JetBlue Pilot Freaked Out: Why Its Investors Should Too

Jet Blue
Jet Blue

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain freaking.

A Tuesday morning JetBlue (JBLU) flight taking passengers to Las Vegas had to be diverted after the pilot had a mental meltdown and had to be subdued by passengers.

Reports indicate that the captain was acting erratically in the cockpit, and the co-pilot was able to persuade him to leave. When the co-pilot and an off-duty JetBlue pilot managed to lock him out of the cockpit, the situation intensified.

The locked-out pilot began telling passengers that terrorists were going to take the plane down. He was restrained by several of the passengers with seatbelt extenders.

JetBlue is initially calling this a "medical situation," though one has to wonder what it would be classified as if it were a passenger inciting the calamity.

Either way, this is another bizarre situation on a JetBlue flight.

Charlie Restivo and Don Davis were aboard flight 191 when the pilot pilot had a mental meltdown. AP
Charlie Restivo and Don Davis were aboard flight 191 when the pilot pilot had a mental meltdown. AP

Rename It Jet Black and Blue

JetBlue has been able to set itself apart from many of the larger legacy carriers through its cheap flights and fancy frills.
Passengers have personal monitors giving them access to 36 DIRECTV (DTV) television channels and most of Sirius XM's (SIRI) satellite radio stations. At a time when most carriers are charging for on-board items, JetBlue passengers have complimentary snacks including crackers, cookies, nut mixes, and the signature blue potato chips.

Unfortunately, passengers have been getting a little more entertainment than they signed up for on some flights.

Long before Tuesday's trek to Sin City, JetBlue has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons:

  • Two years ago, a fed-up flight JetBlue attendant publicly quit after an altercation with a passenger. He grabbed a beer, opened the emergency chute on the plane parked on the Tarmac, and slid his way down to "take this job and shove it" infamy.

  • Flight 504 last year was grounded on the tarmac for seven hours without food, water, or working toilets last year. "We can't seem to get any help from our own company," the pilot told airport officials at one point as passengers began to grow unruly. "Take us anywhere."

  • In 2005, faulty landing gear forced the crew of JetBlue Flight 292 to circle around for three hours to consume fuel before attempting a bumpy landing. Many of the passengers didn't realize the gravity of the situation until they saw their plane live on CNN -- through the DIRECTV feed in their personal monitors.

Fasten Your Seatbelts, Investors

This should be a good time for JetBlue: Its stock has been trading in the single digits since mid-2007. Analysts see earnings soaring 79% this year off last year's depressed bottom-line showing, and those same pros see JetBlue's revenue inching 11% higher.

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But the carrier keeps finding itself at the wrong end of the headlines. If it becomes the airline that passengers associate with crews that snap, what will that do to future bookings?

It also doesn't help that JetBlue has missed Wall Street's profit targets in two of its past three quarters. Owning the stock has been a lot like being a passenger of Flight 504 last October. The stock just isn't moving.

"We can't seem to get any help from our own company," shareholders may be saying. "Take us anywhere."

Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article.


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