RIT’s Gasser Lecture Presents The JetBlue Story with David Neeleman

Airline industry founder to discuss his philosophy on ‘bringing humanity back to air travel’




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Affordable airfare, clean planes with leather seats, novel snacks like Terra Blue chips, 36 channels of LiveTV and perky service. Today, JetBlue operates a fleet of 126 jets to 51 cities in 21 states and 6 countries with 550 daily flights.

David Neeleman, founder and chairman of JetBlue Airways Corp. is the distinguished speaker for the fall 2007 William D. Gasser Distinguished Lectureship in Business series sponsored by the E. Philip Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology. Neeleman will share his insights on “The JetBlue Story . . . from the 27th Row” at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Ingle Auditorium in the Student Alumni Union.

Neeleman’s talk embodies his philosophy that pleasing the customer is more important than pleasing the CEO.

In the early days of JetBlue, Neeleman always sat on the 27th (last) row of each Airbus A320 aircraft he flew on, since the 27th row had no reclining seats, and more importantly, the last seat provided him with a vantage point to observe how his passengers were doing.

Neeleman’s career in the airline industry began in 1984 when he co-founded a low-fare carrier called Morris Air with June Morris, the owner of Salt Lake City-based travel agency Morris Travel. As president of Morris Air, Neeleman implemented the industry’s first electronic ticketing system and pioneered a home reservation system that is now the foundation of JetBlue’s unique call center: all calls to JetBlue’s reservation numbers are handled by reservationists working out of their homes.

JetBlue has been ranked number one in quality and overall performance of U.S. airlines for three consecutive years in the annual Airline Quality Ratings by the University of Nebraska at Omaha Aviation Institute and W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University.

JetBlue was also rated “Best Domestic Airline” at Conde Nast Traveler’s 2006 Readers’ Choice Awards, the fifth consecutive year receiving the award.

The William D. Gasser lecture series is hosted annually by the Saunders College of Business and designed to advance interaction and dialogue between business and academic communities. It is made possible by a gift from the late John Wiley Jones, former honorary member of the RIT Board of Trustees and founder of Jones Chemicals Inc., in memory of William D. Gasser. Gasser taught accounting at RIT from 1967 until his death in 1977.

A reception will immediately follow the Neeleman lecture, which is free and open to the public as well as the RIT community. To register for the event, contact Donna Slavin at (585) 475-2199 or dslavin@rit.edu.