B. Ben Baldanza has worked for commercial airlines for over 35 years, including eleven years as the successful if controversial CEO of Spirit Airlines. Before Spirit, Ben held finance, marketing, and operations roles at American, Northwest, Continental, Taca, and US Airways. Having joined the industry out of college just a few years after the passing of the federal Airline Deregulation Act, Ben has seen the successes, failures, and innovations of the industry first hand and has worked with some its most colorful personalities. He teaches a class called “Airline Economics” at George Mason University in Virginia, and now serves on the Board of Directors for JetBlue Airways and GoAir in India.
Ben received on-the-job media training in his role as CEO, where he was often asked to explain Spirit’s policies and business model on CNBC, Fox Business, Fox News, CNN, CNN International, Bloomberg Radio and TV, and shows like the Today Show, Charlie Rose, and the O’Reilly Factor. His live TV interview with Gayle King is transcribed and used as a model for proper preparation and performance in a critical media program setting in the “Media Training Bible” by Brad Phillips.
Chris Chiames has had a 30+ year career in the travel industry, including executive roles with Airlines for America, American Airlines and US Airways, where he served as Senior VP of Corporate Affairs and led the company’s public relations, government affairs, consumer relations and investor relations functions during two rounds of bankruptcy restructuring and eventual merger with America West. His travel industry portfolio has since expanded to include leadership positions at Orbitz, Sabre and Carnival Cruise Line. He has served as a strategist and spokesperson for major aviation and travel news stories and events: the Unabomber threat at Los Angeles International Airport; the Department of Justice’s unsuccessful effort to sue American Airlines for predatory pricing; multiple airline accidents and airline labor disruptions; the launch of the OneWorld alliance; new aircraft deliveries; the 9/11 attacks and subsequent aviation security enhancements; airline industry consolidation; and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chris is a frequent guest speaker on reputation management, crisis communications and public relations strategies. He holds a BA in journalism from California State University, Fresno, an MA in journalism from the University of Maryland, and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.