Longtime JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes will retire, the airline announced Monday, and will be succeeded by airline president Joanna Geraghty.
Hayes, who is 57, will step down effective Feb .12, the airline said, citing health reasons.
“I’ve loved working in this industry,” Hayes said in a statement. “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.”
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Geraghty, who has been with JetBlue for nearly 20 years, will be the first woman to lead a major U.S. airline.
“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,” Geraghty said in a statement.
Hayes has helmed the New York-based carrier since early 2015. He joined the airline in 2008 after working at British Airways as executive vice president for the Americas.
During his time at JetBlue, through stints as chief commercial officer, president and, eventually, chief executive, Hayes led the charge to expand and grow the airline beyond a small, quirky boutique carrier. He led the development and expansion of the airline’s Mint business-class product, along with the airline’s first routes to Europe.
Hayes also spearheaded efforts to grow the airline through partnerships and acquisitions. Under Hayes, JetBlue tried to buy Virgin America in 2016, but was eventually outbid by Alaska Airlines.
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In 2020, JetBlue and American Airlines announced the Northeast Alliance, a close codeshare and frequent flyer partnership that came to define the airlines’ respective domestic networks over the next two years. The partnership was challenged by the Department of Justice under the Biden Administration and dismantled in 2023 after a judge ruled that it was anti-competitive.
Hayes’ departure comes at an inflection point for the airline as it awaits the decision in another antitrust trial, challenging its planned acquisition of Spirit Airlines.
In that case, which was heard in federal District Court in Boston late last year, JetBlue argued that it needed to grow through the merger in order to compete effectively with the “big 4” airlines that dominate 80% of the U.S. market — American, Delta, United and Southwest. By acquiring Spirit’s aircraft and absorbing its workforce, JetBlue could effectively double in size to become the fifth-largest U.S. carrier.
The DOJ, however, argued that removing Spirit from the market would cause the lowest fares to rise. JetBlue and Spirit countered that they could bring median fares down by competing effectively against the big 4.
JetBlue has not said what it would do if the merger is blocked. Regardless of the outcome, it will be on Geraghty to lead the airline forward.
Hayes and Geraghty together maneuvered JetBlue through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Geraghty has been actively involved with the day-to-day operation of the airline, as well as strategic planning, Hayes said in a statement.
In recent years, JetBlue has put Geraghty forward increasingly as a face of the airline, tapping her to liaise with media, partners and other stakeholders. She has flown on inaugural flights and engaged with partners on the airline’s transatlantic expansion. She has been arguably more outspoken than Hayes as the airline began its bid to acquire Spirit, too.
Geraghty, 51, began her career as an attorney and was a partner at the law firm Holland & Knight before joining JetBlue as a lawyer in 2005.