Across the Aisle from JetBlue CEO Dave Barger Part 1: Keeping the Product Fresh and Long Beach Troubles

While I was at the Phoenix Symposium last week, I had the chance to sit Across the Aisle from JetBluewith Dave Barger, CEO of JetBlue to talk shop. I had planned to chat mostly about the airline’s plans to keep the product fresh, but after I mentioned I lived in Long Beach, Dave became quite vocal about the status of things around here. It appears that there’s trouble in paradise, and leaving the airport entirely is not out of the question.

We did get to the product discussion after that, and as you’ll see tomorrow in Part 2, we also talked about the state of wi-fi onboard, some serious upcoming changes to TrueBlue, the airline’s frequent flier program, and some brand new international partnerships on the way. But enough of that. Let’s get to the interview.

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Cranky: It’s good to see you again Dave. I always pay particularly close attention to you guys since I live under the usual departure path out of Long Beach. I’m also probably the only guy in my neighborhood who would like to see more flights out of the airport. So, I certainly watch what happens with you and the airport in general very closely. But let’s get to my first question. Many people describe Virgin America as being the “cool” airline, and that’s something that used to be used to describe your brand. What are you guys doing to take back that title?

Dave: Let’s talk about Long Beach for a second. It has been a huge frustration for us. They need to make good on their commitment to improve the airport experience. The City of Long Beach couldn’t have a more committed partner than JetBlue, but it’s been difficult.

Cranky: So what exactly is the problem? Is it that you can’t use your E-190s in the commuter slots?

Dave: We would like to be able to use our E-190s in those commuter slots. That’s the perfect use of those slots, because these aircraft are very quiet. But the best example is that it took us 30 months to build a brand new terminal at JFK but we’re still stuck in temporary trailers in Long Beach. I don’t think communities always realize what an economic tool an airport is. You can’t take commercial air service for granted.

Cranky: How much of an issue is this? Would you consider leaving the airport?

Dave: Well, LAX is part of our LA Basin strategy, but it becomes a necessary part because of the lack of partnership with the City of Long Beach. People might have to go to LAX to use us, because we’re actually wanted there.

Cranky: So you would leave Long Beach?

Dave: I wouldn’t take any option off the table. Municipalities must make good on their commitments. That includes parking, terminals, baggage claim and every other part of the experience. The message I would give is that especially in a recession, you shouldn’t take air service for granted.

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Dave: Now, to get back to your question about the product, we want to keep refreshing it. We’ve won the JD Power award 4 years in a row, and we have our Strive for Five program now, but we want to keep improving.

Cranky: What does that mean in practice? What can customers expect to see?

Dave: The question is not “how do you create a club atmosphere when people get on the plane?” We’re not talking about mood-lighting or cool-colored seats. We don’t think you have to order from your seatback. Our focus in on the whole cabin as opposed to just First Class, not just the 8 seats up front. It’s LiveTV, it’s XM Radio, but it’s building the brand for the long term.

planeline

Looking back, I wish I would have pressed a little more on this subject, but time was short, and I had a lot to discuss. Come back tomorrow and I’ll have Part 2 with his thoughts on inflight wi-fi, changes to the TrueBlue program, and new international partnership opportunities.

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43 Comments on "Across the Aisle from JetBlue CEO Dave Barger Part 1: Keeping the Product Fresh and Long Beach Troubles"

