Jetblue’s Jenny Dervin answers your questions (part 2)

Jetblue's Jenny Dervin answers your questions! File photo.

Jetblue’s Jenny Dervin answers your questions! File photo.

When I visited Jetblue headquarters in New York earlier this month, I solicited questions from readers about questions they wanted me to ask airline officials. Unfortunately, I didn’t see two of the reader questions until after my visit. But fear not. Jenny Dervin, Jetblue’s vice president for corporate communication was kind enough to answer them via email.

Certainly there’s some element of spin here, but I know my readers are smart enough to digest the answers…

John writes: “JB has had significant problems w/ weather events at JFK. The first one years ago cost founder David Neeleman his job. How is this being addressed?”

Jenny Dervin’s Response:
True! We chose to base our airline in New York, with a focus city in Boston, because that’s where the customers are. (It’s like bank robber Willie Sutton, who was asked “Why do you rob banks, Willie?” and Willie said “Because that’s where the money is!”)

But the flip side to basing our operations in the Northeast is that it’s the most congested airspace in the world. One out of every five airborne planes is operating in the Northeast – either taking off, landing or flying through. When weather strikes in the Northeast, it has a disproportionate impact on our operations compared to airlines who have hubs in fair-weather ports. Although it’s fair to say that every airline was walloped this winter, no matter where their hubs are located.

So what are we doing about it? Several things: After the first major storm of the season, we rededicated ourselves to making sure we aggressively thinned the operation in advance of any storm, so we could let our customers know well in advance of any schedule disruption. Communication well in advance, with options for rebooking are key to serving our customers. We appreciate that our customers also know that there’s very little we can do when the weather is bad.

We are also working on improving airspace management through the FAA’s NextGen efforts. 

Dave writes, “Future plans for BOS? Or is it at max capacity already?”

Jenny Dervin’s Response:
We love Boston! No airline has been able to carve out a majority market share in Boston until we did – we’re the largest airline in Boston with the most nonstops. We are currently around 100 departures a day from BOS, and we plan to operate maybe a dozen more in peak seasons. There is a capacity limit, more aligned with the number of gates we have there than anything else, but we aren’t near that max capacity limit yet.

Our plan for BOS is to continue adding destinations that are highly relevant to the customers in BOS. We serve many of the top 25 markets but not all, so our growth will be highly focused going forward.

Having said all that, I have to also say that we know we are only as good as our last flight and we have to continue to earn our customers’ business. We are improving the airport experience to help that. Massport, who runs the airport, has been a great partner, improving the security checkpoint and general infrastructure. BOS is a city that works in all respects.

Want more? Here are some more of Dervin’s answers from my visit.

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UberX: LAX police chief says officers have no choice but to ticket ride-share drivers

Why have LAX police made it so difficult for UberX to operate at the airport?

Why have LAX police made it so difficult for UberX to operate at the airport?

There are more important stories than whether Los Angeles International Airport allows UberX and Lyft drivers to make pickups and drop-offs. I realize this. However, I got a chance on Wednesday to ask airport police chief Patrick Gannon why airport police have been assessing so many tickets recently to ride-sharing drivers.

“It is not fair to cite other taxis and limos for not following the applicable rules here at the airport and not apply the same rules to others,” Gannon said. “That is where the rub is. I would prefer that some agreement is made to allow everybody to work appropriately here. But in the meantime they are not sanctioned.”

As we’ve said before, there are two main issues. The first is that most drivers for UberX and Lyft do not have proper permits from LAX to legally make airport pickups. (LAX gets to make its own rules.) The second is that most drivers for the two ride-share companies lack commercial insurance. And since the drivers are providing a commercial service, the police say they should have the right insurance. Police spokeswoman Sgt. Belinda Nettles told me LAX officers gave out 112 citations for “no commercial insurance” in January alone. (Most of the insurance citations are considered “secondary violations,” which means that airport police pull over the drivers for another reason and then ask to see insurance papers.)

We know that elsewhere in California, drivers have found police more willing to look the other way. But Gannon said that’s not a feasible approach at LAX.

“I cant just ignore the rules and the law,” Gannon said. “That kind of puts my officers in a bad position as to to when they are having to enforce the law fairly across the board.”

Gannon did have some potentially good news for ride-sharing aficionados. He said some of the ride-share companies have been in talks with LAX management to get drivers the proper paperwork to operate there. Of course, those drivers would still need commercial insurance.

“There is a well established protocol as to how that works and a requirement for people to able to operate here,” Gannon said. “It’s all done for all the right reasons to make sure that we protect passengers and that they are not victimized by unscrupulous people.”

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LAX police gave out at least 112 citations to UberX and Lyft drivers in January

Police at Los Angeles International Airport gave out 112 citations in January to ride-share drivers, mainly from UberX and Lyft, for a lack of commercial insurance, a police spokeswoman said.

All of the citations were either secondary or tertiary violations, Sgt. Belinda Nettles said in an email. What does this mean? It means that the police pulled over the driver for another reason — maybe a broken taillight — and then discovered the driver lacked a commercial insurance policy. A driver who shared his ticket with this blog was caught for having tinted windows. He got a warning for the windows but received citations for the insurance.

Nettles said there were only 10 of these violations in February. There was no data yet available from March.

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Are LAX police ticketing UberX drivers? An officer tells his side of the story.

LAXPD Citation

Los Angeles International Airport police have made catching UberX and Lyft drivers a priority but only because most of the drivers are not in compliance with the law, according to a phone call I received this morning from an airport police officer familiar with operations.

The officer has been reading this blog and saw my report — complete with a picture of the ticket — earlier this week about an UberX driver who was cited after making a drop-off for not having proper commercial insurance. The officer thinks I’ve been unfair to LAX police, who are just enforcing the law. The officer, not surprisingly, has asked to remain anonymous, and I have decided not to quote the officer here, even though I did take notes on our conversation.

The officer says nearly all drivers from UberX and Lyft are not in compliance with California Vehicle Code 260, which deals with “Commercial Vehicles.” The officer has been citing the drivers for not having proper commercial insurance and not having cars registered as commercial vehicles.

UberX drivers say the insurance issue is a major problem. While they can buy it, many drivers say if they are forced to do so they will no longer be able to afford to drive for the ride-service. Commercial insurance is expensive.

But the commercial vehicle issue is not unique to the airport. I asked the officer why enforcement is so robust at LAX when I rarely hear of LAPD officers making similar traffic stops elsewhere in the city. He said that LAX police are one of the few police agencies enforcing the law because the airport — with its own special police force — has the resources for it. The airport also gets a disproportionate number of ride-share cars.

The officer said police have been trying to only make stops when there is no passenger in the car. But this enforcement action is still likely to impact LAX ride-share services, as some drivers have told me they prefer not to serve the airport.

As I reported in January, UberX has already stopped facilitating LAX pickups. The reason for that decision was different and not related to insurance. LAX has its own rules about which type of car services can legally make airport pickups, and most UberX drivers lack the proper permits. Lyft drivers have the same problem, but the Lyft app will still let you summon a car at LAX. (I wouldn’t recommend it, though, as the chances your driver will be ticketed are reasonably high.)

I told the officer that many of my readers are upset that the airport has taken a tougher stance on ride-sharing drivers than other police agencies. The officer said he felt for the passengers, but said police have to enforce the law.

What do you think? Is this enforcement action a good thing? Or should police look the other way?

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