JetBlue Appoints New CEO, As Robin Hayes Retires

JetBlue Appoints New CEO, As Robin Hayes Retires

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There’s a leadership change coming to JetBlue, though don’t expect that a whole lot will change at the airline (for better or worse)…

JetBlue appoints Joanna Geraghty as CEO

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes has revealed that he’s going to retire as of February 12, 2024, though he’ll continue to serve as a strategic advisor for the airline in the coming months. Hayes is apparently making this decision at “the advice of [his] doctor,” as “the extraordinary challenges and pressure of this job have taken their toll.” He’ll be replaced by Joanna Geraghty, who is currently the company’s president and chief operating officer.

Geraghty has had quite the career at JetBlue, as she has been at the airline for nearly 20 years. She was appointed to the role of president and chief operating officer in 2018, and has been responsible for the company’s operations and commercial performance, including network, brand and marketing, and revenue management.

Prior to that, she held a variety of roles at the airline, ranging from executive vice president of customer experience, to chief people officer, to associate general counsel. Prior to joining JetBlue, she was a partner at a law firm.

While Hayes retiring is catching a lot of people off guard, I don’t think anyone is surprised that Geraghty is being appointed as his replacement. Once she takes on her new position, she’ll be the first female CEO of a major US airline.

JetBlue Airbus A321 Mint business class cabin

What JetBlue executives have to say about this

Here’s what JetBlue’s current CEO, Robin Hayes, had to say about this retirement:

“It’s bittersweet to retire from this airline I love, but I will always feel a part of the JetBlue team and be rooting for its continued success. For nearly 35 years – both at British Airways and here at JetBlue – I’ve loved working in this industry. However, 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. I am deeply grateful for these many exciting years and I feel very lucky to have worked at an airline with a brand, culture, and team that are simply unlike any other in the world.”

“It has been a privilege to lead JetBlue for the past nine years, and I am proud of all we have accomplished. 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. She guided the operation through the most turbulent time in airline history, has overseen the development and execution of new commercial initiatives, and has tirelessly worked to make JetBlue a better place for our crewmembers and customers. She has been actively engaged in our integration planning with respect to our proposed Spirit transaction. In addition, Joanna and the team have developed a strong plan for JetBlue as we work to return to profitability. For all these reasons, I know the airline is well equipped to continue driving progress and I can pass the baton with confidence knowing she is the right leader at the right time for our airline.”

Here’s what JetBlue’s new CEO, Joanna Geraghty, had to say about her new position:

“I am honored and excited to serve as the next CEO of JetBlue. With a beloved brand, an industry-leading customer experience, a unique culture, and the industry’s best crewmembers, JetBlue has long been a disruptor. 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. 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.”

JetBlue Airbus A321 economy class cabin

My take on JetBlue’s new CEO

When I first heard this announcement, I was surprised by the timing. It’s quite an important period for JetBlue, as the airline awaits the results of the trial regarding its takeover of Spirit. But the timing is explained by the mention of Hayes’ health.

I wish him the best. I can only imagine the toll that being CEO of an airline can take on someone over time, as industries don’t get much more stressful than aviation, especially with what airlines (and in particular, JetBlue) have been dealing with in recent years.

Now, what do I make of Geraghty being appointed CEO? She has always struck me as a bright person, and since US airlines tend to promote from within and don’t want to rock the boat, it’s not surprising that the company’s number two has been picked to lead the airline.

While there’s a lot of innovative stuff that JetBlue has done over the years, I can’t help but feel like the airline needs some fresh thinking, as the current strategy just hasn’t been working well. JetBlue offers a fantastic experience in both economy and business, but isn’t able to get much of a revenue premium for it, and can’t seem to run a reliable operation.

JetBlue’s operational reliability in recent years has been its biggest weakness. Heck, according to Cirium’s recent report for 2023, JetBlue ranked dead last among the eight biggest US airlines when it comes to on-time performance. So in that sense it seems weird to promote the person who oversees operational reliability (not that it’s her fault directly, but what’s being done to improve things?).

I certainly don’t envy the timing with which Geraghty is being appointed to this role. If the Spirit takeover is approved, she’ll be responsible for a challenging integration with questionable financials. If the Spirit takeover isn’t approved, then JetBlue is also going to have to do a lot of soul searching, because the status quo isn’t exactly working great…

JetBlue Airbus A321neo

Bottom line

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes is retiring as of February 2024, and will be replaced by Joanna Geraghty, the company’s president and chief operating officer. Geraghty is the logical successor to Hayes, given that she is currently president.

Geraghty doesn’t seem like she’s going to rock the boat, in the sense that she has a similar mindset to Hayes. I do wish JetBlue would embrace a new direction, and I don’t think an executive who has been at the airline for 20 years will be the person likely to do that. Then again, JetBlue is limited in what it can do at the moment, given the Spirit takeover.

What do you make of changes to JetBlue’s CEO?

Conversations (12)
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  1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

    Love JetBlue, but their network for those not living in proximity to the east coast, is just not practical.

