underscored its new focus on slower growth and improved operations Wednesday, appointing Chief Operating Officer Russ Chew to serve as president.
Chew, 54, has already worked on a strategic review of the airline's growth and on an effort to instill operational integrity. "This gives me a
higher level of accountability," he said in an interview.
He joined the airline in March after a February ice storm exposed ugly operational shortcomings. In May, Dave Barger took over as CEO, replacing founder David Neeleman. Barger initially retained his previous title as president.
The appointment establishes Barger and Chew as the team that will oversee the job of restoring the sheen to an airline that became an industry darling soon after it began flying in 2000, then faltered.
JetBlue benefited from unconventional practices such as providing comfort and amenities in coach class and using New York's Kennedy Airport for domestic service. But its operational and financial performances have declined in recent years, partially as a result of overly rapid growth. Already, Barger and Chew have moved to slow aircraft deliveries and to more intensely evaluate market suitability.
Chew previously spent four years as COO of the Federal Aviation Administration and 17 years in operations and planning at
Among the improvements he has implemented at JetBlue is a round-the-clock planning function inside the systems operation department, which monitors flight operations. "You had to have someone accountable," he says.
He has started to develop a scorecard for performance management "so we can get all 11,000 employees rowing in the same direction." Also, he has worked with the FAA to seek to reduce congestion at Kennedy
Additionally, although JetBlue, like every other airline, has always had meetings to discuss on-time performance, it lacked a regular morning session, as well as a process to implement improvements. "They had the trimmings of performance management, but no process you could depend on," Chew said. Now, there is a daily 7:45 a.m. meeting.