JetBlue and the case of the full barf bag

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By Christopher Elliott

If you’ve ever flown on JetBlue, you know that everyone pitches in to clean the plane after the flight.

And when I say “everyone” I mean it.

(True story: I once introduced myself to JetBlue’s chief operating officer, who was traveling to New York on my flight, as he was helping clean the aircraft after landing. I loved the way he was leading by example, and told him how much I admired it.)

But from time to time, the crew overlooks something, and Myrtha Désulmé experienced one such unfortunate case.

A unpleasant surprise in the seat pocket

She recently flew from Kingston, Jamaica, to Fort Lauderdale. When she reached into her seat pocket to pull out the airsickness bag, she found an unpleasant surprise.

“It had vomit in it,” she says. “I actually put my hand in the bag to open it, and got the nasty surprise.”

Isn’t that what air sickness bags are for? Sure, but you would expect someone to notice the filled bag and dispose of it between flights.

Désulmé wasn’t having the best of luck with JetBlue. On her return flight, her tray table didn’t work and neither did her in-flight entertainment system. Her requests to fix the problem were ignored, she says.

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She decided to send a brief, polite complaint to JetBlue — and airline that likes to hold itself to a higher standard when it comes to customer care. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

Here’s its response:

We sincerely apologize when you reached into the pocket in front of your seat that there was vomit in the bag. We know how frustrating this must have been as we clean all papers and items between flights and obviously this was missed. We will notify our Inflight Management Team.

We know how important cleanliness is and it is unfortunate on your return flight of March 24th your tray table was dirty and your television was inoperable. We regret our Inflight Crewmember did not respond to your call.

When a TV is inoperable per our JetBlue Bill of Rights, we issue a $15 service credit. As a courtesy, we have placed a $115 credit in your Travel Bank Account. All credit is valid for one year and may be redeemed online toward a future JetBlue flight.

(Note: This is the actual letter. Grammar apparently is not this customer service rep’s thing.)

Désulmé wants to know if this is enough, and I’ve agreed to pass her question along to you, dear readers. I suspect she’d like me to also mediate this with JetBlue, if I can.

I’m not a fan of laundry-list complaints, but I’ve also been vomited on by another passenger, and it’s no fun. And while no one threw up on Désulmé, it is also true that the cabin should have been properly cleaned.

Is a $115 credit enough for these service lapses? Or should my advocacy team and I ask JetBlue for more, if not an apology written in English.

Should I mediate Myrtha Désulmé's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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