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JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes: Offsets a bridging strategy, not long term

Analysis

Talking at the CAPA Live on 13-Oct-2021, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes spoke with Korn Ferry’s Senior Client Partner Michael Bell.  Some of the key highlights can be found below.

When we got into the summer, everyone was ready to travel. We actually had the biggest ramp up of capacity from the first half of the year into Q3 of any US airline.

The most confusing thing for people is just the amount of restrictions or paperwork or testing that needs to happen. And every country is different.

Last year we certainly pivoted our network towards places that people wanted to fly. During the whole of COVID we announced over a hundred new routes.

Had you said to me in a normal year, could you make that sort of change in the time you did, I'd have said you're crazy. But like so many things with COVID, we kind of learned we could do things we didn't think we could do.

So for business class to the UK customers can fly in a private suite round trip with fares starting under USD2,000, I mean, there's a lot of value right there.

One of the biggest frustrations that we had as JetBlue is our inability to grow further in the congested New York market. And then COVID came and the opportunity to do the partnership with American Airlines came along.

So we are all agreed on the goal of 2050 for carbon neutrality. And I wouldn't be surprised if that comes forward again further. The question is what is the path?

We've got to make sure that we scale up sustainable aviation fuel. We've got to make sure that there is a path to generating synthetic fuels in an efficient way from a sort of a power assumption.

MB: Welcome to another session of CAPA Live, and we are absolutely delighted to have the highly esteemed Robin Hayes with us today, the CEO of JetBlue. Robin, welcome.

RH: “Thanks, Michael. Thanks for having me, and hello to everyone at CAPA.”

MB: Well, let me start by passing along my congratulations and thanks for having hosted just such a terrific IATA annual general meeting. I had the honour to be up there, and I was very impressed by the organisation of the event, the turnout, which was, I think, a real expression of interest on the part of the leadership of the industry to return to normal. But how did you guys feel about it? Were you happy with how things played out?

The IATA AGM was a little bit like a high school reunion because we haven't actually seen each other at IATA since Seoul, which was June 2019. So it's over two and a quarter years since we last met. So I actually think the other reason there was such an upbeat atmosphere was just people hadn't seen each other for a long time and they were excited to do that

RH: “Yeah. There's always an extra element of stress when you're trying to organise things. So I definitely felt that, but yes, you're right. I was very pleased with the turnout. One of my colleagues said to me it felt a little bit like a high school reunion because we haven't actually seen each other at IATA since Seoul, which was June 2019. So it's over two and a quarter years since we last met. So I actually think the other reason there was such an upbeat atmosphere was just people hadn't seen each other for a long time and they were excited to do that.”

MB: You could see that at the cocktail, the interaction between people and hugs and the like, and it was terrific. But sometimes at high school reunions, there's that awkward moment when you're with your spouse and you meet your old girlfriend. So were there any of those situations developing for JetBlue?

RH: “There's always some awkward moments. You're meeting with one airline partner and the other one's ready to come in outside. But I kind of feel at IATA we're all used to that. We accept it.”

MB: We're going to talk about partnership in a little while, as it relates to you guys. You've been doing some interesting things that way, Robin. But let's pivot and talk about JetBlue, and really, these sessions are really a bit of a kind of a state of the nation, a chance for you to share a little bit some of the good things going on at the company, some of the challenges you're working through, and what you see going forward. The theme this month is the digital airline, so we'll get a little bit into some of the things you guys are doing. Clearly you're leaders in that space, and you have the JetBlue Technology Ventures arm of the business, as well.

But let's start with what you see in the marketplace as it relates to your business, how you guys are doing this year, what your prognosis looks like for 2022. How would you kind of encapsulate that if you were to give a headline around the results, if you will?

