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JetBlue CEO Joanna Geraghty is focused on restoring the carrier’s profitability by “returning to the business fundamentals.”

JetBlue has had a rough few years. Its attempts at growth — whether through the Northeast Alliance with American Airlines or its merger with Spirit Airlines — have been struck down in court. 

JetBlue CEO Joanna Geraghty said Tuesday the airline is “returning to the business fundamentals.”

“We’ve got to fully leverage our unique position in the market, and with three years of distractions associated with the NEA and associated with Spirit, we’ve got a lot of work to do to get JetBlue back to profitability,” Geraghty said at the JPMorgan Industrials conference. 

Geraghty’s comments on the Spirit merger and Northeast Alliance marked a sharp turn from the strategy of her predecessor, Robin Hayes, who championed the two initiatives as a way for JetBlue to grow quickly.

Part of JetBlue’s plan to restore profitability includes boosting capacity in popular leisure markets and ancillary revenues, along with revamping its loyalty program to attract more customers.

Brighter Days Ahead for JetBlue?

Those changes may be starting to work: JetBlue raised its first-quarter guidance after its merger with Spirit was terminated. It expects revenues to be down anywhere from 4.5% to 7.5% from a year ago, compared to the previous expectation that revenues would be down 5% to 9%. 

For leisure markets, Geraghty said JetBlue would “repivot” on “core geographies” and deepen its network in those popular areas, which typically includes places like Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean. 

The carrier has also raised ancillary fees. including a new one for preferred seating. JetBlue quietly raised baggage fees to $45 in February for checking luggage less than 24 hours before departure. 

JetBlue’s preferred seating, branded as “Core Preferred,” isn’t any different than typical economy seats, but it costs anywhere from $10 to $49 because they are located closer to the front of the plane and are either window or aisle seats. 

Geraghty said the carrier is beginning to see some success with its raised ancillary fees, but didn’t offer specifics on how much revenue it has generated so far. 

JetBlue also updated its frequent flier program last year, which included new elite “Mosaic” tiers and perks, such as free drinks, business class upgrades and helicopter transfers between New York’s JFK airport and Manhattan. The revamped TrueBlue program also integrated its travel products Paisly and JetBlue Vacations into earnings and redemptions. 

Geraghty said the carrier hopes to increase engagement with the loyalty program to a point that is “unmet with legacy carriers.” She didn’t specify JetBlue’s strategy for increasing engagement with TrueBlue, but said they have so far seen “tremendous improvement” in membership activations and retention. 

Will the Northeast Alliance Ever Come Back?

While Geraghty described the Northeast Alliance as a “distraction” from JetBlue’s business, she didn’t rule out the possibility of it coming back. 

JetBlue partnered with American to offer flights in New York and Boston airports, but a federal judge struck down the partnership on the grounds that it was anticompetitive in its current form. 

American appealed the decision, but JetBlue decided not to join, focusing its efforts at the time on the Spirit merger. 

Now, Geraghty said a potential alliance — whether with American or another domestic carrier — may be “something we’re interested in down the road.” However, that might not be until JetBlue is profitable. American executives have also expressed interest in a “new partnership” with an airline in the New York area. 

“Right now, it is organic, focused on driving profitability and really removing distractions from the team so that we can deliver for our shareholders,” she said. 

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Tags: jetblue, jetblue spirit merger, leisure travel, northeast alliance

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