Sample Apology Letter: Analysis

This sample apology letter, includes all the elements of a perfect business apology. It addresses all of the ingredients necessary to trigger a favorable response from customers.

pen and paper

It's a well written and masterfully crafted customer-centric letter and a classic example of the Art and Science of apologizing. We can all learn a lot from the strategies and statements used by JetBlue below.

The table below shows you exactly how the elements of a perfect apology were woven into a well crafted business letter. Use the analysis as a guide in writing your own.

  Analysis      Letter of Apology Sample

Dear JetBlue Customers,

This short statement at the top of the page expresses humility and remorse. It also sets the tone for the letter.

We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry.

This paragraph gives a specific and detailed account of the incident and takes full responsibility for the situation.

It's worth noting that although the catalyst was a winter storm that NO blame is placed on it—full responsibility is taken by the company.

Last week was the worst operational week in JetBlue's seven year history. Following the severe winter ice storm in the Northeast, we subjected our customers to unacceptable delays, flight cancellations, lost baggage, and other major inconveniences. The storm disrupted the movement of aircraft, and, more importantly, disrupted the movement of JetBlue's pilot and in-flight crew members who were depending on those planes to get them to the airports where they were scheduled to serve you.

With the busy President's Day weekend upon us, rebooking opportunities were scarce and hold times at 1-800-JETBLUE were unacceptably long or not even available, further hindering our recovery efforts.

Here, we see how they recognize their role in the situation and acknowledge the hurt and damage done.

Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration and inconvenience that we caused. This is especially saddening because JetBlue was founded on the promise of bringing humanity back to air travel and making the experience of flying happier and easier for everyone who chooses to fly with us. We know we failed to deliver on this promise last week.

This paragraph details their commitment to change and shows customers the preventive measures being taken to ensure that this type of situation won't happen again.

We are committed to you, our valued customers, and are taking immediate corrective steps to regain your confidence in us. We have begun putting a comprehensive plan in place to provide better and more timely information to you, more tools and resources for our crew members and improved procedures for handling operational difficulties in the future.

We are confident, as a result of these actions, that JetBlue will emerge as a more reliable and even more customer responsive airline than ever before.

The company now offers the recipients of the letter a form of restitution and compensation. This cleverly crafted commitment to change (through a Customer Bill of Rights) will shed a positive light on the company from both existing and future customers and the public at large.

JetBlue also clearly understands the Art of Apologizing by providing a link on their website to a video message from the CEO and author of the letter. This unique two-tier approach is what makes this sample apology letter—well, perfect.

Most importantly, we have published the JetBlue Airways Customer Bill of Rights—our official commitment to you of how we will handle operational interruptions going forward—including details of compensation. I have a video message to share with you about this industry leading action.

*** Note how this is the first and only time in the letter where they use the word 'I' as opposed to 'we'. This underscores the personal connection that the founder and CEO of the company is trying to establish with customers.

This statement expresses regret and lets customers know that the company is hoping to continue the relationship.

You deserved better—a lot bette—from us last week. Nothing is more important than regaining your trust and all of us here hope you will give us the opportunity to welcome you onboard again soon and provide you the positive JetBlue experience you have come to expect from us.

*** Note how the last paragraph is 'You' focused. They 'humbly' give the customer back all the power.



David Neeleman
Founder and CEO
JetBlue Airways

This sample apology letter can be used as a template for any business situation requiring an apology. Its brilliance lies in the manner in which the elements of a perfect apology have been woven into the letter and in its clever use of language.

It's succinct, well-written, properly punctuated, and conveys a sense of responsibility and professionalism.

For more, read our commentary on this Perfect JetBlue Apology, review another sample apology letter or get more instruction by reading this second analysis of a business apology letter.