Despite the role apologies play in our lives, and the almost daily news
of the latest celebrity, political or business apology (as in this week's
JetBlue apology), there is a surprising
absence of research on the subject. The most active work appears in the legal
and business professions primarily because of litigation and financial
implications, but also because corporate leaders have come to realize that a
well timed and effective apology can save customers and avoid a rapid drop in
The Perfect JetBlue Apology
By Peter F. Goolpacy, PhD
Which brings us to the JetBlue apology "we are sorry and embarrassed. But
most of all, we are deeply sorry...(for) the worst operational week in JetBlue's seven year history."
The consensus emerging from research on apologies in corporate or business
settings is pretty clearthe most effective apologies typically include
the ingredients detailed on this website.
JetBlue apology and the letter to its customers written by founder and CEO David Neeleman, the video of his apology posted on YouTube to express his regret,
and the announcement of JetBlue Airways Customer Bill of Rights amounts to the
perfect business apologyin fact, it is likely to become a generally
accepted standard for how business errors should be handled.
When combined, Neeleman's response provides a crystal clear illustration of
the time tested philosophy that "the customer is always right." And this is
especially true when, as in this case, the company or its representatives
extend an apology regardless of who is at fault or whether JetBlue was capable
of controlling the weather during a very busy President's day weekend. This
Jetblue apology will be remembered for a long time to come for so
many reasons. No
excuses, no defensive explanationjust a straightforward acknowledgement of
the pain experienced by passengers and a very credible promise to fix it.
The content of the letter was brilliant"Words cannot express how truly
sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration and inconvenience that you, your
family, friends and colleagues experienced....JetBlue was founded on the
promise of bringing humanity back to air travel, and making the experience of
flying happier....We know we failed to deliver on this promise last
deserved better - a lot better...and we let you down."
When carefully crafted, a pro-active approach to delivering the perfect
apology will help JetBlue solidify its relationships with existing customers,
acquire new ones, enhance customer confidence and improve overall loyalty to
Perhaps the most impressive part of the company's strategy was the inclusion
of JetBlue Airways Customer Bill of Rights, which satisfied two essential
ingredients of a perfect business apologya credible expression of a
commitment to change and some form of restitution or compensation for the
damage caused (or that may unintentionally or unavoidably be caused under
similar circumstances in the future).
Consider some of the costs: $25 voucher for 30-60 minute delays, $100 for 1-2
hour delays, free trips for 2-3 hour delays and a full $1000 for customers who
are involuntarily denied boarding. The costs to JetBlue will be
but the potential payoff will be even higher over time.
This is a perfectly rational strategy designed to turn a disaster into a
brilliant marketing opportunity.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with thisit captures the best features of market
capitalism and should be welcomed by all of us.
I'd fly JetBlue any day!
We hope that you've enjoyed this article by Peter F. Goolpacy on David
Neeleman's Jetblue apology. If you have any comments on this brilliant
example of turning a negative into an undeniable positive
we'd like to hear about it.
Read the apology letter sent out by
JetBlue to its customers.
Or, learn more about apologizing.
The Perfect JetBlue Apology to Famous Apologies