JetBlue Nudges Fliers on Etiquette After Summer of Air Rage

Snoring, slouching sleepers and the challenges of climbing over fellow passengers for a trip to the restroom.

Those are among the myriad in-flight etiquette issues faced by travelers on crowded planes, and are the first targeted by JetBlue Airways Corp. in a planned series of over-the-top videos posted on Facebook and Twitter to encourage passengers to think about their behavior.

“We wanted to say, ‘We’ve all been there. We get it, and let’s talk about it,’” Lisa Borromeo, JetBlue director of brand management and advertising, said about the clips for #FlightEtiquette. “It’s a universal truth of flying.”

The videos follow a summer in which several incidents of air rage occurred on crowded U.S. aircraft, including three in a span of nine days that led to flight diversions. One, on a United Airlines plane, involved a passenger spat that escalated into water tossing and transformed the Knee Defender seatback-lodging gadget into a household name.

The JetBlue videos aren’t intended to tell customers how to behave, Borromeo said in an interview. The exaggerated examples “are meant to be fun” and to generate dialog with passengers about their experiences, she said.

While the carrier would be “thrilled” if the clips lead to positive behavior changes, “we’re also happy knowing that the video caused some travelers to smile and nod in understanding,” said Morgan Johnston, a spokesman for the carrier.

Seat Etiquette

JetBlue, based in New York, was an early adopter of social media to directly converse with customers and the videos extend that hallmark. The first, posted Dec. 22, is entitled “How Not to Take a Nap.” It portrays a sleeping, snoring man leaning onto the shoulder and then the lap of a passenger in the seat next to him, and eventually lying across the entire row.

The second, unveiled Jan. 7, shows a passenger in a window seat consuming several beverages and then facing the dilemma of getting past sleeping travelers in the middle and aisle seats of her row. In “How Not to Make an Exit,” the fidgeting woman tries various ways to wake the sleepers, then attempts to climb over and under them.

“This idea specifically is meant to separate us from some of the traditional communications you see from us,” Borromeo said. “That’s always our ongoing kind of challenge. How do we continue to have these unexpected conversations and interactions with our customers that are not just about promotions not just about sales and not just about JetBlue, really.”

‘No Heroes’

The videos don’t hold universal appeal. Jay Sorensen, a former marketing director at Midwest Airlines, said the goal of the series isn’t clear beyond JetBlue using social media to engage customers.

“There’s no heroes in these stories, and there’s no solution provided,” said Sorensen, who is president of Shorewood, Wisconsin-based aviation consultant IdeaWorksCompany. “Maybe I’m a dolt, but I don’t understand the purpose of this. These stories don’t have a happy ending.”

In 2003, JetBlue created “air-tiquette” cards placed in seatbacks that offered tips for passengers “to be savvy, comfortable, nice and safe while in the air.” The suggestions included saying excuse me, keeping the aircraft clean, stretching out but being considerate of other passengers and keeping your feet out of the aisle.

Unruly passengers triggered 121 “enforcement actions” by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration last year. The FAA’s cases reflect reports to the agency by flight-crew members, and exclude violations that may be reported to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

JetBlue will continue the video series with an unspecified number of clips, some based on both personal experiences and those related by customers responding to the first two.

“I was riding the train in this morning and, seeing what kind of things happen on a train, I thought of some additional ones,” Borromeo said of possible topics. “I think it’s endless.”

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