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New JetBlue CEO Will Be the First Woman to Lead a Major U.S. Carrier

COO Joanna Geraghty will take over after current CEO Robin Hayes steps down due to health concerns

by Lauren Smith

January 11, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of JetBlue

JetBlue’s CEO Robin Hayes will be replaced by current President and COO Joanna Geraghty in February after a nine-year tenure.

Hayes said he would be retiring due to health concerns. “The extraordinary challenges and pressure of this job have taken their toll, and on the advice of my doctor and after talking to my wife, it’s time I put more focus on my health and well-being,” he said.

Photo: Robin Hayes. Courtesy of IATA

During Hayes’ near-decade at the helm, JetBlue has faced more than its share of turbulence. He pursued mergers and agreements to allow sixth-ranked JetBlue to compete with the country’s four airline giants but was repeatedly turned back.

In 2016, the New York-based carrier attempted to acquire Virgin America but was outbid by Alaska Airlines.

JetBlue aligned itself with American Airlines four years later to compete with entrenched rivals United and Delta in the busy northeast corridor. Under the Northeast Alliance, the carriers coordinated schedules between New York and Boston, traded takeoff and landing permissions, and codeshared on certain flights.

The Department of Justice successfully sued to break up the partnership, which it says violated anti-trust laws and would raise passenger fares. In the wake of the disbanding of the alliance, JetBlue has axed fourteen routes in the region.

JetBlue’s $3.8 billion acquisition of Spirit Airlines has also drawn the scrutiny of the DOJ, which sued to halt it. A federal trial on the merger concluded in December, with the ruling yet to be issued. The judgment could force JetBlue to abandon the takeover or make costly concessions.

Photo: Courtesy of JetBlue

Hayes said his successor Geraghty is “actively engaged” in the airline’s bid to buy Spirit. Geraghty has worked at JetBlue since 2005 and served as president and chief operating officer since 2018. When she takes over for Hayes on February 12, she’ll be the first woman to lead a major U.S. airline.

“I’m excited to continue working with JetBlue’s 25,000 crewmembers who are as energized as I am about challenging the status quo and bringing humanity to an industry long dominated by the legacy carriers,” Geraghty said.

“I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last 20-plus years, and I am looking forward to building on this momentum as we execute on our strategic initiatives, return to profitable growth, and generate sustainable value for our shareholders and all our stakeholders,” she added.

Hayes will serve as a strategic advisor for the airline during the transition.

“With a rigorous succession plan in place, the board and I are confident that Joanna is more than ready given her critical role in running JetBlue’s day-to-day business and positioning the airline for success,” he said.