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JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) — the renowned airline that pioneered cut-rate, efficient flying — has been facing operational problems industry insiders say may be attributed to a ‘maturing’ airline. What are the signs?
In a late-March incident, a pilot ran amok during the flight, which had to be diverted by the co-pilot to a safe landing. In a symptomatically similar incident in 2010, a flight attendant escaped a fracas on board the plane by sliding down an inflatable chute.
“I think in many respects they’ve matured and part of the maturation process is when you’re a ten-year-old company, you have ten-year-old company costs. You’re not growing as rapidly as you used to,” said Robert Mann, an industry consultant and former airline executive.
Mann also said, “In the last year or two, passengers and crew members are acting as if they’re under a lot of stress. There’s nothing about JetBlue, but it suggests to me that the entire transportation system is just wound a little too tight.”
Gary Chaison, a labor expert at Clark University, attributes the heightened pressures to shrinking profits, industry bankruptcies, and the prospect of consolidation. “I think the workers are operating under some stress because they know the corporate culture says they are a joint partner in the company. They enjoy a special status, but I think they see it as not going to last forever,” Chaison said.
The environment is far more competitive now, and according to former Continental Airlines Chief Executive Gordon Bethune, “There is no place to put an airplane where they don’t have competition. It’s harder to grow,” he said.
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