  2. Anita Brady Guest

    Because of my size, I have spent more than 10 years buying an extra seat when I fly. My offspring settled in NYC and I live in Northern CA so fly out of Sacramento. Prior to 2018, I did the trip at least 3X a year, but after that, I made as many as 10 trips per year as I had a grandson born. With the exception of COVID year, I bought dozens of extra...

    Because of my size, I have spent more than 10 years buying an extra seat when I fly. My offspring settled in NYC and I live in Northern CA so fly out of Sacramento. Prior to 2018, I did the trip at least 3X a year, but after that, I made as many as 10 trips per year as I had a grandson born. With the exception of COVID year, I bought dozens of extra seats.
    When I flew Frontier Airlines from Sac to Seattle several times in 2021, I became aware of two airport fees on tickets that ARE NOT PAID FOR BY THE AIRLINES on extra seats. My extra seat tickets were about $20 cheaper than my actual seat.
    This made me aware that JetBlue had overcharged me by similar amount everytime I flew with them.

    I approached JetBlue and they insist they pay those 2 fees for my extra seat. I can't image that other airlines are telling me the opposite and they are cheating themselves out of my money.

    Come on JetBlue- I am now choosing to fly Southwest because of their Customer of Size policy. I was a loyal JetBlue customer having taken several dozen of flights in the last 10 years and actually prefer the non-stop flights from Sac to NYC and back. But I can't afford it.

  3. Paper Boarding Pass Guest

    An open letter to Ms Johanna:
    - may want to open a lounge in BOS or JFK to garner favor with the Mint crowd
    - need to clean up your act concerning reliability...at one point one in 5 flight were cancelled for my outlying town
    - appreciate the Euro foot print, but connections from my town are god awful to non-existent
    - there's more to life than NYC, BOS, FLL, and...

    An open letter to Ms Johanna:
    - may want to open a lounge in BOS or JFK to garner favor with the Mint crowd
    - need to clean up your act concerning reliability...at one point one in 5 flight were cancelled for my outlying town
    - appreciate the Euro foot print, but connections from my town are god awful to non-existent
    - there's more to life than NYC, BOS, FLL, and LAX.....NK was to fill that void, time will tell
    - should the NK acquisition go thru, need to hit the ground RUNNING; every moment of inertia is a million dollars down the drain
    - should you seen an opportunity (ie: DL filling the void in Austin as AA retreats), be ready to pounce. You’ve got some smaller jets to test the waters
    - make sure those in the C-Suite are less distracted with the strike point of their stock options and more focused on pressing the flesh of those shoveling the coal. Employees emulate the message transmitted by senior leadership
    - remember, you provide a service…make sure it’s better and more consistent than what’s offered by others. If not, the others will eat your lunch and you'll end up in chancellery court begging for relief

    Good Luck!!

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      should you seen an opportunity (ie: DL filling the void in Austin as AA retreats)

      Remember that B6 tried to build up AUS before AA or DL did.

      Not long ago, they had service to both costs, with connections available in AUS. Didn't last.

    2. Paper Boarding Pass Guest

      Should the NK merger go thru, B6 will have overlap (excess capacity). B6 covers the east coast and NK will provide a midwest concentration. Even if the AUS scheme failed, a competitor's weakness is your opportunity. Ms Johanna needs to grow the footprint to justify the $3B dropped on the lap of the NK stockholders. Europe can only pick up so much slack.

  4. SMR Guest

    Placing Johanna in charge is BY FAR the worst personnel decision I have seen a board make since Doug Parker. She is a lawyer (Smisek was awesome) and as smart as she is, she lacks tact and accountability required to run an airline.

    1. Ivan X Gold

      (this was mocking, not amplifying, forgot the /s)

  5. Sharon Guest

    Good luck to her. She has a very difficult job ahead, in either way of an outcome of the litigation.

    JetBlue needs to solidly their performance. First and foremost. While JetBlue is a “nice” airline once you are in the air, they need to professionalize the IT, their customer service and operational support.

    I can only imagine how many consultants they would need to help with the spirit merger. Good thing so many consultants are sitting it their backyard, nyc!!

  6. A220HubandSpoke New Member

    Gotta love the first female Jetblue CEO end up being their most incompetent one.

    She has done a *horrible* job when it comes to operational reliability and it is scaring away the premium customers that Jetblue should be earning bank from.

  7. Cbchicago Guest

    Colleen Barrett was the President of Southwest Airlines in 2001. She may be the first.

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      As you yourself just said, Colleen was President, but never CEO.

      Shame, as she was far more competent.

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Paper Boarding Pass Guest

Should the NK merger go thru, B6 will have overlap (excess capacity). B6 covers the east coast and NK will provide a midwest concentration. Even if the AUS scheme failed, a competitor's weakness is your opportunity. Ms Johanna needs to grow the footprint to justify the $3B dropped on the lap of the NK stockholders. Europe can only pick up so much slack.

0
Ivan X Gold

(this was mocking, not amplifying, forgot the /s)

0
Ivan X Gold

BY FAR

0
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