David's Open Road

  • INTERVIEWED BY:

    America Team

  • INTERVIEW LOCATION:

    New York, NY

  • AIRED ON:

    Public Television: Season 3

  • ON DVD:

DAVID NEELEMAN

CEO
jetBlue Airways

“I want to be the leader that people want to follow.”

INTERESTS:

Entrepreneurship Travel

THEMES DISCUSSED:

Education Experience Failure Family Money & Financial Security Opportunity Passion Risk Success Struggle Values Fulfillment

FOUNDATION:

Helping People

TAGS:

adversity, airline, balance, Brazil, business, change, church mission, college drop out, customer service, do it for yourself, family grocery store, focus, leadership, learning, learning disability, percentages, pricing, Southwest Airlines, talking to customers, travel

BIOGRAPHY:

  • When he was nine years old, he’d work at his grandfather’s store; learned how to talk to people, learned about pricing and stocking.
  • Has a learning disability that made high school tough for him; put off college to go on a church mission to Brazil, where he was born.
  • He worked with “the poorest of the poor,” learned Portuguese, learned how to “serve others”; says that “really set him up for life.”
  • When he came back, he went to college with a new focus, was finally getting A’s.
  • Three years into college, he got the opportunity to start an airline on the East Coast, so he dropped out of school.
  • Was fired from Southwest Airlines, which was the company he’d always wanted to work for.
  • Took everything he learned at Southwest and decided that instead of hanging his head, he’d start his own airline.
  • His definition of success is “mattering”; loves that many of his employees say jetBlue is the best company they’ve ever worked for.

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