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Interview with David Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2004

Olivier pointed me to this great interview with JetBlue CEO David Neeleman. I liked his take on unions:

Q: Would you resist a labor-organizing effort at JetBlue?

A: We would. I love American history, and I’ve studied it. I understand we had a big need for unions in this country. You basically had unscrupulous people who were building companies on the backs of their people without giving them health care and without giving them other benefits. They made them take on hazardous jobs and work long hours.

We aren’t one of those companies. We don’t do that to our people.

We don’t want a third party who may or may not have our best interests in mind or our crew members’ best interests in mind because they may be serving a union of one of our competitors. They are trying to equalize us and take away our competitive advantage.

We are just interested in dealing with the people we’re paying every day. We know federal law allows them to vote in a union at anytime, but we think we can resist that by talking to our own people and giving them enough upside.

I was also surprised at how open he was in discussing exactly how JetBlue is successful and will remain so. Quite refreshing. So many American companies think that their business plans are so special that they need to keep them a secret from everyone. But Neeleman realizes that while ideas are important, execution matters more. It’s one thing to say you’re going to hire the right people, focus on customer service, and offer better service at a lower price than your competitors, but actually doing it requires a commitment and skills that are impossible to duplicate having read a newspaper article.