A few weeks ago JetBlue made headlines when they allowed a three-year-old toddler to pee herself on the tarmac.

When this story broke, I was interviewed by a reporter with USA Today. I obviously wasn’t on that flight, and I’m not a flight attendant or a lawyer, so I’m not completely versed in FAA regulations, but here’s how I see it.

To me, this story has everything to do with the Principle of Character, which I explain in detail in my upcoming book Evergreen and I’ve also discussed it HERE.

Character has everything to do with who you are, as a company, and how you want to be perceived and understood by your customer base. Most organizations use things like missions and value statements to describe who they are – and they use these as their north-star for the day-to-day actions of the company.

The biggest problem with most missions, values, and vision statements is that they don’t match the day-to-day actions of the employees of the company, or the company itself.

This story is the perfect example of that.

Unless they were enforcing the “passengers must be seated at all times” rule for everybody, and equally forcefully, then JetBlue’s actions were just plain wrong.  The subsequent public relations response is even worse, but we’ll get to that…

At any point in the flight delay did somebody get up to retrieve a book from the overhead bin?  Well, they were out of their seat too, and unless they were tased or tackled and forcibly restrained into their seats, then they were treated differently and more humanely than the little girl was.

If, at any point during that delay, somebody stood up without being physically restrained, then the rules they’re hiding behind now were unevenly enforced, and hiding behind them makes it look more like JetBlue is concerned with dodging blame (as a company and for the staff members directly involved) than for the well-being of its passengers.

The reporter from USA Today asked me about corporate DNA – which is a term I despise. Character is more fluid. It can be shaped and developed. It can change over time, and it should

You shape your character and the type of company you want to become through your actions – especially in times of turmoil, or moments when you might have to break the rules. You don’t do that by offering an apology with no admission of wrongdoing or action plan for fixing things in the future!

What a missed opportunity for JetBlue!

 “We’re sorry your daughter had to urinate on herself. Here’s a credit for 50 dollars, even though we did nothing wrong. Sincerely, JetBlue – Bringing Humanity Back to Airlines.” 

A fine example of really bad PR.