12 Comments

Summary:

The catch-22 of “I’m sorry” is that etiquette requires the apology, but people rarely believe the apologist. If you doubt that truism, let’s review the scorecard. Mel Gibson (sorry Jews), Michael Richards (sorry blacks), Isaiah Washington (sorry gays), and Hillary Clinton (sorry for not being sorry […]

The catch-22 of “I’m sorry” is that etiquette requires the apology, but people rarely believe the apologist. If you doubt that truism, let’s review the scorecard. Mel Gibson (sorry Jews), Michael Richards (sorry blacks), Isaiah Washington (sorry gays), and Hillary Clinton (sorry for not being sorry at all).
neeleman.jpg

So how about David Neeleman? Following a series of snafus in which passengers were stranded for hours on the tarmac at JFK, the CEO of jetBlue has issued both a customer bill of rights and a three-minute long apology on YouTube.
It’s appropriate of course, if not downright expected, for the CEO of the first boob tube airline to perform a public mea culpa on the biggest boob tube Web site. After all, this is the year of you, and Captain Neeleman would like you — all 90,000 of you watching so far — to know he’s very, very sorry. Except he’s not.

The same public relations flack who got a promotion for suggesting a YouTube apology should also be fired for forgetting to ensure Neeleman actually apologizes. Because nowhere in that rambling, awkward speech does flyboy actually say “I’m sorry.” And while he gets points for not reading a prepared statement — corporate apology as fireside chat? — he loses just as many for forgetting the first person pronoun even exists.

To wit, this Frankenstein of a sentence: “Obviously the events of the past week that have been well-documented in the press are really something that I, uh, obviously this is the most difficult time in our history.”

Bravo! Your ability to avoid personal responsibility — and therefore any need to answer boardroom detractors or shareholder complaints directly — is almost Clintonian in its genius. Also, good job on starting a YouTube account only two days ago. That’s like buying your wife flowers and leaving the price tag on the vase.

Truth is, Dave, jetBlue customers expect an apology that fits the crime. So while yes, a 3-minute fauxpology is a good start, you need to make a better show of contrition. I’m thinking on a truly David Blaine scale here.

How ’bout a live 10-hour webcast from a sweltering plane that smells of poo?

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  1. In fairness to Mr. Neeleman Steve, you should have mentioned that he wrote an exceptional email to all JetBlue customers, sincerely apologizing for their f-up.

    QUOTE: “We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry. 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.”

    JetBlue is and will continue to be a great company because of Mr. Neeleman’s unique vision and style. Bottom line is that you’ll continue to fly JetBlue, they’ll be a better company because of this crisis and we’re witnessing what will surely become required reading of MBA programs worldwide.

    I actually think the obviously unscripted YouTube video was a very appropriate, human touch. Akward = real in my book. If you view it in the context of the JetBlue site where it is embedded and linked to from their email, you might have seen it in a different light; Something CEOs should keep in mind.

  2. I am impressed that he actually got up and did something about it. He could have just sat back and said nothing. The “Bill of Rights” is impressive. David Neelman makes it a point to fly on his planes as a steward once every couple of weeks, if not every week. He doesn’t get special treatment. He picks up trash with everyone else. He is trying to apologize and make sure you (the customer) knows that he cares about you.

    They were put in a situation by the weather and tried to make the best of it.

    I personally have never flown with JetBlue before, but I am definitely going to try to get a flight with them in the future. If that doesn’t show success on their part, I don’t know what does. Perhaps they lost some customer’s recently, but they gained at least one in me.

  3. Agreed, the e-mail was good and, like I said above, Neeleman gets points for not reading from a prepared text.

    But he never assumes personal responsibility. That is, after all, part of his job. And while I certainly don’t hold Neeleman or jetBlue up as paradigms of corporate ineptitude, his inability to say three words — “I am sorry” — is another small testament a culture high on contrition but somehow short on personal conscientiousness.

    If you think that’s nitpicking, fine by me. But there’s a difference between showing an apology and owning your words.

  4. Wouldn’t it be easy to pin everything on one person. Why do you think that this one person needs to accept blame for the screwup of an entire corporation? The company issued refunds, and free flights, instigated a consumer bill of rights, but you need to hear “I’m Sorry”? Come on!

    Also, this is NewTeeVee, this is kind of a stretch isn’t it? He posted a video on youtube, so that falls into NewTeeVee territory, but isn’t that kind of a reach for you to take that video and then write an entire post on who you think the blame should go to? Let’s keep things based on video technology on the internet, and leave major corporation’s apologies to other sites, this isn’t why I subscribe to you in my rss reader.

  5. In all fairness, I don’t subscribe to me either. I hear it gives you hairy palms.

  6. Agreed with Chuck. NewTeeVee is one of my first reads every morning. This story definitely deserves to be covered by virtue of Neeleman posting his apology on YouTube, but I can do without the author’s snarky asides. There are plenty of blogs that deliver that in a far more entertaining manner.

  7. He looked pretty sincere to me … and tired … and beat up. Just watch, JetBlue will get a boost in customers from this.

    I have to say (simply because you opened the door) This sweltering post smells like poo.

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