February 14, 2013

A Day in the Life: Government Affairs

Welcome to A Day in the Life, where we take you behind the scenes at JetBlue to learn more about the important jobs that work in concert together to run a major airline. This time, we visit with Jeff and Rob on our Government Affairs team who have one of the most strategic jobs at our airline.

Rob with Chairman Onishi of Japan Airlines, celebrating the airline’s new Japan to Boston route

Our Government Affairs team recently moved into a new space in the heart of Washington, D.C. Home to the two-person team, Senior Vice President Government Affairs Rob Land and Vice President Government Affairs Jeff Goodell, the office is comprised of a few offices, one conference room (that’s appropriately-named Washington Dulles), and a galley stocked with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Peppermint Patties. Yes, between their many phone calls and appointments with government officials, Rob and Jeff rotate trips to Costco for the necessities, proving that there’s plenty of room in politics for chocolate!

Rob has been with JetBlue for 15 years, longer than our planes have been flying! Jeff joined us in 2007 and his third day on the job involved flying to Costa Rica, eating lunch with a government official,  and then flying back!

A third member, Sophia, recently joined the team. She works out of our Long Island City support center in New York and her focus is sustainability. We’re a green company and do a lot of good work in the sustainability sphere, but we’ve never had someone to really channel our efforts under one umbrella. Sophia will make sure that our customers and crewmembers know exactly what we’re doing to reduce our carbon footprint; things like single-engine taxiing, engine washes, sharklets, and starting an on board recycling program.

The D.C. office that Jeff and Rob call homebase

Jeff and Rob work with government officials anywhere that JetBlue serves, wants to serve, or that can exercise authority over an airline. That’s why we had a Government Affairs Department in Washington long before we opened any of the three area airports.  Whether it’s solving a problem like fighting an unwanted tax proposal or creating opportunities for us to fly in a new city, we’re there to work with the government to make it happen. In any given day Jeff and Rob are dealing with Congress, federal agencies, a Minister of Tourism of a future destination, or speaking to the Mayor’s office in big cities and small, like New York City or Long Beach.

Rob and Jeff’s goal is to personalize JetBlue through relationships – not cold calls. When a member of our executive team comes to town, Jeff and Rob bring them to meet the right people. For example, Dave, our CEO, was here in December and they coordinated a meeting with Congressman Bill Shuster, who had just been named the new Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. Dave also met with Congressman Michael McCaul, new Chairman of Committee on Homeland Security.

There’s a new governor in Puerto Rico and with a change in administration comes new personnel. This happens in Washington, too. As the President begins his second term, there will be more changes in agency personnel, since many move on after a few years. Jeff and Rob spend a lot of time building relationships with newly elected members of Congress, at organizations like the FAA and DOT, and in BlueCities such as Long Beach, CA and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Jeff speaking at our inaugural flight to Liberia, Costa Rica.

Every country has a different process, so our team works closely with our colleagues in the Legal Department to apply for what’s called the “authority to serve.” Together, we have conversations with U.S. and foreign government officials and work to understand the application process and the rules we must follow; each new market has its own set of local requirements and it’s important we fully comply with them as well as with our FAA. We don’t just fill out an application and mail it off. We take the time to show local governments that we were interested in serving that community, not just tacking it on our destination list. There’s a difference.

Check out the previous editions of A Day In The Life and meet:

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