David Neeleman is that rarest of entrepreneurs, a man who has created and launched a multitude of successful, independent airlines, including the USA’s Breeze Airways, JetBlue and Morris Air (later sold to Southwest), Canada’s WestJet and Brazil’s Azul.
David was born in Brazil while his father was Reuter’s São Paulo Bureau Chief. His family moved to Utah while he was still a child. His 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 to become 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.
David then founded JetBlue Airways in New York and spent a 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.
After JetBlue, it was Brazil’s turn to experience David’s magic in bringing new planes and low fares to many markets that had never seen nonstop service.
Azul, launched in 2008, now 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.
David now turns his attention back to the US domestic airline industry with his new airline Breeze Airways. Breeze began commercial service in May 2021 and now operates more than 150 routes in some three dozen cities across the USA. David plans to re-invent low cost travel with nonstop service between secondary and tertiary markets across the USA. Breeze currently operates a fleet of more than 30 Airbus A220-300 and Embraer 190/195 aircraft, with confirmed orders for a total of 80 A220s.
Just two years old, Breeze already has been ranked as one of the U.S.’ best domestic airlines in the last two World’s Best Awards by Travel + Leisure magazine (#2 in 2022 and #4 in 2023).