We certainly had a slow start to the year as we came out of 2020. The northeast United States, where we have most of our capacity, has continued to be one of the most impacted. But then when we got into the summer, everyone was ready to travel. We actually had the biggest ramp up of capacity from the first half of the year into Q3 of any US airline

RH: “Yeah, thanks, Michael. I was very pleased with the last quarter that we just had. We certainly had a slow start to the year as we came out of 2020. And as you know, the northeast United States, where we have most of our capacity, has continued to be one of the most impacted. But then when we got into the summer, everyone was ready to travel. We actually had the biggest ramp up of capacity from the first half of the year into Q3 of any US airline, which I think reflects our level of excitement about what we felt the summer could be, because there was so much pent up demand. I mean, most people hadn't visited New York for nearly 18 months.

“And so we had a very good summer. I mean, our capacity for this summer for Q3 was pretty much flat, slightly under flat compared to 2019. So we flew the same as we did in 2019. I think our domestic geography, our leisure focus, definitely helped, because those were some of the segments that recovered more quickly. And as we go into next year, we're actually very bullish. We do see some favourable trends on business travel at last, although still a long way to go. And we still think there's a lot of pent up demand for leisure travel, trips that people didn't take this year for whatever reason. So I think we go into 2022 knowing that still anything could happen, but in the main, very optimistic.”

MB: Yeah, well, that's good. It sometimes helps to be in the right place at the right time in terms of your focus, and you guys are primarily leisure, though not exclusively. So that seems to have worked well for you. How about some of the international, more like near international, Caribbean, Latin America? Has that been a difficult place, and what do you see happening there, Robin?

The most confusing thing for people is just the amount of restrictions or paperwork or testing that needs to happen. And every country is different

RH: “No, I mean, overall, actually, again, it's been pretty strong. I mean, there was a lot of demand for vacations to the Caribbean out of the US this year, especially with so many longer international markets closed. Some of the Latin American markets kept in restrictions for a bit longer, so some of those, it took longer for service to recover. I think the most confusing thing for people is just the amount of restrictions or paperwork or testing that needs to happen. And every country is different.

One of my direct reports was going on vacation today down to St. Lucia for four or five days with friends and family, and even she was having to research two or three times what she felt they needed. And she's in the industry. So we've got to, and this was a theme of the IATA conference, we've got to streamline and simplify some of these international requirements around that.”

MB: Do you think it's friction that's inhibiting people from doing it, or just an annoyance that people are contending to live with?

RH: “I think it's both. I think for some people it's just added stress, and I think for some people it's just a level of complexity that's too daunting. And they're also worried about it changing. So you can book somewhere and then two or three days before, I mean, look what happened at the US Open here in New York, where it was open for crowds and then the week before they announce you've got to be vaccinated to go in. So I think those changes also put people off.”

MB: Yeah. I'll be moderating a sort of sister company Routes event next week in Milan, and Andrea Lusso of your organisation is on my panel. And one of the topics we're going to be discussing is the network impacts of COVID. But maybe over to you on that question. What kind of opportunities has it created? Has it sort of rerouted traffic, if you will, and you guys say, okay, it's going that way, we're going to follow. Or what kind of complications does it cause in terms of having to dynamically adjust your network to bob and weave with all these restrictions, if you will?

Last year we certainly pivoted our network towards places that people wanted to fly. So Florida stayed very open, and there was a lot of demand for Florida. We opened up Miami and Key West in February of 21. Then we pivoted capacity to national parks and outdoor venues that have grown in popularity. During the whole of COVID we announced over a hundred new routes

RH: “I'm glad you got Andrea on your panel. He's great, and he runs our network team. Yes, I mean last year we certainly pivoted our network towards places that people wanted to fly. So Florida stayed very open, and there was a lot of demand for Florida. We opened up Miami and Key West in February of 21. So we opened up those and then we pivoted capacity to national parks and outdoor venues that have grown in popularity. I mean, during the whole of COVID we announced over a hundred new routes, which I think just shows our ability to juggle the network in a short space of time.”

MB: What we were discussing with Andrea, whether it might have morphed the network function into a bit of a gorilla warfare organisation where you need to be very agile, versus the historical model is you might evolve your network 5% a year type thing. Some of the airlines, like Frontier, do that anyway. That's kind of how they operate. But it's probably causing you to have to do something similar.

