Is JetBlue going down the toilet? (I'd give the buddy pass a pass, if I were you.)
Having flown them a couple of times in the last few months, I've become something of a fan of JetBlue: clean, comfy, convenient, cheap flights.
I obviously wasn't one of those inconvenienced during the flight delay - flight cancellation horror-shows of last year - but when it comes to JetBlue, what's not to like?
Well, if you're Gokhan Mutlu, there's plenty to be, well, pissed off about.
It seems that Gokhan was traveling from California home to NYC on a freebie travel voucher - a buddy pass - that had been given to him by a buddy who works for JetBlue. Buddy seats are a pretty much seat-of-the-pants way to travel - the ultimate in stand-by. And you get what you pay for. And what Gokhan got was an order from the captain to give up his seat to a stewardess who wanted a break from sitting on one of those nasty little jump seats near the rear exit (and toilets) that you see the stews perched on during packed flights.
Apparently, only JetBlue employees can sit in those jump seats, so Gokhan was asked, errrrrr, to go sit in the toilet.
After a long, bumpy while, he was permitted to come back out and reclaim his seat.
This being America, Gokhan is suing JetBlue for $2M.
My first reaction to this was, 'Oh, come on. This certainly is an insult and an affront, not to mention a humiliation. But $2M?'
My second thought was imagining myself in such a situation.
You know what, I would want a pretty big fat payout, too. Beggars can't be choosers, and all that but, if an airlines needs a "real" seat for their stews to take turns sitting in on long flights so they're not stuck in those rotten little jump seats, then the airlines should dedicate a seat for that purpose - not ask a passenger, even one who they think of as a freeloading hitchhiker to give up his seat.
Of course, the captain might not have had the nerve to ask a woman to give up her seat, sexism being what it is (and, occasionally, working in your favor under the retro guise of chivalry). I'm also guessing El Capitan wouldn't have asked anyone to give their seat up for a steward.
So, how could the captain have handled this better:
- He could have asked nicely (in his best Right Stuff, Chuck Yeager drawl): "Hey, buddy, seein' that you're in a buddy seat, and seein' how Susie Stewardess ain't feelin' all that well, d'ya mind parkin' in the head for a while and givin' her a break. 'Preciate it."
- He could have asked for volunteers: I'll bet a few people would have taken turns standing for 10 minutes at a shot in order to give the stew a break.
- He could have let Gokhan sit in the darned jump seat: So what if this is a violation of JetBlue policy, or FAA policy? Who was going to rat him out? Unless he had enemies in the flight crew....And even then, he could have warded off that by telling on himself. ("We had a situation in which the stewardess was unable to sit on the jump seat, so I made a decision to....")
- He could have not pulled rank: Even if he didn't ask nice, once he got some resistance, he should have backed off gracefully and gone to Plan B (find a volunteer).
- He could have pulled rank: Before approaching Gokhan, the pilot could have contacted someone in management, told them that he needed the seat, and gotten a few bargaining chips. Maybe Gokhan would have gone nicely for a couple of free round trips that weren't buddy seats. (And while the pilot was asking for the comp tickets, he could have informed HQ that he was letting Gokhan sit in the jump seat.)
On a flight, the captain's the manager. As such, wouldn't you think that he could have come up with a better solution to his need (or was it desire) to find a better seat for the stewardess than ordering a passenger into the toilet. Management!
And it's just amazing to me that in this day of word-of-mouth - make that word-of-keypad and word-of-'net - in which a story like this makes the rounds (and the blogs) in warp speed, someone might not ask himself, 'is this not the sort of dumb thing that could get me in trouble?'
And speaking of getting in trouble, the person I feel worst for in all this is the poor schnook of a JetBlue employee who gave Gokhan the buddy seat to begin with. If Gokhan cashes in on this, I hope he throws a few bucks his buddy's way. (And I hope the poor buddy never has to run across the captain, who will no doubt not be feeling all too thrilled with whatever happens.)
Here's where I saw the first report on this: on Comcast.