Well, of course they were at the airport. They’re an airline.

My point is that by not responding quickly to the Steven Slater Beer-Slide incident, they’ve really missed the boat on kicking off a great conversation about and among an entire industry and its customers. The conversation is kicked off, and JetBlue is a major part of the story, but they screwed up a huge opportunity to manage a crisis well.

It took them TWO DAYS to formulate a response on their blog. In hiding behind the “we don’t comment on individuals” curtain, they missed a chance to become the Great & Powerful Oz of the air travel industry, at least in the customer-cabin-crew-connection-and-convo category.

What would I recommend to a company who finds themselves in the position that Jet Blue was in on Monday?

  • Offer a comment along the lines of “today’s events are offering us an opportunity to start a conversation across our industry about customer service and workplace conditions. If you’d like to share your views with us, [blog/email/Facebook/Twitter] – we welcome the chance to explore how we can improve our relationships with our customers AND our employees.” That doesn’t assess or assume blame, but it says you’re paying attention.
  • Monitor traffic, engage in conversations with heart but not an excess of passion (IOW, don’t pull a Slater).
  • Monitor commentary about your brand, and the individual who set off the situation. Respond only to direct queries by pointing them at your crisis-comms traffic cops mentioned in Bullet 1.

Jet Blue wasn’t completely silent. Unfortunately, the cries and whispers of the guy who manages their corporate comms Twitter feed got into a Twit-fight with Andy Borowitz (@BorowitzReport). In a battle of wits with a comedian, Jet Blue’s guy is an unarmed combatant. And he forgot the 1st rule of crisis communications: don’t say anything that will make the crisis worse.

You could wind up Dipstick Du Jour on Gawker.

I hope both Jet Blue and Steven Slater find their way through, and past, this slide down the barbed-wire fence of corporate celebrity. I also hope that other individuals, and the companies who employ them, find better ways to manage workplace stress.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it…

When Jet Blue’s Ship Came In, They Were At the Airport