Had you said to me in a normal year, could you make that sort of change in the time you did, I'd have said you're crazy. Can't be done. But like so many things with COVID, we kind of learned we could do things we didn't think we could do

RH: “Yeah. I mean, we definitely felt that. I mean, I think we were one of the first to pivot because honestly we had to, just being so New York and Boston centric, and there was really so little demand for those areas. So we definitely pivoted a significant amount of capacity away, and you're right, it challenges all your planning processes, your crew planning process. So I was actually very pleased with how quickly the team adjusted.

“Had you said to me in a normal year, could you make that sort of change in the time you did, I'd have said you're crazy. Can't be done. But like so many things with COVID, we kind of learned we could do things we didn't think we could do.”

MB: Let's talk about one of the bolder things you guys have done, which is launch transatlantic flying in the middle of a pandemic. First Heathrow, now Gatwick. How's that working for you guys? I know it's still early, but what are the early indications? What's been the response?

The Heathrow flight coincided with the UK opening up to Americans, because they removed the quarantine if you were vaccinated. Then from some point in November, the US is going to open up to the UK. So the timing actually worked out really, really well

RH: “Yeah, actually I think our timing was good, and there's definitely an element of luck with some of these things. So we started Heathrow in August. We started Gatwick at the end of September. And really, the Heathrow flight coincided with the UK opening up to Americans, because they removed the quarantine if you were vaccinated. And then of course more recently the Biden administration has announced that from some point in November, the US is going to open up to the UK. So I feel that the timing actually worked out really, really well. And just as the largest market that we don't fly from New York, it was about time that we started flying it.

“And look, early on, I've been really pleased at how well it's doing. There's definitely a lot of curiosity in what we're doing. And I think people sort of wanting to, they've read about it, they like what they read, and they want to try it.”

MB: But what's the value proposition to the customer of trying JetBlue. It's a crowded market, busiest, I think, international market.

So for business class customers who were looking at the sticker shock of USD7-8,000 fares before, the fact that you can fly in a private suite round trip with fares starting under USD2,000, I mean, there's a lot of value right there

RH: “That's a great question. So for business class customers who were looking at the sticker shock of USD7-8,000 fares before, the fact that you can fly in a private suite round trip with fares starting under USD2,000, I mean, there's a lot of value right there. And then for customers travelling in economy, or coach, or Core, what we call it, in addition to lower fares, the ability to have free wifi, free live TV, the most leg room, a customised hot meal, things that most airlines have either never done or they've abandoned on the transatlantic a long time ago. So we're very proud of the product that we've built, and we think it's going to be very popular with customers on both sides of the Atlantic.”

MB: And talk about that both sides. You have obviously a very loyal following in the Northeast, in New York and Boston, etc. And now you'll need to get bidirectional traffic. So how big a mountain is that to climb, to get people in the UK, or eventually maybe other markets in Europe, to want to fly JetBlue?

I'm already pleased at what point of sale we're getting for future bookings from November to December. And we've started some work over there to build awareness of JetBlue in the UK

RH: “Yeah, I mean, I think not as big as you would think. We obviously assume most of our point of sale strength will be in the US, but we haven't really spent too much in the UK to date because obviously there's no point until the US open up and people can actually come. But I'm already pleased at what point of sale we're getting for future bookings from November to December. And we've started some work over there to build awareness of JetBlue in the UK.”

MB: Being British, I'm sure you can give them some guidance around that marketplace and how to think about it.

RH: “Well, I feel, yes, I'm British, but I used to work over there 20, 25 years ago. So I think everyone here thinks I'm a sort of a dinosaur, at least 20 years out of date with how to market a new service.”

MB: They're not going to listen to you, even if you say something, right?

RH: “Yeah. I still use phone numbers, and what's the internet?”

