Aviation jobs: We interview Jetblue’s LAX general manager

Paula Minniti pic

In another installment of the “Aviation Jobs” feature, we interview Paula Minniti, who runs Jetblue’s operation at Los Angeles International Airport. Minniti is in charge of 38 “crew members” and four supervisors, though she said those numbers are growing.

I asked her if she could tell us a little bit about what a station manager does for Jetblue. Here’s our interview, which we conducted via email. I have condensed it slightly.

Tell us a little bit about your typical day. 

My day might consist of working with regulatory agencies (TSA, FAA, FBI, DOT, Airport and Los Angeles Police) LAWA representatives, other airline management, and JetBlue departments that support us, etc. I complete reports, I hire crewmembers, and I make sure we are following procedures and policies set forth by JetBlue and regulatory agencies. I hire and manage our business partners. I document and maintain accurate training records. I take responsibility for both internal and external compliance audits of all sorts. I physically check on the operation to make sure things are safe, secure and running smoothly. I am the local spokesperson for JetBlue and I make sure that we get what we need to have a smooth operation.

I am empowered to make decisions on my company’s behalf using our company values (Safety, Integrity, Caring, Passion and Fun.) I treat my station like it is my franchise and make the best decisions I can keeping my company values in mind.

Jetblue

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is that it is never the same. Every day I learn something new, I meet new people, and I get to go to the airport every day! I also like the fact that I get to see the result of most tasks that I complete.

What’s your least favorite part of your job?

The least favorite part of my job is that there are many things out of my control. For example: aircraft sometimes have maintenance issues, or weather 3,000 miles away can affect our operation.

With not that many gates in Terminal 3, how do you schedule which flights arrive and depart from which gates. I imagine it’s a finely tuned operation. How many flights per day does each gate handle?

Gates at Terminal 3 are assigned by the LAWA “gate assignment team.” When our flights depart from their origin, and a definite arrival time is determined, my supervisors call this team and a gate is assigned. We usually operate out of gate 33B, but that can change depending on arrival time into LAX. You’re correct when you say that it is a “finely tuned operation.” The LAWA gate assignment team juggles aircraft so that they make the best usage of all gates at Terminal 3.

One gate can handle approximately 8 trans-con turns per day. However, due to the fact that we are a common use terminal and that LAWA will assign the gates as efficiently as possible, there are a lot of scenarios that determine which gate we will be assigned. Some of the reasons we might have to go to another gate (other than the gate we usually operate out of) are: late arriving aircraft, aircraft mechanical delays (which delay an aircraft from vacating a gate), or weather/ATC delays. At the same time, we must keep in mind inflight and flight-ops duty rules, tarmac delay rules (which dictate that we can’t leave an aircraft with customers on the tarmac for very long), gate delay rules (which dictate that customers must be able to exit an aircraft that is parked at the gate if they should choose to), etc.

Sometimes you and your colleagues must deal with passengers who are upset. What’s the best way you’ve found to defuse what could be a volatile situation?

Due to safety or security reasons, there are many times we have to deliver a “no” message to our customers. However, we all know that it’s about how you deliver that message! My crewmembers know that the success of our company depends upon retaining our current customers and upon our current customers’ word-of-mouth recommendations to their friends and family. Most of the time, if our customers are upset, they just want to be listened to in a respectful manner.

Of course, sometimes my crewmembers need the help of a Supervisor and that’s when my Supervisors will step in to assist. Customer recovery is a big part of a Supervisor’s job and they usually resolve issues by listening, communicating clearly, and doing their best to come to an agreeable resolution.

What was your first airline job? How did the job prepare you for where you are today?

My first (and only) airline job has been with JetBlue. I have been with JetBlue for almost twelve years. After raising three children, I began my career with JetBlue at Long Beach Airport. While at LGB, I was promoted to Supervisor. When JetBlue began service at LAX in June, 2009, I was promoted to General Manager and opened up the JetBlue-LAX station.

I have been allowed to implement my vision for JetBlue-LAX by setting the tone of a respectful, safe, secure, and fun place to work. This makes for a happy team that has a terrific product, resulting in satisfied customers.

Want to learn about more airline jobs? My earlier interviews have been a Southwest Airlines flight dispatcher, a Hawaiian Airlines crew scheduler, an a low-cost airline fight attendant. 

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Jetblue’s Jenny Dervin answers your questions (part 2)

Jetblue's Jenny Dervin answers your questions! File photo.

Jetblue’s Jenny Dervin answers your questions! File photo.

When I visited Jetblue headquarters in New York earlier this month, I solicited questions from readers about questions they wanted me to ask airline officials. Unfortunately, I didn’t see two of the reader questions until after my visit. But fear not. Jenny Dervin, Jetblue’s vice president for corporate communication was kind enough to answer them via email.

Certainly there’s some element of spin here, but I know my readers are smart enough to digest the answers…

John writes: “JB has had significant problems w/ weather events at JFK. The first one years ago cost founder David Neeleman his job. How is this being addressed?”

Jenny Dervin’s Response:
True! We chose to base our airline in New York, with a focus city in Boston, because that’s where the customers are. (It’s like bank robber Willie Sutton, who was asked “Why do you rob banks, Willie?” and Willie said “Because that’s where the money is!”)

