You'll remember that JetBlue managed to turn lead into gold when one of their A320s suffered a nosegear failure and ended up starring on live TV in one of the world's most publicised landings. Everything went well, the pilot was lauded, and the airline effectively got advertising that I suppose would be valued in seven figures at regular TV rates.
Last week things were different. JetBlue is being flayed for its near network-collapse and all the advertising in the world couldn't fix its reputation right now. The saga may well lead to passenger-rights legislation in the USA, and JetBlue has come up with its own bill of rights in the meantime.
But Neeleman's smart touch is, I think, shown in this YouTube video in which he talks directly about what happened and what JetBlue is doing about it. It's about as good a job as could be done in the circumstances - he comes across as a CEO who's genuinely horrified by what happened and regretful of what his company has done to its individual customers. The YouTube comments are predictably cynical, but as the thread develops, an increasing number of plausibly genuine supporters get on board.
Right now this has tremendous impact. But I don't think it sets a precedent that will be widely followed. The next airline CEO that does it will get about one-tenth of the impact, and anyone else will barely be noticed. Fact is that the airline industry lets its customers down so often that YouTube would need a special "contrite airline CEOs" category. I don't suppose United's Glen Tilton considered YouTube for a moment after this horror.