Keep company policies real

Travel exposes you to all manner of silly policies, but when it comes down to it, it is more about how you implement them that can make the difference.
It’s been 10 months since I’ve been in my old stomping ground of Denver, Colorado where I lived for 13 years, and it’s nice to be catching up with friends, colleagues and clients. But today I want to talk about my flight here from New York this past week. I flew with Jet Blue, the #5 airline in the US market and topic of a mention in a previous blog here.


I love Jet Blue; always have. Its stated promise to “put the humanity back into air travel” is both admirable and overdue, and for the most part it succeeds. It does hundreds of little things a bit differently and genuinely makes the flying experience one to talk about instead of complain about. It even has a Customer Bill of Rights, implemented after an infamous service meltdown earlier last year.


But that is on the plane. Before you get on the plane you have to check in, and the staff even do that really well – until your one bag is a couple of kilos over the weight limit! Now keep in mind you are allowed two bags of 50lbs each for a total allowance of 100lbs (excuse the imperial measure)… so why, when I have only one bag that is a bit over the single bag limit, but still way under the total luggage weight of someone with two 49lb bags, do I have to pay a “fee”?


It’s a rhetorical question, but that doesn’t make the “policy” any less nonsensical. Companies make all kinds of rules that don’t make sense to anyone – even my gate agent thought it was stupid she had to charge me the $20 over limit fine (I mean fee). And as a result, now Jet Blue’s promise has a little chink in it…


Which begs the question – you spend lots of time and money hiring smart people, so why not trust them to make on-the-spot calls about when to charge a fee or not, or about any of the other day-to-day decisions they have to make in accordance with policy.


I am not advocating a blank slate to do what you like, but the way to win friends and keep customers is to show a little smarts, a lot of flexibility and treat people like people – not like a “situation.” Policies are an operating necessity; how you implement them is the difference between a happy customer and someone who tells their story in a blog.


If you want to know more about Jet Blue and its founder David Neeleman, they are a great business story. Here are a few resources to get you started:



See you next week from San Francisco.



Michel Hogan is an independent consultant and practising brand heretic, who firmly believes that success for organisations starts on the inside with alignment between beliefs and actions, a passion she explores daily in her work here with Brandology and in the United States with the Brand Alignment Group .

For more Cultural Leadership blogs, click here.


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