I’m running the Army 10-miler in DC at the end of October. I’m so excited for the race because I get to stay with my high school friend who lives in Maryland and hang with her for the weekend. I needed to book my flight so, of course, I checked Jet Blue to see if they fly to Baltimore. Jet Blue is always the airline I check first to see if they go where I’m going. If they don’t, I am usually bummed because I love flying Jet Blue. Great prices, excellent in-flight service, cool brand. But, Jet Blue, this week you tweaked my nose and I’m not happy.

Here’s what happened.

Okay, so I booked my flight to Maryland Monday afternoon. Paid full price. Done. Then the following morning, I get an email with an offer:

Book a flight by October 1, 2010 for travel through December 15, 2010 and get $50 off a future flight on JetBlue, plus 500 bonus TrueBlue points.

I read the fine print and decide to call Jet Blue to see if they will apply this promotion to the flight I just booked. They are service-oriented people. They want me to jet happy, right? Hm, not so much. The call goes something like this:

Me: Hi. I booked my flight yesterday and got an email with a special offer that I’d like to apply to the flight. I registered for the promotion online and just need to apply it to my flight.

JB: Hm, I don’t think we can do that.

Me: Really? I just booked my flight – just 12 hours ago.

JB: Well, I need to put you on hold to check.

Me: Okay

<listening to static-infused horrible music for 15 mins>

JB: Okay, I am transferring you to someone who can help.

Me: Great. Thanks.

JB2: Hi, so you want to apply the $50 promo to the flight you just booked?

Me: Yes, that would be terrific.

JB2: Sorry we can’t do that.

Me: Why?

JB2: Because you need to book the flight online to get the promotion.

Me: But I already booked the flight online. And I registered for the promo. And I’m a True Blue customer. Can’t you just apply the promotion through your system?

JB2: No, we can’t.

Me: Really? I fly you guys all the time. Your the first airline I think about flying. I was even thinking about opening a Jet Blue credit card. So, you’re saying that there’s no way to make this happen for me? Think about it. You guys win. You give me points and a $50 voucher and I spend more to fly. (I know, I’m a dork, I seriously said that.)

JB2: No, I’m sorry, I can’t. It’s our procedure. But, I’ll write down your concern and send it to our customer feedback team.

Me: Is there someone else who can help me? I am really disappointed.

JB2: No I’m sorry. Is there anything else I can do to help you today?

Wow. I hung up the phone dazed and confused. How is it that I could get such great service on the plane – entertaining in-flight attendants, TVs in my seat, on-time flights – everything that signifies happy jetting. But, then when I call their service line, I get not one but two service reps who cannot apply a promotion to a purchase to keep a loyal customer happy?

So, Jet Blue, I ask you, where did your customer service food chain go wrong? Maybe it’s because most people do everything online and never need to call. Maybe it’s because you only care about the in-flight service. Maybe it’s just fluff you add to your brand to make it seem better than the other fuddy-duddy airlines. In someways, I don’t care because all that matters is I feel like I was fooled. You showed me a side of your brand that didn’t live up to the image you created through your ads, your messaging and your in-flight experience. What a let down.

We all know that air travel is competitive. Travelers like me are always looking for the easiest way to travel at the best price. I want to keep on lovin’ you, Jet Blue, but you did me wrong. It’s an important message to all of us running businesses. Think about the message you send to your customers – are all the customer-facing teams in your company aligned around meeting the expectation of that message?

To me, Jet Blue is to airlines what Zappos is to online shoe shopping. Recently I called Zappos to apply a promo code for free shipping. Guess what, they did it – no questions asked. I was on the phone for probably 2 minutes. And she even asked how the weather was in Boston. That’s a well-rounded, empowered and customer-focused company. It makes a difference to customers who have choices about where to spend their money and where to apply their brand loyalty. Jet Blue, I encourage you to learn a lesson and take a look at your approach to service.

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