Monday, September 20, 2010

jetBlue Airways JetBlue: Company’s Image Won’t Suffer Long-Term Hit From Slater’s Slide
Sep. 20 2010 - 5:05 pm


JetBlue Airways has long suggested that its employees help it stand out. That was certainly the case Aug. 9 when flight attendant Steven Slater open deployed the emergency slide and left the plane.

JetBlue has said very little about the former employee’s tarmac tantrum but Marty St. George, the company’s SVP-marketing and commercial strategy, opened up a bit during a visit to Forbes today.

While the airline conducts a “real investigation” into the actual events that day—let’s stay tuned—St. George says he is surprised that so many people in the press and on social networks view Slater, who is no longer employed by the company, as a “folk hero” with many fans on Facebook. “I’ve been around slides when they blow and it’s a violent process. On that side of the airplane, the right side of the airplane where the slide came out, if a crew member had been hit by that slide it could have been a serious issue,” says St. George.

The company, which built a reputation on customer service, has weathered image blows before. In early 2007 it took a hit when nine planes were stranded on a tarmac for more than six hours each during an ice storm.

Like storms, most of these issues blow over. “My philosophy on reputation is that it’s a like piggy bank. You continue to make deposits in the piggy bank or withdrawals from the piggy bank,” says St. George. “Yeah, we had a tough experience in early 2007. We had to take some withdrawals from the piggy bank in reputation.”

What about the Slater incident? There may be some withdrawals. But, says St. George, there will be no long-term damage to JetBlue’s reputation. “I think customers recognize that these things happen,” says he. “We’re not happy it happened—we wish it had never happened–but from a reputation perspective, we feel very confident that there’s no long-term damage to our reputation.”

It will be interesting to see how this continues to play out.

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