest number of marooned travelers, Lindstrom said in an interview. The shutdown in the Northeast began at 5 p.m. New York time Monday and was set to lift at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“It’s looking really good at the moment,” Lindstrom said. “We’ve continued to have arrivals coming in.”

Vouchers, Awards

Compensation for idled passengers may include travel vouchers, extra awards in the carrier’s loyalty program or financial reimbursement, with decisions made on a case-by-case basis, Lindstrom said. He said JetBlue expects to have all travelers “at their final destination in the next few days.”

JetBlue rose 1 percent to $8.75 at 10:06 a.m. in New York. Monday’s 4.3 percent decline was the deepest since April.

Airlines scrubbed almost 2,000 U.S. flights Tuesday, including 214 for JetBlue, FlightAware data showed at 9:20 a.m. New York time. That was 28 percent of the day’s schedule for the carrier, the fifth-biggest in the U.S. by traffic.

Monday’s grounded flights pushed JetBlue’s total to 915 since Jan. 4, according to data from Houston-based FlightAware. More than 9,000 flights in the U.S. were scrapped in that same span, the FlightAware data show.

Temperatures as low as minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 25 degrees Celsius) in Chicago prompted airlines to cancel about 1,600 flights at O’Hare International Airport and 85 at Midway, the city’s aviation department said. Southwest Airlines Co., the largest operator at Midway, said it also suspended some flights there because of the weather.

Northeast Focus

“JetBlue’s major operations are really concentrated at JFK and Boston, where they’re most affected by this weather pattern,” George Hamlin, president of Hamlin Transportation Consulting in Fairfax, Virginia, said in a telephone interview. “It also depends on whether you’re running a high-frequency domestic service into and out of those airports, which they are.”

JetBlue is the biggest domestic carrier by passengers at both Kennedy and Logan airports, based on data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The travel disruptions probably will evoke memories of JetBlue’s six-day effort to recover from an ice storm on Feb. 14, 2007, said Mann, the consultant. Planes were grounded across the airline’s network, stranding fliers on jets and in terminals for as long as 10 hours.

Adding to Monday’s struggle for JetBlue were unspecified “issues” that the airline said were plaguing its toll-free customer service number. “High call volumes are still occurring as a result of the cancellations,” JetBlue said.

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JetBlue Airways Corp. is adding 19 extra flights to help rescue passengers stranded as far away as South America after winter-weather disruptions forced a temporary suspension of service at four U.S. airports.The carrier is resuming operations today at New York's Kennedy...
Tuesday, 07 January 2014 10:50 AM
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