As the window for safely evacuating Florida shrinks, many residents and business owners of the sunshine state have no other option but to book a flight out of the region. While United, American Airlines, and Delta were all accused of price gouging, JetBlue announced that it was capping ticket prices. The airline will charge no more than $99 for direct flights and $159 for connecting flights, including taxes. The company also has scheduled additional flights in select cities.
Other airlines finally followed suit and American Airlines and Delta, for example, both applied caps, added flights, and/or waived specific fees.
However, JetBlue's leadership in pricing is important because it comes in the wake of major companies facing price gouging allegations -- Amazon being one of those that fell under customer fire, with their third-party sellers significantly increasing the price of water (and for expedited shipping).
Why the comparison matters
When a disaster like Hurricane Irma strikes, business leaders can see how far supply and demand rules allow them to go, charging whatever people in desperation can pay, or they can suspend the normal supply and demand rules and charge based on what they feel is fair according to social good.
Companies that choose the first option may allow their algorithms to control their rates on products or services. Their focus is short-term--responding to the immediate demand. But companies that choose the second option must override whatever algorithm they use for costs. They might not make much money during the crisis. But ultimately, they might come out better in the long run because they respond with humanity, forming a formidable relationship with individuals who later can go on to become loyal and buy again.
Proactive, not reactive
JetBlue gets it. The desire for a great customer experience does not go away in a crisis. In fact, if anything, customers are more responsive to what you do or don't do, because they're emotional. We all are -- we're human. So have some heart and let your business values reflect exactly that in a time of need.