- David Neeleman is one of the most successful airline entrepreneurs in the world.
- He’s the founder of JetBlue and Azul as well as a co-founder of Morris Air and WestJet.
- He’s also a co-owner of TAP Air Portugal.
- Neeleman co-founded Morris Air in 1984 at the age of 25.
- The airline boss shared with the Business Insider the advice he would give his 25-year-old self at the beginning of his career.
David Neeleman is one of the most experienced and successful entrepreneurs in the history of the airline industry. The affable Brazilian-born, Utah-raised has had a hand in the founding of four successful airlines over the 35 years.
He’s the founder of JetBlue and Azul Brazilian Airlines as well as a co-founder of Morris Air and WestJet.
He’s also one of the co-owner of Portuguese national airline TAP Air Portugal.
Earlier this year, Neeleman, 58, announced plans to launch his fifth airline, an American low-cost carrier called Moxy.
Neeleman’s career as an airline entrepreneur started early when he co-founded Morris Air in 1984 at the age of 25.
He served as Morris Air’s president from 1988 until it was sold to Southwest Airlines in 1994 for a reported $129 million.
“I sold Morris Air to Southwest because (the airline) was really vulnerable,” he told Business Insider in an interview earlier this year. “I’m sitting in Delta Air Lines’s hub in (Salt Lake City, Utah), I didn’t have a lot of capital at the time and one of my guys told me ‘you know if Delta just matched all your fares they’d be revenue positive’ and take so much of our market share.”
“We were pretty vulnerable and Southwest wants us plus when someone hands you $15 million at 33 years old you’re like ‘Yeah! I’ll take it,'” Neeleman added.After working for Southwest Airlines for a while after the merger, he left and helped co-found WestJet, now Canada’s second largest airline. In 1998, Neeleman founded JetBlue, a New York-bast boutique airline that melded premium service and amenities with low-cost.
He followed that up with the founding of Azul Brazilian Airlines in 2008. A venture that has now become one of the largest carriers in South America.
So what advice would the David Neeleman of today give to his 25-year-old self?
Have personal control of the business and know the industry in which you are working, Neeleman said.
“Everything I’ve ever been involved in that I didn’t control or run and was outside of my area of expertise I’ve lost money in,” he said. “It’s almost unanimous.”
From there, the goal is to differentiate yourself from the pack.
“Be passionate. Be the best and create something that no one else has,” Neeleman told us. “Build a better mousetrap.”
“If you build a better mousetrap, people will beat a path to your door,” the airline boss said. “I really believe that.”
Source: Business Insider
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