David Neeleman is that rarest of entrepreneurs, a man who has created and launched four successful, independent airlines, including the USA’s JetBlue and Morris Air, Canada’s WestJet and Brazil’s Azul. Azul, just seven years old, has already boarded tens of millions of customers.
Born in Brazil while his father was Reuter’s São Paulo Bureau Chief, David has always had a deep love for the country. After his family moved to Utah while he was still a child, David would return to Brazil many times throughout his life. A dual citizen, David today relishes the dream before him to make flying cheaper and easier for Brazilians, giving access to air travel for many who have never experienced the opportunity before.
Azul serves more than 100 destinations with an operating fleet of more than 140 aircraft, including Brazilian-built Embraer E-190 and E-195 jets, and ATR-72s. Just as JetBlue in the US before it, Azul is the first airline in Latin America to offer LiveTV inflight TV programming via satellite. It has been named Best Low Cost Airline in South America for the last five years at the Skytrax World Airline Awards.
In June 2015, it was announced that the Gateway consortium, led by David, had won the bidding to acquire a stake in Portugal’s national carrier TAP. Gateway’s investment represents 50% of the airline. With the new investment, TAP is taking delivery of A330s and inaugurated new daily service from both Boston’s Logan airport and New York’s John F Kennedy International in June and July, respectively.
Prior to Azul, David founded JetBlue Airways in New York and spent the last decade as Chief Executive Officer (1998 to 2007) and Chairman (2002 to 2008). An amazing success by any measure, JetBlue was an instant hit with travelers and was the first airline to earn $100 million annually within five years, thus becoming a “major” airline fastest. JetBlue has won countless awards and accolades including Top Low Cost Airline for Customer Satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates and Best Airline by Consumer Reports. It won Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers Choice Awards for Best U.S. Airline for seven consecutive years.
David’s career 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, David implemented the industry’s first electronic ticketing system and pioneered a home reservation system where calls are handled by reservationists working from their homes.
Following the sale of Morris Air and a short period with Southwest Airlines, David took the electronic ticketing system that he had initiated at Morris Air and developed it into Open Skies, the world’s simplest airline reservation system. David sold Open Skies to Hewlett Packard in 1999. Also during this period, David acted as a consultant to WestJet Airlines, the successful Canadian low-fare start-up airline.
Having already enjoyed a unique career in aviation, David is excited to invest his lifetime’s experience from Morris, Southwest, Open Skies, WestJet, and JetBlue into expanding the best airline Brazil has ever seen.