An Aviation Entrepreneur’s “Next Big Thing”

Serial entrepreneur David Neeleman, whose four successful airlines include JetBlue, now wants to tackle one of aviation’s biggest challenges: the price of jet fuel.

As reported by, the 52-year-old Neeleman hopes to convince other carriers to contribute $1 billion to a fund that would reward innovators who successfully convert natural gas to jet fuel.  “That’d be awesome,” he said at a recent airline forecast conference. “That’s my next big thing.”

If he succeeds, it won’t be the first time the aviation industry has used this type of incentive. For the first trans-Atlantic crossing, Charles Lindbergh won $25,000 from a New York hotelier for making his Spirit of St. Louis flight in 1927.

Neeleman helped start Morris Air in the early 1990s and Canada’s WestJet Airlines in 1996. Three years later, he founded JetBlue based at New York’s JFK airport. According to several articles on Neeleman, he always sat in the last row when flying on JetBlue’s airplanes, to demonstrate that pleasing the customer is more important than pleasing the CEO (in the early days, the seats in the last row didn’t recline).

After leaving JetBlue in 2007, he founded Azul Airlines, a Brazilian carrier (Neeleman was born in Brazil).

Here’s the full Businessweek article on Neeleman for those who might like to read it.

About Lynne Strang

I'm a freelance writer who helps organizations and individuals meet their marketing and communications goals. I am also the author of "Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: Eight Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40." To learn more, please visit my website:
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11 Responses to An Aviation Entrepreneur’s “Next Big Thing”

  1. Wow, it’s really amazing how one single person can fuel something really big and happening. I sincerely admire people like them. Now, if I can just be like them in my own little corner…

  2. All Terrain says:

    I am finishing my last year at Indiana State in aviation technology. I spent my first two years taking pilot classes along with lessons at the local airport, Sky King. I decided to change my major from pro pilot to administration because costs got expensive. I am glad to see that the push for cheaper fuel is increasing in aviation.

    • lbstrang says:

      As your situation shows, the big carriers aren’t the only ones in the industry affected by high jet fuel prices. If they’re dissuading potential pilots, that should be a concern. Thank you for commenting.

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