JetBlue Was Almost Branded Like A New York Taxi

In the late 1990s, JetBlue’s founders first had the idea to name their new airline ‘Taxi’ in the spirit of a New York City icon – the yellow cab. However, to get off the ground, they needed funds – and one determined investor was having none of it.

JetBlue Was Almost Branded Like A New York Taxi
Had JetBlue’s founders gone with their initial idea, the airline would have been called ‘Taxi’. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Today, JetBlue is one of the top ten carriers in the US. Recently, its livery became recognizable to travelers not only across the Americas. With the launch of services to London airports Heathrow and Gatwick operated by the airline’s extended-range Airbus A321LRs, customers in Europe are also becoming more acquainted with the hybrid carrier’s characteristic blue and white tail fin.

Meanwhile, once upon a time, there were ideas for an entirely different color scheme.  JetBlue may have been first incorporated in Delaware, but its headquarters were located in the New York City borough of Queens. The company was founded by a somewhat successful airline startup entrepreneur by the name of David Neeleman and initially named ‘NewAir’. It was to be based at New York JFK Airport.

Initial idea discouraged

JetBlue’s founders first had the idea of naming the airline ‘Taxi’. In order to commemorate its close ties to New York, the carrier was to emulate the iconic image of a New York City cab – yellow livery and all. However, as David J. Barger, one of the co-founders of the airline, told the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, certain important investors raised some pretty specific objections.

“‘If you name this airline Taxi, we’re not going to invest’. That’s kind of motivating, isn’t it? The truth is, we were chasing a name. We thought the name was everything,” Barger recalled the conversation in the offices of J.P. Morgan.

New York City taxi
The airline was to be painted the iconic yellow of New York City cabs until investors blatantly refused. Photo: Getty Images

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What’s in a name?

With $40 million out of the $128 million the airline needed as capital on the line, J.P. Morgan’s opinion swayed the carrier’s founders. As such, the world was made to wait for flying ‘taxis’ until the forthcoming launch of urban air mobility rideshare schemes. However, it is doubtful whether or not the eVTOL market will adopt the classic New York City cab yellow.

Barger, who grew up in a family where both his parents worked for airlines, also told the business school that much more important than a name was the brand. And it is the customer’s experience of a company, not its name, that creates the brand value. Something that JetBlue co-founder David Neeleman understands very well.

JetBlue Was Almost Branded Like A New York Taxi
JetBlue is one out of five airlines founded by David Neeleman. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The Brazilian-American businessman has founded five commercial airlines. While the name Morris Air might not ring too many bells as it was sold to Southwest shortly after commencing operations, Canada’s WestJet, Brazilian Azul, and JetBlue have all become household names. If the track record is anything to go by, Neeleman’s latest, Breeze Airways, is set to follow a similar trajectory.

What do you think of the idea of an airline named ‘Taxi’? Do you ever consider the name of a carrier or only the experience it offers? Leave a comment below and tell us. 

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