Skift Take

Joanna Geraghty will become CEO in an industry that has historically had men make up the vast majority of the C-suite.

Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s chief operating officer and president, will become the carrier’s next CEO starting February 12, making her the first woman to lead a major U.S. airline. 

Robin Hayes, the current CEO of JetBlue, will step down and serve as a strategic advisor to the company.

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

Hayes said he decided to step down to focus more on his health.

“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,” Hayes said in a statement. “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.”

The First Woman to Helm a Major U.S. Airline

Geraghty takes the helm of JetBlue as the carrier awaits a decision on its merger with Spirit Airlines and faces declining revenues amid sluggish demand for domestic travel and the unraveling of its partnership with American Airlines, known as the Northeast Alliance. 

However, the carrier has seen some bright spots: It noted that demand in December “remained healthy” and operational performance was strong during the holidays. JetBlue is expected to report its fourth-quarter earnings January 30. 

Geraghty has been at JetBlue for 20 years, and was appointed COO in and president in 2018. During her time at JetBlue, Geraghty held a number of roles spanning from executive vice president of customer experience to director of litigation and regulatory affairs. 

Geraghty joins the few women in the airline industry who hold the position of CEO. Other major airlines like Qantas, Virgin Australia, Air France and KLM have female CEOs, but the men have historically made up the majority of the C-suite in the industry. In the U.S., regional carrier Cape Air is the only other airline in the country to have a female CEO. 

JetBlues shares rose by 2% following the news of Geraghty’s appointment to CEO. 

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Tags: jetblue, jetblue-spirit merger, joanna geraghty, robin hayes

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