Lawsuit leaves airline feeling blue

Bill Baker was mad. This crotchety blogger was so pissed at JetBlue that he took the airline to small claims court. On January 16, 2009, victory was sweet, to the tune of $494. The money, he says, will be donated to charity.

Clearly, one lone nut blogger can make a difference.

JetBlue delayed Baker’s red-eye flight from Portland, OR to New York for five hours, before announcing the cancellation of the flight. The passengers were offered flights out three days later. Meals, accommodations and earlier flights were not offered. So, Baker took JetBlue to Connecticut small claims court. He asked for damages of $722.50 (per his blog, $687.50 per the court record). The airline apparently took the lawsuit seriously, actually sending a representative to the hearing. This was not enough, however, to sway the events to JetBlue’s favor.

The airline has developed something of a reputation for canceling flights and pushing passengers days into the future. When I went to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, JetBlue canceled my flight and simply said that I wouldn’t be able to get into JFK for another two days. I pushed, asking about the many other airports in the New York area – small spots, like LaGuardia and Newark. Finally, I got them to put me on a flight for the next day. Like Baker, JetBlue offered nothing to make my trip easier.

I just sent a letter to JetBlue, which garnered a very weak response from the airline. Baker aimed high, and it worked.Litigation was not his first choice. In fact, he offered to let JetBlue donate the $722.50 for which he was suing to the ASPCA or the Humane Society of America. The airline did not respond to his offer. They did offer some vouchers as compensation, which he refused to use. But, the judge seemed to consider them in his final award, as they account for the difference between the damages requested and those rewarded.

I guess the moral of this story is that airlines should realize that even the smallest complaint can snowball. I found out about Bill Baker’s story on his blog, which was linked to his Twitter account, went to his blog and was entranced. That’s all it takes, sometimes, for one company’s bad news to gain a hell of a lot of attention. One person cruising a series of links at the right time can turn a small story into a big one.

For travelers, the message is that we need to continue to talk to each other. Start your own blogs. Use sites like Twitter. As we saw earlier this week, with the use of the Hudson River as a runway, citizen journalism has become a powerful force. Let everyone know about the best and worst you see on the road. We’re all in this together. Also, the airlines and hotels are starting to pay attention. One tough tweet will be noticed.

And, Baker leaves us with his battle cry, “Ask not how airlines can screw you; Ask how you can screw the airlines back!”

Read about Bill Baker’s lawsuit against JetBlue >>

View the official results of the Connecticut Small Claims Court >>

Learn about blogging, microblogging and travel >>

Read about a suit against Easyjet in Europe >>

Start your own airline lawsuit >>

[Thanks, Bill]

Light the Menorah

I came across this wonderful video while looking for videos on menorah light up festivities. The blend of the music, the clever lyrics, and the images of Christmas and Hanukkah that interplay as backdrop to the young men who perform gave me a feel good feeling. I’m not usually fond of rap music, but this is an interesting mix between rap and a classical approach. You’ll see.

I’m not sure where this is taking place. One commenters asked if this was filmed in Portland, Oregon, but the lyrics mentioned New York City. Regardless of the location, it’s delightful. Listen for the popular culture references. These guys are smart.

Because this is the season for Hanukkah, as well as Christmas, this video seemed fitting and a companion to the post on public menorahs around the world.

Gadling Take FIVE: Week of September 13–September 19

In a week where Wall Street has gone haywire, and Hurricane Ike made it to the Midwestern part of the United States creating a whole bunch of mischief, this has been a week at Gadling for waxing nostalgic and feeling gushy.

  • Scott took us on a trip down memory lane with his post on vintage airline commercials.
  • Matthew got all poetic on his cup of ramen noodles, and told us just how to jazz up our own bowl of the good stuff.
  • Jeremy gave us a up close and personal look at the architectural gem of Grand Central as part of his new series, “The Undiscovered New York.”
  • Heather lamented a bit for the good old days of air travel when there were decent layovers and when airline food service was adequate enough to make both the flight crews and the passengers happy.
  • And, Meg pointed out one way Portland, Oregon remembers its history through horses–fake horses that can be found at various locations about town.

