Q&A: JetBlue's new captain; Troubled airline's boss is focused on growth and on ensuring that one-day weather 'events' don't snowball

New head seen as 'operational guy'


Well, my goal is to learn from the history books. Let's give credit to the legacy carriers. There's a lot to be learned from them. But there's also a lot to learn not to do. I think our ability to diversify our network, which makes it look like we're connecting traffic, makes us look more like a legacy carrier. But the No. 1 lesson to be learned from the legacy carriers - I prefer to call them the Big Guys - is culture. Culture is our competitive advantage. People like flying JetBlue.

Do you think that after eight years of operation, the newness has worn off of JetBlue?

It's always important to keep refreshing the brand. That means working on designs, new uniforms, a new Web site. We need to let people in the new communities we fly to know that we are there. You can't rest on yesterday's success.

If you had it to do all over again, what would you have done differently to help avoid the Valentine's Day meltdown at Kennedy?

I would have looked harder at the forecast. If the forecast changes, great. We can fly. But if not, we'll cancel. We've also got to communicate [with passengers].

Neeleman would almost never cancel a flight. Will that change?

As we grow, and as Kennedy grows, it makes more sense to wait on Mother Nature. Are we more likely to cancel? Yes, I guess we would.

In a March storm, JetBlue canceled many flights at Kennedy. In fact, some critics said JetBlue went to the other extreme after the Valentine's Day episode.

I don't think we could have operated any more flights than we operated that day. What's really important, if you have a one-day [weather] event, [is] keep it a one-day event.

Recently, JetBlue adopted a "Passengers Bill of Rights" to better provide for customers stuck on grounded planes. Do you think every airline should do the same?

This was the right thing for us to do. Whether it's the right thing for the industry to do, that should be up to each carrier. But it shouldn't be done by Washington. I would like to think we can do what's right for our business.



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