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Flying High

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Flying High

jetBlue Founder and CEO David Neeleman's Rules for Beating the Competition...Even in the World's Most Turbulent Industry


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

How David Neelman built jetBlue, the most valuable airline in the history of aviation.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


James Wynbrandt has penned a well-researched, colorful account of the life and guiding principles of commercial aviation pioneer David Neeleman. The book is written in a clear, straightforward style, and offers insights into what made discount carrier jetBlue an unlikely success. The book appears, however, to reflect Neeleman’s artful capacity for generating positive publicity for himself. While this is not exactly a hagiography, once you have read it, you may well envision a halo floating above Neeleman’s portrait on the book’s jacket. Then again, as Muhammad Ali once said, "If you can do it, it ain’t braggin’." Certainly, Neeleman’s accomplishments rocked the commercial aviation industry, encouraging the major carriers to launch value-based alternatives such as Ted and Song. recommends this book to professionals seeking useful ideas to help their businesses gain altitude.


Taking Off

On February 11, 2000, at exactly 8:55 a.m., onlookers cheered as the first jetBlue aircraft pushed back from JFK's terminal six for the airline's inaugural flight to Fort Lauderdale. That maiden voyage marked jetBlue's entry into one of the world's most competitive businesses. It was quite an accomplishment for founder David Neeleman, a low-key religious man whose attention deficit disorder once led him to doubt that he'd ever be able to hold a decent job.

Neeleman was born in Brazil in October 1959, the second child in a family that eventually had four boys and three girls. His father, a Salt Lake City, Utah, native, served as the Latin America bureau chief for United Press International. The family, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), eventually returned to Salt Lake City. David Neeleman struggled academically at Salt Lake's Brighton High School. He had difficulty sitting down to read an entire book, and recalls wondering how he would ever succeed in life if he were unable to read and write. Still, he managed to graduate.

In 1977, he enrolled at the University of Utah, specializing in accounting, which...

About the Author

James Wynbrandt is a New York aviation and business reporter, and a regular contributor to major aviation magazines. He is a licensed pilot whose articles on business and aviation have appeared in The New York Times, Forbes and Aspen Magazine, among others.

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