U.S. News

JetBlue Hires Former FAA Official As Chief Operating Officer


Discount carrier JetBlue Airways named a new chief operating officer on Wednesday, shoring up its management team just weeks after suffering a major service meltdown.

Russell Chew, former chief operating officer at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, will assume the COO role at JetBlue on March 19. Oversight of JetBlue's daily operations was previously handled by President David Barger to whom Chew will report.

Seven-year-old JetBlue was ill prepared for an ice storm at its New York hub on Feb. 14, leaving passengers stranded on board planes for up to 10 hours and forcing the airline to cancel some 1,200 flights. The company has said the incident, which tarnished its customer-friendly image, will cost it $30 million.

"Russ brings a wealth of industry and government experience that will help lead JetBlue into a new era of customer service, comfort, and operational reliability," Chief Executive David Neeleman said in a statement.

Chew, who was also previously managing director of the systems operations center at AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, will oversee flight operations, operational planning, technical operations, and safety.

JetBlue spokesman Bryan Baldwin said the carrier was looking for a COO even before the February incident, but the disruption made the need for additional leadership more apparent.