June Morris was in her thirties when she founded a travel agency in Salt Lake City five decades ago. She worked from a single desk at a photo finishing company owned by her husband. His first hire was one of his sisters.
This small company eventually employed over 400 people, including David Neeleman, who went on to found JetBlue Airways and Breeze Airways, among others.
She and Mr. Neeleman started a side business in chartering flights to Hawaii, California and other destinations. The charter service evolved into Morris Air, a no-frills airline in the mold of Southwest Airlines. âWe don’t serve a hot meal,â Ms. Morris told the Los Angeles Times. “But most people prefer [save] $ 10. “
Southwest was so impressed with its version of its model that it agreed to buy Morris Air in 1993 for Southwest stock valued at around $ 130 million. âWe are soul mates,â said Herb Kelleher, then managing director of Southwest. Ms. Morris was a director of Southwest until 2006.
Her sale from the airline coincided with treatment for breast cancer. âI was not ready to die,â she told the Salt Lake Tribune in 1995. She flew to Texas, underwent an aggressive treatment regimen, and recovered. âIf I didn’t think I was tough before, I think so now,â she said.
Ms Morris died July 23 of pulmonary fibrosis at her Salt Lake City home. She was 90 years old.
Mr Neeleman recalled a management tip she gave him: âIf you feel like blowing yourself up on someone, wait at least 10 minutes and then don’t.
Lorna June Mayer was born April 27, 1931 in Manti, Utah. Her father ran a farm and raised sheep. When she was 12, the family moved to Salt Lake City, where her mother ran a boarding house and became a real estate agent. June graduated from high school in 1948 and married Robert W. Frendt the same year. They had a son, Richard W. “Rick” Frendt, and divorced in 1962.
She found work in travel agencies. One of his first jobs was to draw road maps to guide people on their vacation trips. She took the opportunity to start selling airline tickets.
While delivering a plane ticket in 1969, she met G. Mitchell “Mitch” Morris, a native of Montana who owned a film processing company. He invited her to dinner. A few months later, they married in Reno, Nevada. The service was so quick that Mr. Morris later joked, “I still had 10 minutes at the meter,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Encouraged by her new husband, June Morris started Morris Travel. His son worked there part-time as a student, and after earning an MBA from the University of Utah, he hired full-time and began to take on senior managerial responsibilities.
Ms. Morris also founded the June Morris School of Travel, in part to help it identify promising candidates.
In the early 1980s, she noticed a young travel entrepreneur in Salt Lake City, Mr. Neeleman. He had dropped out of school and was buying wholesale plane tickets and pairing them with hotel reservations to create Hawaii package tours. His airline partner collapsed, leaving Mr. Neeleman with obligations to customers for the tours he could no longer deliver. This led him to bankruptcy.
Mr Neeleman, then 24, was fed up with the travel business by this time, but Ms Morris persuaded him to try again by joining her business and setting up a charter service. He initially focused on tour packages to Hawaii, but soon offered charter flights between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Oakland, California, and other cities.
One-way off-peak fares to Los Angeles were as low as $ 59, well below the going rate. After announcing these rates, Morris Travel was inundated with phone calls and had to prepare to deal with them.
Mr. Neeleman took the initiative to lead what has become Morris Air. In January 1990, Ms. Morris promoted him to president. She sent him a letter outlining his advice, including, âAvoid any sign of arrogance. “
The charter service became an airline and pioneered ticketless travel. Customers were surprised to learn that they could receive a confirmation number over the phone rather than a paper ticket. For those who were nervous about no longer receiving a ticket, Morris Air sent a fax with the confirmation number.
Morris Air was serving more than 20 western cities when Southwest agreed to buy the carrier in 1993.
Ms Morris ‘survivors include her son and two children from Mitch Morris’ previous marriage. Mr. Morris died in 2011.
It has helped to expand the air transport market. âWe have boosted travel among people who have never flown before,â she told the Salt Lake Tribune. “Their options were Greyhound or their car.”
Write to James R. Hagerty at [email protected]
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