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brian
Guest
my co-workers in all departments work very hard to provide an excellent jetBlue experiance, its frustrating to me that someone is concerned if we are “cool” or not. when a company is only operating at a 25% some odd give or take load factor i suppose that it dont take very many people to think its cool. As to where we typically operate 89% i believe again give or take, there is bound to be a select few that bring down our “cool” status. In the next year we have incredible offerings coming and i am pleasantly pleased in what… Read more »
Graham
Guest
Brett, Thanks for this. It’s funny because I recently flew out of BOS to LA and took Virgin going and JetBlue on the return redeye out of LGB. For a variety of reasons, the temp terminal at LGB was packed to the gills with people. To the point the deplaning became difficult because people were blocked by those waiting to board the 3 waiting outbounds. I actually had to be told which of the 3 A320s I was boarding when I walked out onto the tarmac. While it was cool to see all those birds up close, it would have… Read more »
blue
Guest
As a JetBlue inflight crew, I, too, would be sad if we had to leave LGB. Our customers and crewmembers alike enjoy the convenience of the location, ease of access to/from the freeway, rental cars, parking, etc. It’s a great location and I’d be disappointed if the city didn’t realize what a gem they have in JetBlue’s presence there. Before JetBlue arrived at LGB, it was a sleepy, under-used, 9-commercia-departures-a-day airport. Such a waste. I appreciate Cranky’s thoughts and hope more locals voice their positive opinions about having the convenience of commercial air service in Long Beach. It’s such a… Read more »
JB Pilot
Guest
A lot of people complain about airline punctuality. Oddly enough, many of those same people want to limit airlines’ accessibility to airports. They also have no desire to make their airport as operation-ready as possible. When you look up “hypocrite” in the dictionary, it probably uses this type of scenario to help describe the word. Check out LGB Airport on a Friday or Sunday or most any holiday. It is it over-crowded to the point of being a safety hazard. The city of Long Beach relies on the ignorance of JetBlue customers who blame JetBlue for the uncomfortable and inefficient… Read more »
LGBFA
Guest
How disheartening to hear that pulling out of LGB isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Jetblue. More disheartening is having to hear about it through this article. Let the panic begin for all of the crew members that work out of that base. The comments, casual or not, are the equivalent to pulling the fire alarm in a crowded movie theater. I love the company and the people that I work with but having been with the company for 7 1/2 years, I would expect a little more tact and responsibility when making remarks that can have a… Read more »
James
Guest

I hope we leave Long Beach and go to LAX. Long Beach has been so disappointing with too many restrictions. With LAX we could grow immensely. Thank You!!

brian
Guest
CONGRATS to all of us that love our company! i also have been employed over 7 years and love everything as previously stated. i will again say that longbeach should SMARTEN up and do the right thing, we as a company have brought more cash flow, projects and donations to organizations not to mention all the fees associated with take off and landing there either being ontime or late.. SERIOUSLY get a grip longbeach dont kick a cash horse in the mouth.. we are in a recession here and JetBlue brings many many dollars to that city not only in… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member

Maybe I missed something, but why isn’t Long Beach doing something to make the airport better? It’s been many years since I’ve been to that airport and it was a tiny closet of a place back then when airlines only had a few flights a day. Can’t think what it is like now, temp trailers don’t sound good.

jetbluecrew
Guest
I can only hope that we pull out of Long Beach,This airline has existed for over 9 years and has bent over backwards trying to please the Long Beach City council members,who have only blocked and blocked at the insistence of those living in the immediate area,including a council member who is a flight attendant with the competition.This airline has spent a lot of money with plans and offers to please the council only to be fed with the last newspaper article that i read that made me so disgusted was,”if Jetblue wants to leave let them we don’t need… Read more »
jetbluecrew
Guest
I can only hope that we pull out of Long Beach,This airline has existed for over 9 years and has bent over backwards trying to please the Long Beach City council members,who have only blocked and blocked at the insistence of those living in the immediate area,including a council member who is a flight attendant with the competition.This airline has spent a lot of money with plans and offers to please the council only to be fed with the last newspaper article that i read that made me so disgusted was,”if Jetblue wants to leave let them we don’t need… Read more »
Cleia
Guest
In response to LGBFA: I’d like to note that Dave may have said what he said for an audience called “Long Beach City Council” and “LGB Airport Employees”. The council needs a jab to get them moving and if the LGB city employees (who are likely to lose their jobs if JetBlue bails out) can provide it so much the better. JetBlue LGB employees have attended many council meetings in support of facility improvement to no avail. The squeaky wheels who bought their homes at a discount off either end of the runway just want to benefit from a quieter… Read more »
magz
Guest

I truly love Long

magz
Guest

I truly love Long

FLLBJ
Guest
Long Beach (LGB) is not the first community not to know what it will be losing until it too late through inaction, out of date zoning and thinking. It has taken more than 21 years for Fort Lauderdale (FLL) (that gold mine in the east) to extend the commuter runway on the south side of the airport and it still not completed. Broward County and the FAA are still dealing with law suits, but the project continues to inch forward. The Broward County Commission’s indecision and buckling under year after year to a couple hundred of individuals who bought their… Read more »
FLLBJ
Guest
“The Broward County Commission’s indecision and buckling under year after year to a couple hundred of individuals who bought their homes at a discount in the footprint of the airport, who also just want to benefit from a quieter environment (i.e. higher home values) at the expense of the millions in the rest of the community. SHOULD HAVE READ “The Broward County Commission’s indecision and buckling under year after year to a couple hundred of individuals who bought their homes at a discount in the footprint of the airport and who also just want to benefit from a quieter environment… Read more »
mthorpe
Member

Cranky,

This traffic was at LAX prior to JetBlue launching service at LGB anyway, so if B6 brings it back to LAX, it will just be a return to the way things were prior to 2000.

