Every major U.S. airline is making money. The U.S. airline industry hasn’t lost money in almost a decade. It has now earned double-digit operating margins for four straight years. So where are the aviation entrepreneurs enticed by this success? Where are all the new entrants?
Finally, one is coming. One that promises to make a big impact. One that’s the brainchild, no less, of none other than David Neeleman.
Nearly a year ago, Neeleman denied reports that he was planning a new U.S. airline. That might have been true then, and in fact, the entity he had registered then, which partly fueled the speculation, does not appear to be the one involved now. Either way, his intentions now seem clear, according to a source familiar with his plans and corroborated by another source, and based on a presentation seen by Airline Weekly.
Because of consolidation, the U.S. airline industry is a case study in subtraction, not addition. Today, the U.S. has 11 major carriers (not counting regional providers). All 11 were around 10 years ago. And 10 of the 11 were around 20 years ago (in some cases sporting business models that have since changed). The one that wasn’t yet around 20 years ago: JetBlue, which took flight in 2000, founded by the talented, then-40-year-old Neeleman—a man so talented that Southwest briefly viewed him as a possible heir to Herb Kelleher. JetBlue would later rid itself of Neeleman, just as Southwest previously did, but not before his New York-based creation achieved great success and staying power.
Neeleman doesn’t stay quiet for long. After leaving Southwest, he helped create Canada’s WestJet. And after leaving JetBlue, he founded Brazil’s Azul. He’s essentially in charge at TAP Air Portugal. And now he seems to be making a momentous return to the U.S. Reached over the weekend by Airline Weekly, Neeleman declined to comment. According to the source and the presentation, he plans to launch a new airline that’s for now called Moxy, armed with $100m in startup capital. Some of that money comes from Neeleman’s own pockets. Some comes from former Air Canada CEO Robert Milton and former ILFC CEO Henri Courpron. With a war chest this substantial, Moxy helps ensure it can withstand a likely barrage of defensive measures from incumbents, including…
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