NEW YORK — As stories continue to unfold and airlines try to put out fires, the call for better customer service continues to gain strength.
The trade group representing U.S. airlines said Thursday that the government should “promptly” call a meeting of government officials and air carriers to figure out how to tackle weather delays.
The Air Transport Association, which represents most major passenger and cargo carriers, said the Federal Aviation Administration should allow delayed flights to come back to terminals so passengers who want to exit planes can do so without forcing those planes to lose their place in line for departure.
In addition, the association said the Transportation Department should make sure that airlines and airports have plans in place to that passengers of delayed flights are not stranded at airports without adequate food, water or restrooms.
This measures outlined are intended to head off potentional congressional action against carriers.
“We believe these steps offer the best course of action,” the association’s president, James C. May, said in a prepared statement. “A rigid, national regulation would be counterproductive, and could easily result in greater passenger inconvenience.”
The move comes on the heels of apologies by JetBlue CEO David Neeleman after the low-cost carrier's service meltdown last week.
Neeleman said Thursday that passengers have not abandoned the airline after last week's fiascos as bookings appear steady.
“Our revenue folks feel that the bookings are rolling in and really don’t see any damage,” Neeleman told Wall Street analysts in a conference call.
JetBlue printed an apology to customers in a handful of East Coast newspapers on Wednesday. The airline also sent apologetic e-mails to its customers.
“We are sorry and embarrassed,” the full-page newspaper ad began. “But most of all, we are deeply sorry.”
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The advertisement reiterated what has now become widely known about the crisis that stalled JetBlue over nearly a week following a Valentine’s Day ice storm.
“Many of you were either stranded, delayed or had flights canceled following the severe winter ice storm in the Northeast,” the ad continued. “The storm disrupted the movement of aircraft, and, more importantly, disrupted the movement of JetBlue’s pilot and inflight crewmembers.”
The advertisement appeared in newspapers in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., said Bryan Baldwin, a spokesman for the airline. It will be repeated on Thursday in several other cities affected by canceled flights, he said. In total, it will run in 15 cities and 20 newspapers.
“From the outset we’ve been very upfront about how we made a mistake during the past few days,” Baldwin said early Wednesday morning. “We want to make sure our customers know that.”
He refused to say how much the advertisement would cost the company.
The ad also pointed readers to view an online video apology from JetBlue’s founder and Corporate Executive Officer David Neeleman.
“This will be an aberration because we are going to make some major changes in the organization so that it doesn’t happen again,” he said in the video.
On Tuesday, Neeleman announced a customer bill of rights that promises what the company would do in response to future service interruptions, including the use of travel vouchers to compensate for delays.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.