MB: Exactly. So partnerships, kind of new to LCC carriers, you guys have been among the more, let's say innovative around that, being the northeast alliance with American is an interesting example of that. Obviously coming under some scrutiny now, but tell us about the rationale behind it, how it works, and how it's working.

One of the biggest frustrations that we had as JetBlue is our inability to grow further in the congested New York market. And then COVID came and the opportunity to do the partnership with American Airlines came along. We thought it was great for JetBlue because it allowed us to grow at a pace in the northeast that would not be possible otherwise

RH: “Yeah. So what happened was, pre-COVID, obviously, one of the biggest frustrations that we had as JetBlue is our inability to grow further in the congested New York market. We had 15, 16 flights a day at LaGuardia. We were unable to grow at JFK outside of some very, very offbeat hours. And we know every time JetBlue adds a flight, fares come down. Every time we add a new market out of New York, fares come down. That's fact, and that is recognised by government agencies, as well.

“And then COVID came. And one of the things that we considered during COVID is should we accelerate the retirement of our 190 fleet? We'd already announced a retirement schedule. But given the amount of cost that's tied up in those aeroplanes, it was something we had to give serious consideration to. The opportunity to do the partnership with American Airlines came along. We thought it was great for JetBlue because it allowed us to grow at a pace in the northeast that would not be possible otherwise. It allowed us to keep our planes and keep people. And eventually, as we came out of COVID, hire people more quickly. And so we are very proud of it.

“I mean by next summer, we'll be up to 60 flights a day at LaGuardia. And before COVID, we were 15 or 16. That's quadrupling our presence in one of the most congested airports in the country. So these things just wouldn't have been possible without the NEA. Outside of New York and Boston, we compete with American very aggressively. I mean, we opened Miami. I'm sure they didn't love that. We started flying Miami-LAX, a key market for them out of Miami. We kept plans to fly to London, and our London flight is not in the NEA. So it actually competes with American. And so we'll work together where it makes sense for the customer, to build more connectivity and offer lower fares. And outside of that, we'll compete.”

MB: Do you see this as sort of a harbinger of things to come for historically independent carriers, that it's sort of tough to make it a go, especially in slot constrained markets alone, that you need partners and you might see a Southwest, a Frontier, a Spirit do something similar?

Ultimately getting into congested airports where you've got legacies that just sit on huge pools of slots, that's a challenge for every airline. So anything that makes it easier for low cost or more competitive airlines to get into these airports is a good thing. So when American and US Air merged, slots became available in DCA and that allowed us to enter DCA with a more meaningful position

RH: “Well, I think that ultimately getting into congested airports where you've got legacies that just sit on huge pools of slots, that's a challenge for every airline. And so yes, and by the way, anything that makes it easier for low cost or more competitive airlines to get into these airports is a good thing. In fact, part of our NEA agreement with American, we agreed with the Department of Transportation to divest a certain number of slots at JFK and DCA for new entrants to come in. And we've taken advantage of those ourselves in the past. So when American and US Air merged, slots became available in DCA and that allowed us to enter DCA with a more meaningful position.”

MB: Terrific. Let's pivot to digital. It's the theme for CAPA this month, the digital airline, if you will. I mean, I've always viewed you guys as way ahead of the curve on this one. You launched JetBlue Technology Ventures how many years ago now?

RH: “That's about seven years ago now.”

MB: Seven years ago. And you've always had innovative leaders in digital. How is JetBlue Technology Ventures doing? How does it benefit the airline? What do you bring back into it? Or vice versa, if will.

We felt it would be great to bring our expertise and all of our assets together and pair them really with startups that were looking for partners to do proof of concept. We could also invest in them. And that's what we've done. And so well over 20 different investments now

RH: “So we really set up JetBlue Tech Ventures to really try to sort of keep the spirit of innovation alive in JetBlue. I think we'd always prided ourselves on being innovative. I mean, first airline to have live TV, first airline in the world to offer free broadband wifi. But I think we wanted to find a way of making it more sustainable. And we knew this whole ecosystem out there of startups, and a lot of them were struggling to access into the travel industry. They didn't know who to speak to.

