JetBlue Airways, A New Beginning
2010 | Case No. L17
JetBlue Airways grew rapidly from its founding in 2000, focusing on providing low-cost service to previously underserved cities, while giving passengers a high-quality experience, (“bringing humanity back to air travel”). An ice storm at JFK airport on February 14, 2007 caused 1,195 flights to be cancelled over a six day period, and stranded several planes on the taxiway for many hours. JetBlue, previously viewed as one of the best airlines (if not the best) for customer service, took extensive criticism from the public, press, and Congress. In addition, the disruptions caused by the storm cost the company over $41 million. The 2007 storm highlighted deficiencies in JetBlue’s operational infrastructure. Some top-down changes were made, but disruptions caused by thunderstorms in summer 2008 demonstrated that the airline’s ability to deal with irregular operations (IROPs) was woefully inadequate. The company instituted a program (IROP Integrity) that utilized the talents of more than 200 employees, from all levels, and all parts of the airline, to address these problems. This was done through process mapping, root cause analysis, and cross-discipline cooperation working on 100 projects to improve both technology and processes. In February 2010, an ice storm far worse than the 2007 event again disrupted operations at JFK. This time, the airline had to cancel far fewer flights, which were mostly done before passengers arrived at the airport, operations the next day, and the cost was a small fraction of the cost of the 2007 disruption. This case describes the IROP Integrity project—its origins, the role of executive sponsors, project leadership and organization, and the processes used to identify and carry out improvement projects. It also describes the legacy of IROP Integrity on the JetBlue organization and culture.
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