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)…
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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.
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.”
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 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?