David Neeleman

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David Gary Neeleman
Neeleman in 2015
Born (1959-10-16) October 16, 1959 (age 64)
São Paulo, Brazil
  • Brazil
  • United States
  • Cyprus
Occupation(s)Chairman of Azul Brazilian Airlines
CEO of Breeze Airways
Known forCommercial airline entrepreneur
Vicki Vranes
(m. 1980; div. 2013)
RelativesZach Wilson (nephew)

David Gary Neeleman (born October 16, 1959) is a Brazilian-American businessman. He has founded five commercial airlines: Morris Air, WestJet, JetBlue Airways, Azul Brazilian Airlines, and Breeze Airways. Along with Humberto Pedrosa and Aigle Azur, he owned 45% of TAP Air Portugal.[3] In 2017 he became a citizen of Cyprus.[4]


Neeleman was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and raised in Sandy, Utah.[5] He lived in Brazil until he was five.[6]

His grandfather John Neeleman was born in Utah to Dutch immigrants and owned nine convenience stores.[7]


He co-founded (with June Morris) Morris Air, a low-fare charter airline, and from 1984 to 1988, he was the executive vice president of the company.

In 1988, Neeleman assumed the helm of Morris Air as its president. In 1993, when Morris Air was acquired by Southwest Airlines for $130 million (Neeleman received $25 million from the sale), he worked for five months on their Executive Planning Committee.[8]

After leaving Southwest, Neeleman became the CEO of Open Skies, a touch screen reservation and check-in systems company, later acquired by HP in 1999. At the same time, he helped with another upstart airline, WestJet. JetBlue was incorporated in Delaware in August 1998 and officially founded in February 1999, under the name "NewAir" by Neeleman.[9]

As the CEO of JetBlue Airways, his 2002 salary was $200,000 with a bonus of $90,000. Neeleman donated his entire salary to the JetBlue Crewmember Crisis Fund, which was established for JetBlue employees who had fallen on hard times.[10]

On May 10, 2007, Neeleman was replaced by David Barger as CEO of JetBlue[11] and, on May 21, 2008, he was replaced as chairman of the board by Joel Peterson.[12]

On March 27, 2008, Neeleman officially announced plans to launch a new airline, Azul (Portuguese for "blue"), a domestic carrier in Brazil. Azul completed 2013 with over 5 Billion (BRL) in sales and is currently Brazil's largest airline.

On October 30, 2013, Neeleman and his youngest brother, Mark James Neeleman, a co-founder of Azul,[13] announced the launch of a new company, Vigzul, a home security and monitoring company. Vigzul came from an idea of Mark Neeleman and was founded by David Allred, Brett Chambers and Neeleman serves as chairman of the board and principal investor.[14][15]

In June 2015, the Portuguese Government decided to sell the TAP Air Portugal Group, owner of the national air carrier, TAP Air Portugal, to the Gateway consortium with David Neeleman in partnership with Humberto Pedrosa who take control of 61% of the capital of the Portuguese carrier. TAP Air Portugal will maintain the country as the airline's main hub for a minimum of 30 years. In July 2020 the Portuguese state increased its stake to 72,5 %. It acquired this stake from Atlantic Gateway Consortium, which now holds 22.5%.

New US startup[edit]

In June 2018, he announced plans for a new US airline called Breeze Airways for which he raised $100m capital.[16]

On July 17, 2018, Breeze Airways signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus for 60 A220-300 aircraft to be delivered beginning in 2021.[17]

In 2020, it was revealed that John Ioannidis had not disclosed that Neeleman had funded his estimation of the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in Santa Clara County, California. Ioannidis' results were much lower than official data, thus creating a conflict of interest.[18] [19]

Personal life[edit]

Neeleman, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, served a two-year mission in Brazil when he was 19.[20] He has been diagnosed with ADHD.[21] He is the father of 10 children with his former wife, Vicki Vranes.[22][23][24] The couple has since divorced.[25][26]

His brother, Dr. Stephen Neeleman, MD, a general and trauma surgeon,[27] was one of the founders of the American health care company HealthEquity, while his nephew is New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson.[21] His son, Daniel Neeleman, and daughter-in-law Hannah Neeleman run the social media account Ballerina Farm.[28]

Neeleman was the 2005 recipient of the Tony Jannus Award for his contributions in the commercial aviation industry.[29] He speaks fluent Portuguese and holds citizenships of Brazil, U.S. and Cyprus.[30]


