JetBlue Is In Big Trouble, Again

by Chris Tognotti

It's been a pretty rough year for a certain airline, and it's not getting any better. Last week, JetBlue staff caused a three-year-old girl, Summer, to pee herself in her seat, by refusing her bathroom access while the plane was awaiting takeoff on the tarmac. The company was forced to issue an apology Monday to the girl, Summers, and her mother, Jennifer Devereaux, after their by-the-book interpretation of takeoff rules led to the unfortunate incident.

JetBlue's offered up a $50 voucher, and $5000 donation to the charity of Devereaux's choosing. Still, they defended themselves: "The crew made a safety and FAA regulation-based decision," JetBlue told Reuters.

Which is true, as anybody stuck on a taxi-ing jet with a full bladder well knows. Passengers are required to remain seated at any time that a flight is moving on a tarmac, for safety reasons, even if the plane is nowhere near actual takeoff. Which is an understandable rule: From a corporate perspective, having someone injure themselves because they're in the bathroom when the plane starts to move is a liability JetBlue doesn't want.

The human perspective, though, seems to have been lost somewhere along the way. The flight from New York to Boston was delayed, and Summers had first asked to use the bathroom a full 30 minutes before it would ultimately lift off. After being denied, she just had to sit there, until eventually she just had to go.

Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The worst part? Devereaux told WBC-TV that as she stood up from her seat to try to clean up, a flight attendant began yelling at her to sit down — both initially unwilling to let the little girl pee in privacy, and unwilling to let the mother tend to the resulting mess:

It wasn’t about bad customer service at that point, it was about bad human decency. My daughter was sitting in a pool of urine and I couldn’t do anything about it. And as a mom it just broke my heart.

It's been a rough patch for JetBlue of late. A handful of incidents, mostly worse than an act of public peeing, have hit them in recent weeks...

  • Also Monday morning, a JetBlue flight to Las Vegas was diverted following a frenzied outburst by a passenger. Yelling and struggling while his family tried to restrain him, he kicked his daughter in the head before being handcuffed and taken to a Detroit-area hospital for medical care.
  • Last week, a (thankfully empty) JetBlue AirBus had its wing clipped by a Southwest plane backing out of its gate at Logan International Airport in Boston.
  • In late March, a bird strike on a JetBlue plane forced a landing at JFK International Airport, out of "an abundance of caution" — engine failure due to a collision with a flock of birds was what famously brought down U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in 2009, landed into the Hudson River by Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Those are obviously much more worrying incidents, but notwithstanding, we're sure the folks at JetBlue would love a little relief. Especially considering their recent announcement of a new business-class called "Mint," new higher-cost digs that represent a huge break from JetBlue's longtime ethos that one cabin and one class was all they'd provide. It's a major move for the airline, and could reap big rewards. But, obviously, it's being overshadowed by a pretty heartbreaking story of a helpless three-year-old forced to wet her pants.