Dear County Executive Abele and the Milwaukee County Board,
|Photo courtesy of Jim Donten
I’m sure you’ve read my columns before. Okay maybe not. I know, there have been a lot of them, many somewhat irrelevant to Milwaukee. So I understand if they’ve gone under your radar.
But one thing that I’ve harped on a few times, that’s important to me and I think is important to Milwaukee, is the health of General Mitchell International Airport. The county runs it, right?
So listen up. What’s happened is that we’ve lost an airline and a ton of flights in the last two years. Midwest and its phenomenal customer service (not only wine and cookies but great people) were bought by Republic and merged with Frontier. We know how that turned out.
Bottom line is that Milwaukee no longer has a hometown airline. Which means we lost our "hub" status; there are far fewer direct destinations, fewer flights, less competition and, despite the fact that Milwaukee still has some of the cheaper airfares in the country, higher prices.
I opined in May of this year in this space that “Southwest and AirTran (same company) have the opportunity to expand here, which would be good for destinations but not for prices. The best thing would be to have the powers that be begin courting an airline like JetBlue or Virgin Airways. That would add another carrier and put competition back on some of the routes Frontier abandoned.
No one has taken me up on the idea, so I’m going to propose it again. Let’s get another airline to call Milwaukee home. And that airline should be JetBlue.
Why JetBlue? Simple. Superior customer service and a sound business plan.
JetBlue, based in New York, was the first to put entertainment consoles on planes, with in-flight satellite TV viewing that was free. Still is. What a concept. And all their planes have leather seats – remind you of anything? There’s a reason the airline has made money and grown every year but one since its inception in 1999.
|Beautiful JetBlue interior, courtesy of JetBlue
But what JetBlue did in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was simply phenomenal and is a big reason why I want them here.
You remember Sandy, that diabolical storm that hit the Northeast with an unparalleled vengeance last month. It was especially cruel to New Jersey, the Jersey Shore in particular where I grew up and where my stepmother Ruth still lives a good portion of the year.
During the storm’s arrival at Atlantic City, Ruth was safely and warmly tucked away in Florida, to our good fortune. She had been scheduled to return home the day after Sandy hit, but her house was in an area ravaged by the storm and we knew there was no power.
Her itinerary was on JetBlue, a direct fight from Ft. Myers back to Newark. Given the uncertainly of the clean up, there was no way she’d be going back soon, so I called the airline. Move her flight back? No problem. Pick the day and we’ll take care of it. And let us know if you need to change again. We’ll take care of that too. Wow.
Well, with the incredibly high level of devastation along the Jersey Shore, restoring Ruth’s area to power dragged on. And on. It required me to change her return flight four more times. Ruth finally got home last week.
JetBlue was completely accommodating every time. No change fee. No increased fare. And each time, they upgraded her to boot. No charge. Now that’s service.
County Executive Abele and the Milwaukee County Board, I would like to recommend to you all that we aggressively court JetBlue to come to Milwaukee. With the plans afoot to close Concourse E and combine Delta and United into Concourse D, JetBlue could have a concourse all to itself. And have a significantly positive impact on Milwaukee’s local economy and our image around the country. To say nothing of offering more flights to more destinations and lower fares.
We need an airline that thinks about the passenger first. We need an airline that recognizes the problems travelers have and the things that they feel. We need JetBlue.
Thank you for listening.
Follow me on Twitter: @jpalmer7890