“And so we felt it would be great to bring our expertise and all of our assets together and pair them really with startups that were looking for partners to do proof of concept. We could also invest in them. And that's what we've done. And so well over 20 different investments now, most of them have done extremely well. We were an investor in Joby, that's just gone public. We invest in companies that can help produce more accurate weather forecasts. We've invested in AI revenue management based companies that help us do revenue management better. And of late, we invested in a company that is helping us understand hydrogen as a fuel more intelligently, because we don't just want to rely on what aircraft manufacturers are going to tell us. We want to make sure we form our own views and opinions on these things.

MB: You may have seen AirAsia pivot during the crisis, maybe accelerate an intended plan to become sort of a digital app company versus just an airline, creating this mega app where you can do all kinds of things related to travel, maybe de-emphasise just being an airline. Do you see that as something that airlines are headed toward, or do you just see this sort of as enabling technology to your core business, if you will?

A few years ago we launched JetBlue Travel Products and they've been doing a lot of cool stuff, as well, in terms of selling more than just a flight. We just launched Group which is a group's tool, because airlines aren't very good at handling groups

RH: “So we actually, again, a few years ago we launched JetBlue Travel Products and they've been doing a lot of cool stuff, as well, in terms of selling more than just a flight. So for example, they have a personalisation called Paisley. So when you make a booking on JetBlue, we know where you're going, how long you're going to be there for, who you're travelling with, and we can offer personalised one touch booking for car rental, for hotels.

“We just launched Group which is a group's tool, because I think one of the biggest things for groups when they're going away, whether it's friends or family, it's very hard to organise it. Everyone wants to do something else. Everyone wants to split payment. Airlines aren't very good at handling groups. And so we built an app where you can do all of this and book for groups. So I think our team has been doing a lot of innovative stuff as well, to try to catch some shared wallet from customers. We have a trusted brand, and we felt there was a lot of money that was being spent that we could give the customer a more fuller experience. “

MB: I'm just going to say, you've obviously earned the right to do that. People trust you to offer these other things.

When something goes wrong, we own it. So if you are flying on JetBlue and you're on a JetBlue vacation, and your JetBlue flight is delayed for weather outside of our control, the fact that we can work with a hotel directly, and then you are not sitting there stressing

RH: “Yeah, and also when something goes wrong, we own it. So if you are flying on JetBlue and you're on a JetBlue vacation, and your JetBlue flight is delayed for weather outside of our control, the fact that we can work with a hotel directly, and then you are not sitting there stressing, worrying about if they're going to give your room away if you arrive at the hotel late at night.”

MB: Right. Fabulous. One of the big themes, of course, at the IATA AGM was sustainability and the commitment that the industry made to carbon neutrality, which was a huge step, I thought, and one that the industry should celebrate. Again, you guys have been leaders in this area and have made your own commitments before the industry did. Tell us about that and what it means for you personally and what you guys are doing that way, Robin.

So we are all agreed on the goal of 2050. And I wouldn't be surprised if that comes forward again further. The question is what is the path? So to get there, we have to overcome some pretty significant technology challenges, because we don't want to solve this through offsets. Offsets are a bridging strategy, but it's not a long term solution.

RH: “Well, I think, again, I use 2019 as my reference here in aviation these days because COVID came in 2020. But we had started a lot in 2019 about some of the threats that this issue of the carbon footprint of airlines would present. It was an issue that was already very present in Europe and has been for some time. And there was more and more conversation about it in the US.

“And right now, of course, airlines make up 2-3% of global carbon emissions, but we're also one of the hardest sectors to decarbonise, just by the very nature of the physics of what we do. And so the big issue is as other industries decarbonise more quickly, our share of that total carbon footprint Is going to increase. And so we have to get ahead of that. Otherwise, governments will start taxing us. People will start changing their behaviour. And again, rather than wait to be asked, let's show leadership. So I'm very proud of the work that IATA did, really building a strong global coalition on this. And even though there were some concerns expressed by the Chinese airlines, that the Chinese airlines aren't opposed to net zero carbon, they believe it's important, too. They just have a different timeline. Their view is they want to accomplish that by 2060.

