Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, I experienced a unique interaction with one of the world’s most popular airlines: Jet Blue. Allow me to give you some background info on this story that I will be telling my future employers, co-workers, grandchildren, and friends. I purchased a plane ticket from JFK to San Jose, Costa Rica from July 25-August 4 with the intention to have an amazing summer trip to visit my freshman roommate, Juliana. I’ve waited three years to visit her native country, and it seemed like the perfect time: after I graduated from high school and after I turned 18. Many high school graduates embark on a graduation trip the summer before college. I didn’t want to be an exception. My grandpa (Pop) told me he would help me find the cheapest ticket to Costa Rica. He came across a $421.25 Jet Blue ticket. I had the money in my bank account, and I figured I wouldn’t come across a deal much better. So I pulled out my debit card, entered the digits, and printed my flight confirmation. I texted my parents, my friends, my aunt, Juliana, and her parents that I was going to Costa Rica.
I bought the ticket on February 9. Fast forward 4 days to Marist College. My mom and I drove down to Poughkeepsie for a Marist in Italy Info Session to learn more about my year abroad in Florence next year. We came to understand that every FFE (Freshman in Florence Experience) student needs to get his/her student Italian visa after he/she turns 18. Unlucky for me, I turn 18 on July 17, and my flight to San Jose would leave 8 days later. Therefore, my passport would be at the Boston Consulate so government officials could process my visa instead of in my hand at my gate in JFK on July 25.
I was very disappointed. I thought to myself, “Timing sucks. I’m in the midst of another mid-teenage life crisis.” If I had just waited 4 days, I would’ve known not to buy the ticket or to buy a refundable ticket. I wouldn’t have spent $421.25 of my hard earned money. But I was in no position to turn down a year in Florence for 10 days in Costa Rica. Costa Rica would just have to wait. I left feeling excited for Italy but bummed about my situation. I called the general customer service line for Jet Blue on the car ride home. I talked to a rep, explaining my situation, and she told me there was no chance of getting any type of refund. The only thing I could do was cancel my flight, lose $70, and have a $350 credit for another flight using Jet Blue. She did say that the credit was transferrable. I was still not content. When would I fly in the U.S. next year if I was in Italy? I put the phone on speaker and had my mom try and vouch for me, but the rep wouldn’t relent. I hung up the phone, still disappointed for losing my money and the customer service.
For the past two months, I’ve tried to trade my transferrable credit to someone who flies Jet Blue frequently and would give me cash. After watching my bank account balance decrease more and more, I used the sage words of wisdom from my mom, “Talk to someone higher up in the company.” I really wanted at least a couple hundred back, so I emailed the CEO of Jet Blue, Robin Hayes, on a whim. I didn’t even know his e-mail address. I did a Google search, but nothing came up. I figured that most companies have fairly generic emails, so I tried a few out (combinations of his first and last name with symbols). I got a few sent back to me along with one that went through. I figured, “Why not at least try? See what happens.”
This is the email I sent shortly before bed:
The next day when I got back to my dorm, I saw I had a missed call and a voicemail. I listened to it, and a Jet Blue rep named Shauna had called. She told me Mr. Hayes got my email and asked her to take care of it. I was shocked! Shauna said she would call me back later, knowing that I was in school. I texted my mom, showed my friends at school the email, and felt like I was a step closer to achieving my goal. During my pre-registration for my AP gov exam, I got a phone call from the same Utah phone number. I rushed out of the room to take it. Shauna said it was a very clever and well-crafted email, not even for someone my age. She admired my willingness to go to the very top of the company and that Mr. Hayes is a very nice man who was impressed by my email. After talking some more, she gave me a full refund (something Jet Blue did “for this one instance”). As you can surely imagine, I was over the moon. I promised her I would fly Jet Blue in the near future, and she said she would tell Mr. Hayes we got it sorted out after our phone call. I got an updated email of my order 15 minutes later.
If this were to happen again in the future, I might not get as lucky. But it was another learning experience I am grateful for. This is what I came away with from this experience:
- Do not doubt yourself. If you really want something, go after it, no matter what measures you have to take. I tried one thing; it didn’t work. I did something different; it did work.
- Play to your strengths. I used my persuasive and personal style of writing to get my message across successfully, and it apparently worked!
- Be patient and kind to customer service representatives. They really will try to help you if you’re nice and respectful towards them!
- Purchase a refundable ticket if you’re unsure about your plans! The extra money is probably worth it.
- Consider flying Jet Blue! I was very pleased with the customer service I received from them (the second time around).