But the flip side to basing our operations in the Northeast is that it’s the most congested airspace in the world. One out of every five airborne planes is operating in the Northeast – either taking off, landing or flying through. When weather strikes in the Northeast, it has a disproportionate impact on our operations compared to airlines who have hubs in fair-weather ports. Although it’s fair to say that every airline was walloped this winter, no matter where their hubs are located.

So what are we doing about it? Several things: After the first major storm of the season, we rededicated ourselves to making sure we aggressively thinned the operation in advance of any storm, so we could let our customers know well in advance of any schedule disruption. Communication well in advance, with options for rebooking are key to serving our customers. We appreciate that our customers also know that there’s very little we can do when the weather is bad.

We are also working on improving airspace management through the FAA’s NextGen efforts. 

Dave writes, “Future plans for BOS? Or is it at max capacity already?”

Jenny Dervin’s Response:
We love Boston! No airline has been able to carve out a majority market share in Boston until we did – we’re the largest airline in Boston with the most nonstops. We are currently around 100 departures a day from BOS, and we plan to operate maybe a dozen more in peak seasons. There is a capacity limit, more aligned with the number of gates we have there than anything else, but we aren’t near that max capacity limit yet.

Our plan for BOS is to continue adding destinations that are highly relevant to the customers in BOS. We serve many of the top 25 markets but not all, so our growth will be highly focused going forward.

Having said all that, I have to also say that we know we are only as good as our last flight and we have to continue to earn our customers’ business. We are improving the airport experience to help that. Massport, who runs the airport, has been a great partner, improving the security checkpoint and general infrastructure. BOS is a city that works in all respects.

Want more? Here are some more of Dervin’s answers from my visit.

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Jetblue’s Jenny Dervin answers your questions

A model seen in the Jetblue New York headquarters. Photo: Your blogger.

A model seen in the Jetblue New York headquarters. Photo: Your blogger.

Last week, I visited Jetblue headquarters in Long Island City. N.Y.  Before I left, I asked if any of you had any questions for airline officials. I got a couple of good ones from readers — and here’s what I learned.

The first question came from Andy. He wanted to know if Jetblue plans to improve its facility at LAX, where it shares Terminal 3 with Virgin America and US Airways. 

The short answer is yes, Jetblue officials told me. As many of you know, Jetblue this spring will introduce a new premium section with flatbed seats on flights from LAX to New York. And as part of that service, it would be nice to have an upgraded airport facility. Airline officials told me the fix might come with a move to Terminal 2, but they said it is too premature to know for sure. I will keep you posted on what happens.

The second question came from Chase. He asked: “I’d ask what caused the break in relationship between B6 and AA from B6′s perspective.”

Here’s what Jetblue Vice President of Corporate Communications told me. “‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ kind of applies here,” she said. “Although American did the breaking up, it’s true that the agreement was not performing as expected for either of us. We don’t expect a significant impact to revenue or bookings as a result of the breakup, and very little impact to customers.”

“So I’d say our romance with AA was wonderful while it lasted, but we happily go our separate ways wishing the other well.”

Dervin also said the airline will continue seeking partnerships with major international airlines who need Jetblue to feed U.S. customers into hubs in Boston and New York Kennedy.

“Emirates started their BOS service and needed feed to DTW, which allowed us to fast track opening DTW,” she said. “DTW opened the day Emirates started flying to BOS.”

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I’m visiting Jetblue Airways HQ on Friday. What do you want to know?

Have any questions for Jetblue? File photo.

Have any questions for Jetblue? File photo.

Devoted readers: I’ll be visiting Jetblue’s headquarters in Long Island City, New York on Friday. I’m not entirely sure what the airline has planned for me. But do you have question for Jetblue?

If it’s a good one, I’ll do my best to learn the answer during my visit.

Leave your suggested questions in the comments section?

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Jetblue is offering packages of 10 flights from Long Beach for $999. But is it a deal? It depends.

Jetblue JetBlue Airways is once again offering slightly discounted fares to Long Beach Airport travelers who purchase in bulk through its Gopack program.

For about $1,000 plus $69 in taxes, you’ll be buying 10 separate segments for a handful of Long Beach routes. You can buy until March 31 and you’ll have to use your segments by June 17, though the program is blacked out between April 11, 2014 and April 28, 2014. These are the routes for which the vouchers are valid:

Long Beach, CA (LGB) to/from San Francisco, CA (SFO)
Long Beach, CA (LGB) to/from Oakland, CA (OAK)
Long Beach, CA (LGB) to/from Sacramento, CA (SMF)

This is not really a deal for leisure travelers. If you’re buying in advance, you can find a ticket from Long Beach to San Francisco for $69 each way. But these segments are much more flexible than Jetblue’s typical business-traveler oriented tickets. You’re able book at the last minute or change your flight up to 90 minutes before departure with only a $75 fee. The last minute flights purchased by business passengers are generally a lot pricier than $100 each way.

There’s also a six segment package for $700 plus $39 in taxes. And Jetblue is doing similar promotions with East Coast flights from New York and Boston. See them all here. 

What do you think? Is the Long Beach promotion a good deal for your needs?

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