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Queens-based JetBlue Airways goes public

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JetBlue priced its initial public...

By Philip Newman

JetBlue, the Kew Gardens-based low fare airline, went public last week, attracting vast numbers of investors perhaps impressed with the airline’s success during travel doldrums, its management style and expansion plan.

JetBlue priced its initial public offering of 5.8 million shares of common stock Friday at $27 a share, trading on Nasdaq under the symbol JBLU. JetBlue closed Friday at $45 a share on its first day of trading. The public now owns about 15 percent of the airline’s shares.

JetBlue, held privately since its 1999 inception, plans to increase its 24-plane fleet to 50 and to expand its terminal area at John F. Kennedy International Airport as part of the increased service.

The airline, conceived by its chief executive officer, David Neeleman, flies to 18 destinations in nine states. It plans to begin flights to Oakland and Long Beach, Calif., next month and to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on May 30.

Under Neeleman’s leadership, JetBlue showed a profit and avoided layoffs even when the airline industry suffered losses after Sept. 11. His strategy has been to fly to uncongested airports such as Long Beach and Ontario, Calif., rather than to Los Angeles International, and to Oakland rather than San Francisco while offering large, comfortable leather seats and individual TVs instead of meals.

JetBlue achieved an airline first recently by installing security cameras on its A320 Airbus jets. Work on installing the cameras in all the aircraft should be completed by summer, according to JetBlue spokeswoman Fiona Morrison.

JetBlue was also the first airline to install bulletproof cockpit doors to protect pilots and the flight deck.

“The cabin cameras allow pilots to monitor the cabin and take any appropriate action without having to leave the flight deck or compromise the security of the cockpit,” Neeleman said.

Passengers are told of the cameras at the beginning of each flight.

Camera footage is not recorded and no cameras are in bathrooms.

Live TV, the company installing the cameras, said the cost of the project was about $50,000 for each of JetBlue’s 24 jetliners.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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