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JetBlue cancels more flights

The airline continues to struggle with the aftermath of last week's ice storm in New York.

February 19, 2007|From Reuters

JetBlue Airways Corp., which was forced to cancel nearly a quarter of its flights this holiday weekend after last week's ice storm in New York, said Sunday that it expected to return to a normal schedule by Tuesday.

But it may take the low-cost airline a long time to regain its reputation after suffering harsh criticism from thousands of stranded travelers since the storm struck Wednesday.

Forest Hills., N.Y.-based JetBlue admitted that it didn't act swiftly enough to cancel flights after the storm threw federally mandated air crew work-time schedules into disarray, resulting in massive flight cancellations at the start of a high-volume holiday period.

"This has never happened before on this scale," JetBlue spokeswoman Tracy Sanford said Sunday. "We didn't cancel flights as much as we could have."

She said the delays and subsequent cancellations had a "snowball effect" on air crew schedules.

The airline, already suffering from widely publicized delays and cancellations as ice and snow blanketed the New York area Wednesday, said it canceled 173 out of a scheduled 600 flights Saturday and an additional 144 flights Sunday.

Late Saturday, JetBlue canceled 139 more flights slated for today, Presidents Day, to and from locations including Austin, Texas; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Bermuda. The airline said it might be forced to cancel additional flights and encouraged travelers to check the airline's website frequently.

The airline offered refunds and free flights to travelers scheduled for flights to and from a dozen or so cities and said it might reimburse some "on a case-by-case basis" for travel on other carriers.

The passenger strandings, coming in the wake of problems at other U.S. airports in recent months, led to congressional calls to revive "passenger bill of rights" legislation, a push that abated in 1999 after the airline industry voluntarily agreed to customer service initiatives.

JetBlue said it was still assessing the financial effect of the flight cancellations. In an interview last week, Chief Executive David Neelman said the debacle would cost the airline "many millions of dollars."

JetBlue shares closed down 29 cents, or 2%, at $13.56 on Friday.

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