JetBlue will have new CEO as it awaits ruling on merger with Spirit

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes will step down after nine years in the role, the company announced Monday, to be succeeded by current president and chief operating officer Joanna Geraghty — making her the only current female executive of a major U.S. airline.

The reshuffle comes as JetBlue awaits a ruling on its proposed merger with Spirit Airlines, a deal that could remake the industry, which the Justice Department sued to block early last year.

Geraghty, who has been with JetBlue for nearly two decades, will assume the new role on Feb. 12. Before joining JetBlue, she was a partner at the law firm Holland & Knight, the company said in a statement.

Hayes decided to retire to focus on his health, citing the pressures of the job, according to the statement. An airline industry veteran, he worked with British Airways for 19 years before joining JetBlue in 2008.

JetBlue, Spirit merger case in the hands of a federal judge

In 2022, JetBlue outbid Frontier Airlines to merge with Spirit in a deal worth $3.8 billion, a figure that JetBlue says grows to $7.6 billion after including Spirit’s debt.

JetBlue is the United States’ sixth-largest airline, with a 5.4 percent share of the domestic market, according to the Department of Transportation. Merging with Spirit would propel it to the fifth spot.

But the Justice Department sued to block the deal in March, arguing that a merger would hurt consumers by eliminating competition. Closing arguments for the case were heard in December in Boston.

In May, the Justice Department won a bid to stop an alliance between JetBlue and American Airlines that allowed the carriers to coordinate operations on certain routes and share the profits. A federal judge ruled that the partnership would be harmful for consumers.

In Monday’s statement, JetBlue chairman Peter Boneparth thanked Hayes for steering the airline through the challenging pandemic period and during the plan to acquire Spirit.

Geraghty has been involved in integration plans for the Spirit merger, Hayes said in the statement. “Joanna and the team have developed a strong plan for JetBlue as we work to return to profitability,” he said.

JetBlue reported a $153 million loss in its earnings report for the third quarter of 2023.

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