Skift

JetBlue Founder Reveals Details on His New Tech-Focused International Airline

  • Skift Take
    David Neeleman argues that the competition won’t be able to touch his new airline, which likely won’t be named Moxy, because it will be so different. Plenty of other airlines will have something to say about that.

    JetBlue founder David Neeleman said he’s ready for when competitors try to crush his proposed new U.S. low-cost carrier when it starts flying in 2021.

    “I’ll just do stuff they can’t do,” Neeleman said, adding that Brazil’s Azul, which he also founded and serves as chairman, will feed traffic to the new airline, code-named Moxy.

    “There are some things structurally they cannot do,” Neeleman said, referring to the competition. “Because I own Azul, Azul can handle me in Brazil. They can feed me … they can do all the stuff that they’ll never do for anyone else because I control the company.”

    Neeleman also claimed that the new airline, which he said probably won’t be named Moxy, will fly hundreds of routes, probably most without any nonstop competition.

    “I doubt we’ll have a single route that has any competition,” Neeleman said.

    He added that the airline will fly from the U.S. to Europe and South America, avoiding competitors’ hubs. The A220-300 the airline will fly has the capability of taking off from “really short runways, and can fly for 11 hours,” Neeleman said.

    He said the airline will fly from Florida to cities in northern Brazil, for example. It will go after the leisure or visiting friends or family segments, depending on the market.

    Neeleman also mentioned that the carrier will be able to fly to destinations from cities in the northeast U.S., and he mentioned Scranton, Pennyslvania, for example.

    While some of his boasts may be just that — goals that can’t be verified since the airline doesn’t have an operating certificate yet — Neeleman has a credible track record.

    Speaking on entrepreneurship to BMF Media Group employees in front of two media members at its Manhattan offices Friday, Neeleman also detailed plans for the airline that haven’t yet been made public.

    Don’t Call the Airline First

    Neeleman said the airline’s technology hub will likely be based in Salt Lake City, Utah, as will many of the customer service agents, but passengers will not be able to initiate a phone call with them.

    Neeleman noted that few people ever call Amazon or Uber, and the goal of the new airline is to have a fully functional app. He said the airline has plenty of time to develop it because it won’t be flying for a few years.

    “You don’t have to speak to us,”  Neeleman said. “You won’t be able to speak to us. You’ll be able to reach out to us and you’ll be able to chat with us and we’ll call you. You won’t be able to call us because everything will be functional.”

    He said the airline will use chat for initial customer contacts, and the agents will call the customers back to resolve issues. Neeleman said, however, that booking, changing and cancelling flights, as well as ordering meals, will all be automated through the app.

    Airport Check-In on Mobile

    The JetBlue founder, who also founded Morris Air and sold it to Southwest, as well as Canada’s WestJet and Azul, said the new airline’s passengers who arrive at the airport without checking in will have to do it on their mobile phones because the airline won’t have another way to do it.

    Asked if he feared that human element of customer service would be impaired by technology, Neeleman said “I don’t think people want to stand in line to talk to someone.”

    Forget about the name Moxy

    Neeleman said the airline probably won’t be named Moxy, which is the name he initially wanted to call JetBlue. Neeleman said his brother works for a branding law firm and has been in touch with Marriott, which has the Moxy Hotels brand in his portfolio.

    “I could call this airline crap and people will love it because of the way I’m going to treat them,” Neeleman said.

    With the new Airbus A220-300s, a single-aisle aircraft, which the airline will fly, “we’ll get you there twice as fast and for half the price,” Neeleman said. In a conversation in the elevator after the event, Neeleman said the airline will both lease and buy those aircraft.

    JetBlue has placed an order for 60 of the same plane, due to arrive in 2020, with an option  to order 60 more for delivery in 2025.

    Neeleman claimed the aircraft will require less maintenance and lower costs than older-generation narrow body aircraft, feature lower fuel burn, and longer range.

    He said the A220-300 also features huge windows, and the aircraft is “unique,” enabling his new airline to have first class, lie-flat business class, extra legroom seats and coach class if it chooses to do so.

    Going Public?

    Neeleman claimed he’s not sure he would ever take the new airline public in terms of an initial public offering, citing the high investor interest in the enterprise. He said he doesn’t want to deal with private equity and venture capital investors.

    Instead, Neeleman said, he’d rather have the airline remain private, generate cash, and share that cash with the airline’s employees.

    Marketing Buzz?

    Asked by Skift after his talk if he has anything innovative in the works regarding marketing the new airline, Neeleman argued that flying to destinations much faster and at half the price would generate enough buzz.

    The buzz is already beginning, but Neeleman will have to back up his claims once the airline starts flying in 2021. There will be plenty of interest.

     

    Photo Credit: JetBlue founder David Neeleman argues that his new airlines will do things that competitors won't be able to mimic. He spoke October 26, 2018 at a BMF Media Group event in New York City BMF Media Group

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