“So we are all agreed on the goal, and the rest of the world is signed up to 2050. And I wouldn't be surprised if that comes forward again further. The question is what is the path? So to get there, we have to overcome some pretty significant technology challenges, because we don't want to solve this through offsets. Offsets are a bridging strategy, but it's not a long term solution.”

We've got to make sure that we scale up sustainable aviation fuel. We've got to make sure that there is a path to generating synthetic fuels in an efficient way from a sort of a power assumption. We've got to really see if hydrogen is possible as an alternative source for jet fuel.  So we have a lot of work to do

“So we've got to make sure that we scale up sustainable aviation fuel. We've got to make sure that there is a path to generating synthetic fuels in an efficient way from a sort of a power assumption. We've got to really see if hydrogen is possible as an alternative source for jet fuel.  So we have a lot of work to do. And so this resolution, as great as it is, hopefully now gives all of the other stakeholders, manufacturers, fuel providers, confidence that airlines want this technology and we're willing to invest in this technology, and that will give them, I think, the confidence for the tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars of investment they need to make to prepare the path.”

MB: Did you guys sign up for 2040? Is that your commitment?

RH: “Yeah, we signed up to 2040. We signed up to 2040 before this. But look, there are plenty of airlines around the world who want to do this before 2050, as well. So I think 2050 is where we got to. It's quite possible at a future IATA event down the line we are signing up for an even more ambitious goal than that.”

MB: Terrific. You know, we've talked with other CEOs we've interviewed in this way about what COVID has meant for them as leaders. So let's talk about that. You like to lead your airline almost virtually here. What have you learned about your organisation, about yourself as a leader? How have you pivoted? How have you adjusted to deal with this different reality as a CEO?

When the pandemic hit, JetBlue was burning 18 million a day. So we had a huge fire. We'd have gone through all of our cash in a hundred days at that rate. So we had to slow down the cash burn. We had to raise money. We had to send aeroplanes into the desert. We had to figure out which people wanted to take time off. We got government support. We had to pivot the network. We had to introduce new operating and safety protocols. All at the same time

RH: “So I think that if I look back on all the things that not just JetBlue, but other companies accomplished, I think we'd all said that was never possible. I mean, literally we went from a world where we all were coming to work every day and meeting and doing this and doing that. As you said, a lot of people were working virtually. We felt at JetBlue, as the leadership team, it was important we were here. So we were here throughout the pandemic. It was important to lead from the front on that, as well.

“But I think the speed of decision making became very important. Because, if you think about it, what was happening when the pandemic hit, like JetBlue was burning 18 million a day. So we had a huge fire, I mean, we'd have gone through all of our cash in a hundred days at that rate. So we had to slow down the cash burn. We had to raise money. We had to send aeroplanes into the desert. We had to figure out which people wanted to take time off. We got government support. We had to pivot the network. We had to introduce new operating and safety protocols. All at the same time. So I was so proud of how our team performed. I mean, we had many people who just worked for months without even a day off, and I'll be forever grateful for that.”

MB: You've also taken the lead on diversity, if I might say. That's another big theme at IATA, and the recognition that the industry's providing to women in leadership. I mean, I looked at your website. If I've got it right, of the 18 executives listed there, seven are women. It's almost 50%. So kudos to you. Tell us about the priority you've placed on that. You have, if I'm not mistaken, the only female president of a major airline in the US, right?

Of my 10 direct reports, six are women, and of my 10 direct reports, eight are diverse. So I think we still have a lot more to do, but I'm pleased with the start that we've made. We've created a number of pathways to make it easier for frontline crew members to get jobs in our support centres. We take frontline crew members who want to be a pilot, and we train them to be pilots

RH: “You're right. Thank you. Of my 10 direct reports, six are women, and of my 10 direct reports, eight are diverse. So I think we still have a lot more to do, but I'm pleased with the start that we've made. We've also put a number of measures in place to attract more pilots. I mean, we have a very diverse work group on the front line of JetBlue. The problem is, it's not diverse enough as you get into more leadership positions or more higher paid jobs, like being a pilot.

