JetBlue Airways took to the skies on Feb. 11, 2000, with the inauguration of service between New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The airline now serves 60 destinations in 20 states, Puerto Rico and 10 other countries in and around the Caribbean Sea with a fleet of 110 Airbus A320 aircraft and 41 Embraer 190 aircraft. More than 45 million customers have flown JetBlue. As the airline enters its second decade of business, Chief Executive Officer Dave Barger reflects on the past and thinks about the future.
Q: What will air travel look like in 10 years?
A: In 2020, there will be even more flights, more domestic and international travelers, and more travel choices ranging from network carriers to ultra low-cost carriers to true value propositions like JetBlue. The most significant change will be a new air traffic control system based on satellite service instead of the ground-based radar system we have in place today.
There will be ever increasing options from a fuel perspective, resulting in greener options for air travel. There will also be continued technology enhancements to optimize the air travel experience.
At the end of the day, though, it’s the human element of service that makes the difference. At JetBlue that translates into a focus on our culture.
Q: What is your ratio of business to holiday travelers and what are the different needs of these two customers?
A: One in 5 customers travel for business with JetBlue, but that number is rising, especially in cities like Boston, where we’re adding frequency and destinations popular with business customers.
At the core, the needs of both business and leisure customers – as well as customers visiting friends and relatives – are quite similar, although the business customer is relying on a greater pattern of service, which equates to flight frequency. Our product offering meets the similar needs of all customers.
We have new aircraft, which translates to a respect for the environment with a low carbon footprint. We have comfortable assigned seats, a no overbooking policy, in-flight entertainment and fair fares.
Q: What is the greatest challenge facing all airlines today and how does JetBlue respond?
A: The airline industry is a fundamentally broken industry. With cyclical profits and losses over time, the industry has not covered its costs of capital and is generally disliked by the traveling public. And as of late, it has not been a solid place of employment.
Our approach of 10 years is contrarian in nature, which is very rare for an airline entering its second decade. We drive free cash flow to earn our growth. We offer a product the traveling public enjoys.
We’ve earned a sixth consecutive J.D. Power and Associates award for customer service, and we’re a good place of employment. This combination works extremely well for JetBlue.