I have one thing to ask Allegiant Airlines: Have you never heard of Jet Blue? That’s the airline that stranded passengers on the tarmac for seven hours, but won back customers after making things right. On Monday, Allegiant Airlines faced a similar incident and, inexplicably, ignored those lessons.

On Monday, passengers expecting a 1.5 hour flight from Oakland to Utah were delayed more than 11 hours – and the weather was perfectly clear. What’s not clear is why Allegiant had so much trouble finding an aircraft for people who obviously bought tickets expecting one. It took three planes and an additional 2.5 hours of fueling for the flight (which was supposed to depart at 9:30 a.m.) to finally arrive at its destination at 10:22 p.m.

Not surprisingly, passengers were a little peeved. Comments to CBS affiliate station KPIX-TV news and subsequently broadcast nationally ranged from: “This airline should go out of business” to “I’ll never fly Allegiant again and tell everyone else not to fly it, either.”

Trying to control the damage, Allegiant issued a statement about making passengers comfortable and gave them $100 vouchers.

From a crisis communications point of view, here’s what they should have done – straight out of Jet Blue’s playbook:
1. Apologize. Profusely. And mean it.
2. Express empathy for what the passengers were going through. (Dear Allegiant, if you don’t know, it feels a lot like you’re being held hostage).
3. Promise to never do it again.
4. Clearly outline the steps you will take to ensure it will never happen again.
5. Like Jet Blue, issue a Customer Bill of Rights
6. Publicly push out your apology and bill of rights via news media and social media.
7. Encourage customers to continue giving you feedback – and respond regularly.
8. And for goodness sakes, forget the $100 voucher. Give the poor souls a free plane ticket!

Jet Blue is a great example of how a company can win back customers by doing the right things, accepting responsibility, and driving change as a result. What can Allegiant learn from them? A lot. Surprisingly, they haven’t.

That’s my opinion. What’s yours?