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Roya Sabri headshot

JetBlue Helps Rebuild Puerto Rico with Habitat Restoration

By Roya Sabri
Puerto Rico

Two years ago, Puerto Rico made the news after Hurricane Maria swept through the commonwealth, causing thousands of deaths and destroying homes and infrastructure. Puerto Rico’s plight stayed in the news because of insufficient disaster relief.

The U.S. government’s ongoing delays in providing emergency aid to rebuild homes, schools and hospitals created an opening for businesses to do their part. Many, including Google and Lowe’s, donated millions of dollars, and other organizations have been going even further.

Just a week after Maria hit landfall, JetBlue launched 100x35JetBlue — a program to provide practical and monetary support to the islands over 100 days and beyond with 35 initiatives. The name refers to the size of the territory’s mainland in miles. JetBlue continues its efforts this year by restoring the seagrass and mangrove habitats of the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, near Ponce.

This summer, JetBlue joined The Ocean Foundation and other local organizations to learn how to restore ecosystems that protect coastlines. These are some of the habitats that were decimated during Hurricane Maria. In addition to hands-on work, JetBlue also offered financial support to The Ocean Foundation.

These rehabilitation efforts fit into number 31 of JetBlue’s initiatives — “Supporting the replenishment of vegetation.”

Other initiatives included immediate help, such as:

  • Providing daily relief flights for customers at reduced fares
  • Offering volunteer infrastructure experts seats on flights at no cost
  • And the transport of supplies from non-profits, NGOs and government agencies at no cost to those organizations

Number 35 of all these initiatives involved developing a long-term plan outlining JetBlue’s continued support for the Puerto Rican community and economy.

Does Puerto Rico still need help?

Two years after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is still recovering from the aftermath. While Congress allocated $35 billion to disaster recovery after the 2017 hurricanes, application has been slow. As of spring 2019, much of the money has remained unspent in Puerto Rico, in part because plans for allocation are still in the planning phase (in addition to allegations of corruption).

This money remains essential, as estimates have gauged that as much as $94 billion in damages occurred. The mass exodus of Puerto Ricans also exacerbates the problem. Of the 3.3 million population in 2017, 130,000 have left, and the government expects an additional 8 percent to leave by 2024.

There is still much rebuilding to be done. Approximately 80 percent of the islands’ crop value was erased by the storm. Replanting takes time and money. Additionally, many homes still have tarps for roofs. Even now, many Puerto Ricans have trouble accessing adequate food and social services.

Moving forward, economic recovery and hurricane resilience are essential. Projects like mangrove and seagrass restoration help ensure that Puerto Rico remains strong amidst coming summer storms.

This season, meteorologists are expecting four to eight storms that could become hurricanes in the Atlantic.

Mission in action

Ever since its inception in the late 1990s, JetBlue has sought to differentiate itself from other airlines by maintaining superb customer service. “We’re going to bring humanity back into air travel,” David Neeleman, JetBlue’s founder, promised in 1999.

From there, its mission became: “to inspire humanity — both in the air and on the ground. We are committed to giving back in meaningful ways in the communities we serve and inspire others to do the same.”

JetBlue’s focus on culture has helped it maintain a competitive advantage over other airlines. Its commitment to specific communities that the company calls home reinforces its niche in air travel — re-introducing humanity where it is lacking.

This year marks the 13th time JetBlue has ranked first in customer satisfaction among low-cost carriers, according to the J.D. Power North America Airline Satisfaction Study.

JetBlue’s mission — as well as its presence on the islands, with around 500 crew members living in Puerto Rico — has propelled the airline to do more than give a lump sum to nascent relief efforts.

While JetBlue’s promises and pledges may have seemed ambitious when the company first came onto the scene twenty years ago, the airline has shown that commitment to principles can bring about success.

Its continued commitment to Puerto Rico is just one example of JetBlue’s dedication to its customers and communities.

Would you like to do your part for Puerto Rico? You can find a charity here.

Image credit: JetBlue’s 3BL Media Newsroom

Roya Sabri headshot

Roya Sabri is a writer and graphic designer based in Illinois. She writes about the circular economy, advancements in CSR, the environment and equity. As a freelancer, she has worked on communications for nonprofits and multinational organizations. Find her on LinkedIn

Read more stories by Roya Sabri