JetBlue Airways: A New Beginning

Case Solution

David W. Hoyt, Charles A. O'Reilly, Hayagreeva Rao, Kerry J. Sulkowicz
Stanford Graduate School of Business ()

JetBlue Airways has grown rapidly since its inception in 2000, focusing on providing low-cost flights to previously underserved cities while providing a high-quality experience for passengers (“Bringing Humanity Return to Air Travel”). An ice storm at JFK airport on February 14, 2007 caused 1,195 flights to be canceled in six days and several planes were stranded on the taxiway for many hours. JetBlue, previously considered one of the best (if not the best) airlines in customer service, has been heavily criticized by the public, the press, and Congress. Additionally, the disruption caused by the storm cost the company more than $ 41 million. The 2007 storm exposed deficiencies in JetBlue’s operational infrastructure. Some top-down changes were made, but the disruption of the thunderstorm in the summer of 2008 indicated that the airline’s ability to deal with Irregular Air Operations (IROP) was completely inadequate. The company introduced a program (IROP Integrity) that harnessed the talents of more than 200 employees at all levels and across the airline to address these issues. This was done through process mapping, root cause analysis, and interdisciplinary collaboration on 100 projects to improve technology and processes. In February 2010, another ice storm, much worse than in 2007, disrupted JFK’s operations. This time, the airline had to cancel far fewer flights, most of which were operated before passengers arrived at the airport and the next day, and the cost was a fraction of the cost of the 2007 outage. This case describes the origins of the IROP Integrity project, the role of the implementing sponsors, the management and organization of the project, and the processes used to identify and execute improvement projects. It also describes IROP’s legacy of integrity to the JetBlue organization and culture.

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