NEW YORK - The six-day siege of disgruntled travelers at JetBlue's Kennedy airport terminal appeared to ease Monday as service desks functioned more smoothly and customer calm prevailed despite a new spate of flight cancellations.
The beleaguered company said it was canceling almost a quarter of its flights Monday but hoped to restore full operations today, a week after a Valentine's Day snowstorm created a travel meltdown that virtually paralyzed JetBlue Airways Corp.
David G. Neeleman, the company's founder and chief executive, told The New York Times that he was "humiliated and mortified" by the breakdown, which he blamed on several factors besides the weather: poor communications, an overwhelmed reservations system, and many of JetBlue's 11,000 pilots and flight attendants being stuck in locations other than where they were needed.
Federal aviation rules also limit the number of hours that pilots can fly without mandatory rest breaks.
JetBlue spokesman Sebastian White said Monday's cancellations helped make sure all flight crews had legally mandated amounts of rest before flying again and gave the airline the time to get equipment to the proper places.
While JetBlue was making its own analysis, one travel expert suggested the airline had brought the crisis on itself by trying to do the right thing for its passengers despite the wintry weather threat.
"Most airlines don't try to operate when there is an ice storm problem - they've learned that it's better to cancel all flights at the outset and then try to get back to normal operations as quickly as possible," David Stempler, the president of the Washington-based, member-supported Air Travelers Association, said Monday.
Monday's cancellations affected 139 of 600 scheduled flights at 11 airports: Richmond, Va.; Pittsburgh; Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Austin and Houston, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Nashville; Portland, Maine; and Bermuda.