Zack Rules
Guest
What about general aviation? There were 398,433 aircraft movements in 2008 making Long Beach the 25TH busiest airports by traffic movements in the ENTIRE WORLD! That works out to by 1091 movements per day compared to around 43 daily flights per day on Alaska Airlines, jetBlue Airways and US Airways Express. Also, add in a couple of ABX Air, Fed Ex and UPS flights per day. Why pick on commercial aviation? It seems that overwhelmingly, charter flights, private aviation, flight schools, law enforcement flights, helicopters, advertising blimps and planes towing advertising banners are really the ones making all the noise,… Read more »
Carl
Guest

If JetBlue were to leave LGB, would you see Alaska, US Air, and Delta leave as well?

On to the 41 slot issue, why don’t we start a campaign with (or ask B6 to ask) WN, DL, CO, and UA to file a complaint with the FAA that 16.43 violates Federal access rules and is a barrier to entry???

http://www.lbreport.com/news/may03/lgbfaafi.htm (<- idea taken from here)
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The FAA pretty much spelled it out when they approved the 2003 Airline Agreement between AA, B6, AS and Long Beach.

Ron
Guest
Zack, Cranky — commercial aviation is the noisiest component in LGB, based on my own subjective perception (I live under the southeastern approach of runway 30/12). Individual C-17 movements are the loudest but they’re rare, I don’t think I encounter them more than once every few weeks. Occasionally (a few times a day) a loud business jet flies by. But in most cases, when an airplane is loud enough to make me turn my head, it turns out to be a commercial jet. Personally this doesn’t bother me much and I would be happy to see some more service, but… Read more »
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[…] a two-part interview  on The Cranky Flier, a respected if nitpickingly named blog, JetBlue CEO Dave Barger says he’s frustrated with the treatment his airline has received by […]

Hopeful desert flyer
Guest

How about moving to a community who would do just about anything to have “Jet Blue”. Think hangar for aircraft storage… lots of office space…having a city who is pro business by supporting businesses that re-locate or expand in area by tax credits…foreign trade zone… military & aerospace flight market…think aircraft storage & maintenance facility…a flight shuttle to LAX (sister airport) while building up international at LAX.
Anyone ever hear of Palmdale?

Kimberlee
Guest
NOOO!!! I fly into Long Beach from JFK all the time, at least 3 times a year. I love the small airport. It is also the closest airport to Orange County. San Diego and LAX are both 1 hour with plenty of traffic. Don’t leave Long Beach unless you move to the John Wayne Airport. The parking at JFK is not great by the Jetblue terminal either so I wouldn’t really weigh that against the small Long Beach airport. I find it nostalgic that we have to walk outside to the board, southern California is one of the few places… Read more »
Nancy
Guest
JetBlue should resume service at LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT). People who resides in San Bernardino County must now either drive to Burbank, Long Beach or LAX for JetBlue service. Drive time to BUR or LGB is 1 hour; LAX is 2 hours or more. Ontario is a small, modern, clean, beautiful airport. Burbank is old, dirty with 1950s decor. You have to walk outside on the tarmac and climb these steep steps in order to board a plane! So antiquated. More importantly, when JetBlue abandoned ONT in Sept. 2008, it left the entire County without direct flight access to large… Read more »
Kim
Guest
DON’T LEAVE LONG BEACH!!! Long Beach is always our first choice when picking an airport. We fly once or twice a month on business. That’s the main reason we fly JetBlue. What makes LGB great? Endless reasons… It’s small. There is always parking. Affordable parking. Short security lines. Short check-in lines. Efficient boarding beacuse of being able to load the planes from front and back doors. Quick baggage claim. Old Fashioned charm and simplicity. Who cares if you have to wait in a temporary terminal? It’s just a place to sit for a few minutes. It’s not like you’re doing… Read more »
Dan
Guest

If JB is such a great company, airline, friend of community…why are youy a $4 stock.

