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Leon Kaye headshot

At a Time of Loss, the CEO of JetBlue Showed His Humanity

By Leon Kaye

It’s easy to criticize politicians, business leaders and, okay, even our neighbors for how some of them have conducted themselves during this pandemic. And trust us, here on TriplePundit, we have not held back in calling companies accountable for actions that in the very least are tone-deaf to at most, egregious (and that’s being tactful). But in fairness, none of us has ever experienced a time like this, so all of us are learning as we continue on through this crisis. One CEO who could teach his peers how to show compassion and empathy is JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes.

Last week, it was up to Hayes to participate in JetBlue’s obligatory quarterly conference call to announce the company’s latest financial results. But instead of doling out the usual corporate speak, Hayes paid tribute to the six JetBlue employees who passed away from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus:

“We are deeply saddened to have lost six crew members to the coronavirus, including a pilot, two members of our in-flight community, one support center colleague, and two airport crew members. Ralph Gismondi, Charles "Chuck" Lewis, Jared Lovos, Kevin McAdoo, Ray Pabon, and Nikki Thorne were valued and amazing members of our JetBlue team, each with a special and unique story.”

Hayes continued with an anecdote about each employee. One was a former New York City firefighter who showed up for duty at Ground Zero on 9/11. Another was retired from the U.S. Air Force. He then asked the earnings call attendees to pause for a moment to remember these JetBlue employees in silence.

Contrast that with the usual opening statements from the CEOs of public companies, who typically launch into “thoughts on our most recent quarterly performance” and “our strategic priorities going forward.”

Even today, the tone hasn’t changed much. CEOs generally start off these calls with expressions hoping everyone is “healthy and safe” or an update of COVID-19 “activities.” One could counter that this is a call for investors, so any additional pleasantries aren’t necessary. The counter-argument is that at a time when we have seen no empathy from the nation’s top leadership, business executives can step in and let people know that, at a minimum, this crisis is weighing on them, too.

As Dawn Gilbertson of USA Today noted in her reporting on JetBlue's earnings call: “Every airline and travel company has been thanking workers profusely this earnings season given the industry's dire straits and prospects of layoffs, but Hayes went beyond that.”

Bottom line: These aren’t normal times. People are scared. We’re all seeking some comfort where we can find it. So, taking a few moments to acknowledge the gravity of the situation in which we’re mired can bring you goodwill — and you’ll be remembered long after the rest of us emerge from COVID-19.

Image credit: Nel Botha/Pixabay

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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