JetBlue Takes Carmageddon To Huge Heights Over I-405

The Montes family from Whittier take a 20-minute flight from Burbank to Long Beach to help prepare their daughters for a long trip to Hawaii in a week. The daughters said of their first flight: "It was really fun."

The JetBlue team’s proactive and fun response to Carmageddon — the widely publicized closure of 10 miles of the I-405 freeway — was nothing short of genius.

Upon seeing its jaw-dropping special $8 roundtrip fare between Burbank and Long Beach on JetBlue’s Twitter feed, I snapped up the historic chance to fly over the closed freeway in Los Angeles. I retweeted JetBlue’s promotional fair and soon found myself with sold-out tickets with Debbie Miller for a fun-filled day adventure to Burbank where we met numerous people — many of them first-time fliers.

A group of cyclists even got into the action by issuing a race challenge to JetBlue. When we departed the Long Beach airport, I found out from my Twitter feed that the Wolfpack Hustle cycling group from Silver Lake, Calif. arrived in Long Beach before JetBlue’s “Carmageddon” flight.

Debbie Miller, a social media expert from Costa Mesa, Calif., joins me for our first tweeup in the air -- 5,000 feet above Los Angeles where we saw rare sights of the city.

But I doubt they had as much fun as we did or feasted on an eye-popping array of festive foods: Vietnamese springrolls, grilled vegetables, delectable wraps, cheese and fruit trays and other gourmet offerings. A special Carmageddon cake, colorful balloons and gift bags filled with snacks, drinks and specially designed I-405 JetBlue cookies elevated the fun.

Southern Californians braced for frustrating gridlock, flaring tempers and other aspects of the worst of Los Angeles car culture as Carmageddon was upon us. But thanks to the brilliant work of L.A. Metro, Caltrans and other officials teaming up with the news media and the prolific usage of celebrity social media usage, Southern Californians heeded the call to inaction — to stay away from the 405.

Thanks to the community coming together, Carmageddon turned into “Carmaheaven” as coined by Orange County Business Council President and CEO Lucy Dunn several weeks ago during a groundbreaking of the Riverside Freeway (SR-91) in Anaheim.

The special JetBlue "Carmageddon" flight offered a unique vantage of the closed I-405 at about 4,000 feet.

JetBlue’s brilliant PR strategy delivered in real-time via social media generated mountains of goodwill among millions not only throughout Southern California but throughout the world.

Emily Blau flying @JetBlue over I-405 for #Carmageddon with @thebigdebowski (mp3)

Check out this audio podcast with Emily Blau who lives next to the shutdown of the 405 freeway and one of the passengers of JetBlue’s Carmageddon flight.

UCLA student @RupenDajee of Newport Beach deplanes @JetBlue for #Carmageddon fun in Burbank (mp3)

UCLA student Rupen Dajee of Newport Beach shares in this audio interview his thoughts about social media and how JetBlue effectively use for customer engagement.

And many of JetBlue’s passengers were thrilled at the innovative company’s quick action to secure new flights to deliver a beautiful day for hundreds who enjoyed the wonderful sight from the cruising attitude of 5,000 of the empty 405 freeway below as well as sights, sounds and scents of their afternoon adventure in the Burbank and Long Beach areas.

The biggest lesson from my Carmageddon weekend: Communications works — especially real-time, honest, direct, two-way engagement that fosters mutually beneficial results.

What did you think about the barrage of publicity surrounding Carmageddon? How did you spend the weekend? And what did you think about JetBlue’s $8 campaign?

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