In this festive Blueversary Month, we bring you a series of 15 short stories, personal messages and historic footage to commemorate the 15 years of JetBlue Airways service to Aruba and the various milestones and memories connected to it. Today we feature Barbara Brown, Chief Commercial Officer at Airport Authority Aruba (AAA) – A Quarter Century of Milestones and Memories.
Had it been for her dad, name giver and founder of Brown Lawyers Aruba, Barbara would have started a successful career as a lawyer on the island, just like her twin brother and her older sister. After graduating from high school, her father even lured Barbara into a year of working in his law practice while at the same time studying law at the University of Aruba. Barbara showed her good will, finished a full year at her dad’s office but quit her law studies after a semester. Motivated to find her mission in life, she headed to The Netherlands, enrolled in Economic Linguistics at the HEAO in Arnhem, graduated in 1996 and was then ready to take on the world, so to speak.
However, times were not on her side, as the Dutch labor market was tight and extremely difficult to enter as a fresh-out-of-college graduate. Early 1997 Barbara went home for a family visit and short break in Aruba. While on vacation, in the middle of carnival no less, she noticed an open position for a Commercial Analyst at the Aruba Airport Authority; Barbara applied, was hired and needed to get organized and re-migrate within a month.
After a fairly short period of time she found herself practically alone at the Commerce Department as the airport had just gone through a major reorganization, transforming from governmental ‘Luchthavendienst’ to private entity Aruba Airport Authority (AAA) and many former colleagues left in the process. “Basically, that situation helped accelerate my career. Since I had to perform other commercial tasks in the department due to less staffing and AAA was preparing for “Beatrix 2000”, a huge project for the island, preparing for the opening of a brand new and expanded airport in the year 2000, this was an extremely exciting and challenging time. I had to deal with construction, possible Y2K issues, attracting new renters, support the development of the new commercial space at the new airport. It was a lot. I never really got to do much of the analyst portion of the position I was hired for yet was catapulted into the role of “acting Head of Commerce”. It was a logical next step that I was appointed Head of Commerce a few years later.
In 2004 a new milestone followed with the new partnership of AAA with the Schiphol Group, something that helped open lots of doors internationally, and gave the growth of the Aruba Airport a great push. Not coincidentally, in 2006 JetBlue launched a new service from JFK to Aruba, soon followed by Boston and later-on Fort Lauderdale. “I remember the “fuss” back then of welcoming a low-cost carrier to Aruba and the question marks that were placed. In retrospect, I am so happy we believed fully in JetBlue and pushed through, as by now they have beyond proven their successful contributions to our destination. The inauguration of a new JetBlue service from Newark to Aruba in the middle of the pandemic is something I will never, ever forget. It also demonstrates the incredibly strong faith and trust JetBlue has in Aruba as a destination.
Since I am with AAA almost 25 years myself, I have participated in all milestones and celebrations JetBlue has had over their 15 years in Aruba and I have fond memories of all of them. Both Peggy Croes, our former Head of Airline Marketing who initiated our JetBlue journey and our current Air Service Development Manager, Jo-Anne Meaux-Arends, who has further expanded and continues to fortify our JetBlue relationship, must be mentioned here. Air service development is instrumental in maintaining the robust and healthy air service dynamics at our airport, as without airlines there would be no business. I am so proud of them both.
” Over the past quarter-century, lots more happened in Barbara’s life. She became a mother to a now almost 20-year-old daughter, who, during last year’s lockdown, introduced Barbara to diamond painting. For those unfamiliar: diamond art is like a combination of cross-stitch and paint-by-numbers, creating patterns by means of small diamond jewels. Barbara, an avid cross stitcher as a very young girl now calls herself a diamond art addict with many colorful art pieces as a result. Meanwhile, as a working mom, she was promoted twice more, first to Business Unit Manager Terminal overseeing the commercial side of the airport as well as the operational and logistic aspects of luggage and passenger flows. She is Chief Commercial Officer nowadays, responsible for all revenue, branding and public relations, including customer and stakeholder relations. Reflecting on her current role as CCO, Barbara concludes with a nod to her late father. “Now that I come to think of it, in my current daily tasks I am dealing a lot with contracts and legal matters, which involves a lot of knowledge of the law and working closely with our legal team. In a way you could say I did become some sort of legal eagle after all. I think it made my dad very proud”.