As for me, personally, I’m feeling nostalgic about electricity. We haven’t had it at my house since last Sunday. Of course, I realize this is a minor nusance. The upside is that electricity has been a great conversation starter as of late–as in, “Do you have any?”

New Airline Makes Catching a Plane Almost as Easy as Catching a Taxi

It happens all the time. The one hour flight from one city to another is turned into a five hour adventure with security checkpoints, baggage claim traffic jams and surly airport staff. It would often be easier, cheaper and faster to drive (literally). If only there was an easier way to fly.

A new airline in the Pacific Northwest is seeking to take the hassle out of commuter flights. The small Portland-based company SeaPort only has 3 turbo-prop commuter planes. That’s all it needs, because its only route is between Portland and Seattle. But what’s special about SeaPort is, like corporate airplanes usually reserved for the rich and/or famous, they fly under the FAA’s general aviation rules. That means that they can fly out of smaller airports where security screening and other hassles aren’t required. In Portland, for example, SeaPort uses the business aviation area, not the main terminal, of the Portland International. In Seattle, they land at Boeing Field, a crowd-less airport six miles from downtown Seattle. The result, no waiting in lines. The airline’s goal is to get passengers from downtown Portland to downtown Seattle in 90 minutes. The price of a flight: $149 one-way. That is marginally more expensive than flying the same route on a traditional budget carrier. But, the time saved just might be worth it to many.

Travel or home improvement? How about travel to a home and garden show?

When I lived overseas some friends of mine, who also lived overseas, complained that when they were in the U.S. on vacation, they couldn’t relate to what excited people.

For example, one friend said that a friend of hers in the U.S. was excited about getting a new deck. My friend didn’t think that getting a new deck was exciting news. Planning an adventure vacation was exciting, however–unless you are a person who enjoys staying home enjoying a party on your new deck.

I did point out that for people who live overseas, buying items like carpets and unusual furniture can also give one that new things rush and that people like to show off at their parties. She agreed.

Once we moved back to the U.S., I discovered that we were fresh meat when it came to people trying to sell us stuff for home improvement. Let’s just say we have a whole house water improvement system that we have to feed salt, because we lived in two countries where we couldn’t drink the water. I have become more savvy since that purchase. Still, there are always home improvements that loom while we are off traveling.

This is the time of year when, now that vacation fun is fading into the past, the need to nest before winter kicks in begins to build. Somehow, each fall, I’m hooked into some “Let’s spruce up the place” endeavor. A friend who is a handy fellow is doing some plaster repair work today.

Because my friend who was less than impressed with decks has not moved back to the U.S., she is unaware that there are places to go dedicated to decks and other wonders of home improvement. Home and garden shows are a nesting bonanza. This month kicks off a flurry of fall activities geared towards getting people to focus on the place where they live.

At such shows, I’m one of those people who picks up brochures just so I can imagine what a sunroom might look like in the backyard. I won’t actually put a sunroom in the backyard, but the brochures are enticing. I also like to tour model homes and trailers. It’s not like I’d actually like to live in one, but it’s like visiting a movie set where you can imagine another kind of life.

A home and garden show, to a traveler, is a place to fantasize what your house might look like if you were ever home enough to fix it up–or what life would be like if you lived in one place.

Of course, a travel show opens up the possibilities of where you might go if you didn’t need to fix the leaky roof, or felt the draw of energy efficient windows. With some financial juggling, it is possible to take the trips and do home improvements.

The Home and Garden shows listed here are some of the ones I found for September and October.

Although there is an admission price, check local grocery stores or other venues for discount tickets. For example, the Best of Fall Show in Columbus, September 12-14 has free tickets at Krogers.

One thing I noticed about the Columbus show is that there are exhibitors specific to Ohio such as Longaberger baskets, as well as local celebrities. Chances are, if you go to a home and garden show, it’s a way to learn a bit about the state where the show is located. The one in Columbus also has travel related exhibitors which illustrates the fix up the house AND travel lifestyle.

Home and Garden Show in Canada

Toronto Home Show: September 18-21

Here’s a link to a site that lists several others. If you miss the ones this fall, there is always the spring.