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 Businessweek.com, 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.