Sunday, 3 March 2024

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JetBlue resets with new CEO Joanna Geraghty, airline veterans

JetBlue resets with new CEO Joanna Geraghty, airline veterans

A JetBlue Airways plane prepares to depart New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Leslie Josephs | CNBC

In the 24 years since JetBlue Airways‘ first flight, the New York-based airline has pushed the envelope for a carrier of its size. Now, with some veteran executive hires and cost-cutting, it’s trying to get back to basics.

JetBlue was a pioneer in seat-back entertainment, free Wi-Fi, good snacks and a business-class cabin with lie-flat seats that debuted at lower prices than rivals’. More recently, it’s ventured across the Atlantic with flights to London, Paris, Amsterdam and Dublin. And, until a judge blocked the deal last month, it planned to buy budget airline Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion. (The carriers are appealing that decision.)

While JetBlue has never lacked big ideas, it has come up short on profits, cost control and reliability. Those challenges will be top of mind for incoming CEO Joanna Geraghty when she takes the helm on Monday, succeeding Robin Hayes.

Geraghty, 51, has been at JetBlue for nearly two decades, most recently as president and chief operating officer. By naming her CEO, the company is promoting an insider who knows the complexities of running an airline with quirks like New York’s congested airspace.

She’s the first woman to lead a U.S. passenger airline.

Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer of JetBlue Airways Corp., speaks during a panel session at the World Aviation Festival in London, U.K., on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019.

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“The key strategic challenge we’ve always faced is how to thrive as a small player in an industry dominated by four large airlines,” Geraghty said on a Jan. 30 earnings call, referring to American, Delta, United and Southwest, which control about 80% of the domestic market.

Last week, JetBlue said it has hired back the airline’s former chief commercial officer, Marty St. George, 59, as president. St. George left the carrier in 2019 after 13 years and most recently worked at Latam Airlines as chief commercial officer. St. George, who also had previous posts at United Airlines and US Airways, is well regarded by industry watchers for his experience and good relationship with front-line workers.

“Marty will be a much needed force of good for JetBlue for improving the airline’s operational focus and reliability,” said Henry Harteveldt, a former airline executive who runs the consulting firm Atmosphere Research Group. “Legroom doesn’t matter, snacks don’t matter if…

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