Respect the Competition

In business, as in sports or work-life, it is essential to possess a mature sense of respect for the competition. The recent arguments between US Airways [ LCC] and JetBlue Airways [ JBLU] form a case in point.

JetBlue recently announced services between New York JFK and North Carolina in direct competition with services offered by US Airways. As part of this announcement, JetBlue’s CEO David Neeleman commented, “… until now, the people of North Carolina have overpaid for sub-standard service.” This was a direct attack on US Airways, which has a strong presence in these routes.

In response, Doug Parker, the CEO of US Airways, addressed employees “upset by these remarks” as follows; read the full response here.

First, I know David pretty well and I can assure you he is a genuinely good person. That he chose to make such a remark is probably indicative of the stress that JetBlue is under and we should not take his remarks personally.

He then explained the problems JetBlue faces and compared JetBlue’s offerings with his company’s.

It doesn’t appear that our customers are overpaying; rather it appears that passengers aren’t willing to pay JetBlue enough for them to be profitable.

JetBlue is struggling mightily and the hard working employees of US Airways are a big reason why. Rather than get upset by their comments we should keep them in context … US Airways is going to be here long after JetBlue.

… we will compete aggressively, we will focus on running our own race and we will win. Thanks so much for taking care of our customers and please keep it up.

When faced with a competitor’s unfavourable remarks, it is tempting to confront and bad-mouth the competition. In such circumstances, employees look forward to directions from a company’s leadership. Often, blowing out the competition’s candle to make one’s shine brighter can backfire, create ill will among employees and lead to loss of customer respect. In his message, Doug Parker sets a clear competitive tone by first uttering words of respect for the competition and then explaining the circumstances involved.

In the intensely competitive airline industry, front-line customer service is a critical differentiator. Customer service consists of a series of interactions that customers have with employees: ticketing agents, gate agents and flight attendants. Evidently, JetBlue has a reputation for better customer service. Doug sends a clear message to boost the morale of his employees and motivating them to deliver superior customer experiences.

Clearly, Doug Parker’s respectful and pragmatic approach exudes a winning attitude. The trust and confidence in his message appeals to employees, customers and the competition.


  1. Margaret Nahmias says

    I give him credit,at least he did not use the threat of competition to scare employees like former US Airways CEO David Siegel did when Southwest announced that it was starting service in Philadephia in 2004. Most of what he said in that letter is true though, JetBlue’s better reputation hid operational weaknesses.


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