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JetBlue Provides More than Cheap Fares

Those of us in LA and perhaps others throughout the country were momentarily distracted from the destruction of hurricanes Katrina and Rita while we watched the drama of JetBlue flight 292 that had a malfunction in its landing gear. Ultimately, the plane touched down safely after circling southern California for three hours,landing with its front wheels turned sideways.050922_jetblue_hlrg.h2.jpg

This morning I was listening to KROQ's Kevin and Bean, a morning radio show in LA, as they laughed at the transmission between the pilot and the tower. They joked that the pilot in a time of such enormous stress, barely sounded awake. I thought that was not only a funny observation and quite true but a fascinating study of leadership in crisis.

When I thought about whom the pilot worked for, I wasn’t so surprised at his demeanor under such stress. At a dinner last year, I listened to Dave Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue Airways. I have been a fan of Dave’s ever since I was flying from New York to Los Angeles and Dave spent the entire flight time walking the aisles and talking to his customers.

At this dinner, Neeleman told about a fund he and his employees had created at JetBlue that provides relief for JetBlue employees that are faced with a crisis. It came about when the husband of a flight attendant had a heart attack and died as he was dropping his wife off at the curb at an airport. This event had an impact on the fledgling airline. Within days, JetBlue employees contributed money to help their fellow employee in a time of grieving and financial stress. Neeleman and President Dave Barger matched the employees contribution and founded the JetBlue crisis fund, which offers financial assistance to workers suffering from catastrophic events.

At JetBlue, Neeleman has not only created one of the only profitable airlines in the industry, he has fashioned a culture that plans for and deals with crisis. JetBlue employees have a unity and cohesion that binds them in times of crisis and adversity. It was no surprise to me that the pilot of JetBlue flight 292 calmly and safely landed on the back wheels, then eased onto the askew front tires. I am relatively sure that the pilot did not learn to fly from Neeleman but I am equally sure that his calm and confident approach to a life threatening crisis was greatly influenced by a CEO that has provided effective leadership and example.

8 Comments/Trackbacks

That was such stunning video to watch. My dad was a pilot and said that in times like that, you find ways to rise to the challenge and do the best landing of your entire career. To have that assurance that you know what to do, the calmness to not let nerves interfer and the confidence to instill trust around you - that is what is part of this leadership gene that we seek to obtain.

Tim -Maybe you got the leadership gene from your Dad. Did he have many harrowing experiences that shaped his ability to lead and perform in crisis?

I hope that I gleaned something from my dad. He was a Squadron Commander in the Pacific at age 21 during WWII in the Army Air Force over 400 plus men, leading them into combat. I can't fathom having that kind of responsibility at that early age.

JetBlue has shown its competitive edge in many ways and one of those has been cost cutting features that the other airlines cant' seem to grasp.

Isn't that how you make money? Income - Expenses = Profit? Basic economic principles here. Cut expenses while mainting income and voila, you are leading the pack in profits.

They are leading the way in the hiring of agents that work from home as well. I hope to do a review on JetBlue and one of their work-at-home agents on my blog soon.

» JetBlue Faces a New Challenge from LeaderNotes
For JetBlue and Neeleman, 2006 will be a watershed year that will test his leaderhsip. Will the airline make adjustments to strategy, adapt to the changing and volatile environment or fall in line with most of the industry that regularly suffers losses... [Read More]

» JetBlue Leadership Stares Down Crisis from LeaderNotes
In a time where being a victim and the "blame game" has become popular, JetBlue CEO Dave Neeleman stood and acknowledged failure after JetBlue Airways Corporation (JBLU) experienced its worst operational failure in its seven year history.&nbs... [Read More]

» JetBlue Uses New Media to Reach Customers from Know More Media
JetBlue’s cancellation of more than 1,000 flights last week in the wake of the snow and extreme temperatures that froze equipment in New York cost the company an estimated $30 million and the certain loss of a number of customers. ... [Read More]

JetBlue is the best airline today. Are there actually people still using another Airline? Aside from the wide leather seats with extended leg room and individual Direct TV for everyone, the lines are always smooth and the Staff is genuine in their assistance. In addition, JetBlue has maintained this level of excellence while still competing with the lowest possible flights in the industry. How do they do it?

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