  1. ^ "Case Detail - FST-FA12-4023216-S". civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov.
  2. ^ Wynbrandt, James (December 17, 2010). Flying High: How JetBlue Founder and CEO David Neeleman Beats the Competition... Even in the World's Most Turbulent Industry. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781118040164 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "David Neeleman's Return Trip: Extended Q&A". Inc.com. 2008-06-01. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  4. ^ ""Mr Passport" - TAP's David Neeleman changes nationality, again". portugalresident.com. 2017-03-14. Retrieved 2018-01-07.
  5. ^ Welling, Angie (August 25, 2007). "JetBlue founder recalls stormy times". Deseret News. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  6. ^ Sellers, Patricia (July 26, 2010). "The Next JetBlue: What's David Neeleman Doing Starting a New Airline in Brazil? Setting Records, For One Thing". Fortune. 162 (2): 97–100. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
  7. ^ "Utah's 'Steve Jobs of the Skies' is ready to do it again". 21 March 2021.
  8. ^ "JetBlue Airways Corporation - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on JetBlue Airways Corporation". Referenceforbusiness.com. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  9. ^ "JetBlue". JetBlue. Archived from the original on 2012-04-19. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  10. ^ Wade, James B.; O'Reilly III, Charles A.; Pollock, Timothy G. (September–October 2006). "Overpaid CEOs and Underpaid Managers: Fairness and Executive Compensation". Organization Science. 17 (5): 527. doi:10.1287/orsc.1060.0204. ISSN 1047-7039.
  11. ^ Schlangenstein, Mary (2007-05-10). "JetBlue Air Names Barger to Succeed Neeleman as Chief (Update9)". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  12. ^ Shwiff, Kathy (May 21, 2008). "JetBlue Solidifies Succession Plan". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-05-22.
  13. ^ "EDT MATERIA IMPRIMIR - Há algo de novo no ar". Época Negócios. 2009-01-20. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  14. ^ "Mark Neeleman (AZUL & VIGZUL)". Startup Grind. Archived from the original on March 26, 2015. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  15. ^ "Dono da Azul lança empresa de segurança e investe R$ 100 milhões". Valor.com.br. 2013-10-30. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  16. ^ "He's Baaaack: Stop what you're doing. JetBlue founder David Neeleman wants to launch a new U.S. airline". Airline Weekly. June 17, 2018.
  17. ^ "Future U.S. airline signs commitment for 60 A220-300 aircraft" (Press release). Airbus. July 17, 2018.
  18. ^ Lee, Stephanie (15 May 2020). "JetBlue's Founder Helped Fund A Stanford Study That Said The Coronavirus Wasn't That Deadly". Buzzfeed. Archived from the original on May 29, 2020. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  19. ^ Landsverk, Gabby. "A controversial study on coronavirus was partly funded by an airline founder who's criticized lockdowns, according to a new investigation from BuzzFeed News". Business Insider. Archived from the original on May 30, 2020. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  20. ^ "Mormon in America: JetBlue founder on going from missionary to entrepreneur". NBC News. Retrieved 2016-06-14.
  21. ^ a b Robinson, Doug. "'All about family': How those closest to Zach Wilson — Ute fans to the core — influenced his football trajectory and played a hand in landing him at BYU". Deseret.com. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  22. ^ "JetBlue Airways: David Neeleman : How I Built This with Guy Raz". NPR.org. Retrieved 2021-05-05.
  23. ^ "TBR Board of Directors: David Neeleman, Chief Executive Officer, jetBlue Airways". Travel Business Roundtable. Archived from the original on 2007-03-10. Retrieved 2007-05-07.
  24. ^ Souccar, Miriam Kreinin (October 4, 2015). "The Rise of the Outrageously Long Commute". The Atlantic. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  25. ^ "Big-Ticket Divorce Just One Reason Brazil's Rich Are Cashing Out". Bloomberg.com. 2017-09-21. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  26. ^ "Azul de David Neeleman lança venda de acções" (in European Portuguese). Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  27. ^ "Alumni and Friends Directory". Utah State University. Retrieved 2023-09-18.
  28. ^ Anna North (November 20, 2023). "Why influencers with 7, 8, or 10 kids are having a moment". Vox.
  29. ^ "David Neeleman, Founder of JetBlue Airlines – Career without a Degree". Claudia Fox. March 21, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  30. ^ Azul, Brazil Airline Started by JetBlue Founder, Files for I.P.O., December 1, 2014, The New York Times.

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