If you want to threaten to leave Long Beach. Feel free, as Long Beach is only a gateway for other communities citizens. It will be more a lost for those folks.

Get your stock up, do an offering to raise money, figure our a proper fuel hedge program and stop whinning.

Jayman
Guest
I live in Long Beach. I have a thriving business in Long Beach, and I fly from Long Beach Airport almost weekly. I take Jet Blue as much as possible and I will even take other flights to destinations that Jet Blue does not fly to (such as Houston, Dallas, etc.) from LGB via a connection elsewhere so that I can avoid going to LAX or SNA. I love Long Beach Airport, and having the airport and Jet Blue enhancing my quality of life in the City of Long Beach. I am saddened and embarrassed by our city officials and… Read more »
jetbluecrew
Guest

Because B6 is a nationwide company and LGB is our west coast hub,duh.If you actually knew about our company you would not offer such an ignorant opinion,you have no clue.

Frequentflyer
Guest
As a regular Jet Blue customer, I’d like to make one thing very clear to Dave Barger, jetbluecrew, et al. I fly Jet Blue by preference. I also fly out of Long Beach by preference. But if you to force me to choose between the two, I will choose Long Beach. Sure, LGB has its shortcomings, and sure, it gets a little crowded at times. But these are trivial when compared to the hassle of flying out of that cesspit known as LAX. And no, I don’t reside in Long Beach or even anywhere near it.
ken
Member

I and many others that live in Huntington Beach would love to see Jet Blue leave. Our once quiet neighborhoods are now ruined with screaming , low flying Jet Blue aircraft all day long. Jet Blue has been a terrible neighbor, good riddance.

Mary
Guest

NOOOOO!! Don’t leave Long Beach!! I live in Orange County, about 5 minutes from John Wayne Airport, but I have been going up to Long Beach, a mere 20 minutes, for over 6 years now. I am one of the true blue loyal JetBlue fliers; there is no better flying experience out there, but I will NOT GO TO LAX for Jetblue. LAX is an overwhelming, expensive, rude nightmare.

Long Beach is a lovely airport; the terminal is charming, easy to get around, the staff are friendly, and parking has never been a problem.

Joe
Guest
Lets get the hell out of LGB! Stop wasting our time & money there. They love taking our money but don’t make good on promises. Lets go to an city where we are wanted, can deliver our great product and this WILL help our bottom line. I can only imagine how much better off we’d be if we didn’t pay the 2+ million a year in landing fees to LGB. I wonder what will happen when the city no longer has that money to spend on their local projects? The certainly don’t put it back into the airport? They never… Read more »
Jayman
Guest
I am glad to know now that some of the people who apparently work for Jet Blue hate Long Beach. Do you know that a very large portion of the people who work at Jet Blue at Long Beach airport are Long Beach residents? Long Beach is NOT a “crappy little city”…compared to his examples…Malibu, Huntington Beach, and Rancho Palos Verdes… none of them are true cities at all… but simply suburbs of “real” cities. Long Beach is a real city, with real corporate headquarters, real industry, a powerful port, a true downtown, extraordinary neighborhoods, a real airport (which most… Read more »
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[…] Brett Synders interview with CEO of JetBlue Dave Barger and his remark about the possibility of leaving Long […]

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[…] apparently had a chance for a sit-down interview with Jetblue CEO Dave Barger, in which Barger let off steam about Jetblue’s frustration with […]

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[…] story: An aviation blog called “The Cranky Flier” got a good little story: that JetBlue was frustrated with the pace of renovation at Long Beach Airport and would consider […]

LGBresident
Guest

Note to Bob Foster: Please remove your self aggrandizing lighted photo from the LGB passenger departure lounge. You have no right whatsoever to perch yourself in the middle of the airport you have worked so dilligently to impede.

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[…] in March, the Cranky Flier touched off a fire storm after he posted an interview with JetBlue CEO David Barger, who used the […]

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[…] was back in March of 2009 that I did an interview with JetBlue CEO Dave Barger where he ruffled some feathers here in Long Beach. The wide-ranging interview began with a message for the city and the airport. Municipalities must […]

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