JetBlue Airways Chief Executive Robin Hayes said Monday he planned to step down after nine years on the job and while trying to pull off a merger with Spirit Airlines that could reshape the industry, if not. t locked in court.
Hayes will be replaced by Joanna Geraghty, the company’s president and chief operating officer, on February 12, which would make her the only woman to head a major US airline. Hayes, 57, will remain on JetBlue’s board of directors and serve as a strategic advisor to the company.
In a lengthy statement, Hayes described the decision to retire as “bittersweet” and suggested it had been driven by unspecified health concerns.
“The extraordinary challenges and pressure of this job have taken their toll and, on the advice of my doctor and after speaking with my wife, it is time for me to focus more on my health and well-being,” he said. “I am deeply grateful for these exciting years and feel very fortunate to have worked at an airline with a brand, culture and team unlike any other in the world.”
JetBlue announced plans in 2022 to buy Spirit for $3.8 billion. The Justice Department sued last year to block the deal, and the federal trial over that lawsuit concluded last month. The presiding judge has not yet issued a ruling that could allow the deal, require JetBlue and Spirit to make some concessions or prevent the merger altogether.
Mr. Hayes joined JetBlue in 2008 from British Airways. He became CEO in February 2015. The company said in a securities filing that Hayes notified the board on Sunday of his intention to resign, and the board voted to approve the appointment of Geraghty, 51, the same day. .
In a message to employees, Hayes said he had been thinking about leaving the position for some time.
“This decision to retire was difficult and deeply personal, and I have been putting it off for some time, first when Covid threatened our future and again when we had the opportunity to acquire Spirit,” he said.