JetBlue Airways: Starting from Scratch

JetBlue Airways: Starting from Scratch

Where have you heard this before? We’re starting a new low-fare airline. We’re going to offer low-fare

tickets and go to the big cities.1

—Financial Analyst

If you want to be a millionaire, start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline.2

—Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Atlantic Airways

Keep an eye on JetBlue. That could prove to be a successful operation.3

—Herb Kelleher, Co-founder, CEO, Southwest Airlines

Ann Rhoades looked up from the stack of papers in front of her and gazed out the window. She

watched with pride as a JetBlue plane lifted off from Kennedy Airport. She knew from the departure

time that this one was bound for Buffalo. She paused for a moment to reflect on what had been a

very exciting year for the start-up. JetBlue’s service had grown from 9 departures per day at launch

in February 2000 to more than 50 per day in the past 11 months. The fleet had grown from 2 planes

to 10 with the arrival of one new Airbus A320 every five weeks (see Exhibit 1 for first year growth).

The business plan called for adding 10 new planes every year through the end of 2003, bringing the

fleet to 40.

Rhoades, Executive Vice President for People, had been extremely busy – growing the JetBlue

team from the original 10 people to almost 1000. She knew that she would continue to add

approximately 100 new “crew members” with the arrival of every new airplane and that, if they hit

their plan, JetBlue would employ nearly 5000 people within the next 4 years. She was charged with

achieving this rapid growth while building a values-based, high commitment organizational culture.

Her experience as head of human resources for Southwest Airlines from 1988 to 1994 provided

Rhoades with both appreciation for the challenge and expertise to meet it. She was committed to

attracting, developing and retaining outstanding people who could make the JetBlue concept a

reality. Still, she recognized that JetBlue’s expansion goals were more aggressive than any she had

met before.

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