“And so we need to make some long term changes to address that. So we've created a number of pathways to make it easier for frontline crew members to get jobs in our support centres. We take frontline crew members who want to be a pilot, and we train them to be pilots. And we've been doing that for a number of years now. We've added some additional programmes last year, and that's part of our long term commitment to make sure that the pipeline of diversity is rich and sustaining.”

MB: We did a study about 18 months ago with the industry called Soaring Through the Glass Ceiling, and it was about gender diversity and how to enhance it. And one of the findings, and it sounds really simple, was that women were more likely to work for companies that had women in leadership. It's just as simple as that. So have you found that having the high ratios that you've just described helps you attract more women into the industry?

Ursula, who's our CFO, is also president of the JetBlue Foundation. And one of the priorities of the foundation is to promote diversity in aviation. And so when the person leading that programme is herself a diverse candidate, I think that's very motivating for people

RH: “Definitely. I talked to Joanna, who's our president and chief operating officer, and Ursula, who's our CFO, she's also president of the JetBlue Foundation. And one of the priorities of the foundation is to promote diversity in aviation. And so when the person leading that programme is herself a diverse candidate, I think that's very motivating for people because it says like this company's putting ... I get a bit sceptical of the companies that put out the press releases or write the big checks, but they don't actually make it different for their people.

“But you've got to do it in a way that everyone buys into it. You've always got to pick the best candidate for the job, but you achieve diversity by making sure you have a strong pipeline of diverse candidates when those positions come up.”

MB: Yeah. Terrific. Well, clearly a lot of great tailwinds for JetBlue. What are the headwinds? What's keeping you up at night?

Hopefully the worst is behind us, you always worry a little bit about that new variant that has been discovered that evades vaccines and has a higher fatality rate. We have some concerns around supply chain in the next 12 to 18 months and shortages of both skilled and semi-skilled labour in different countries around the world

RH: “I think there's still a level of uncertainty around the COVID recovery. I mean, as much as I think we have, hopefully the worst is behind us, you always worry a little bit about that new variant that has been discovered that evades vaccines and has a higher fatality rate. So I think that remains our biggest concern, and I think some concerns around supply chain in the next 12 to 18 months, we read about some of the pressures on the global supply chain, whether it's the availability of raw materials, a number of sort of level two and level three manufacturing companies who have not been able to come around back up. Shortages of both skilled and semi-skilled labour in different countries around the world. Shipping and transit delays, because there's bottlenecks in the global shipping system.

“So I think all of those give me some short to medium term concern about whether we will have the people and the products and the parts in place. I mean, if these supply chain issues, for example, start pressuring delivery of aeroplanes  for manufacturers, that's going to have a fairly significant impact. So we're trying to do some work to understand that better, to mitigate that. But I think those will be my two biggest headwinds as I head into 22.”

MB: Hopefully you can take some solace in the fact that your team is maybe better battle hardened, having been through COVID, to deal with whatever might come here.

RH: “Yep. I mean, I definitely feel that this team is ready for anything. But you can't recruit them, Michael.”

MB: Well, you can rest assured that we'll try, but I think you've done such a good job to make it a great place to work that we're going to be unsuccessful. Robin, thank you so much. You've shared a lot in a short period of time about the exciting things going on at the company, how you've conquered some of the challenges, and what lies ahead. We only wish you great success, as you've enjoyed to date under your strong stewardship. So thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your views and what's going on at JetBlue with CAPA Live.

RH: “No, thanks, Michael. And thanks to all the folks at CAPA. You're such a well respected organisation. It's an honour and privilege to do this.”

Link to recording of interview: https://vimeo.com/626179579

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