Joanna Geraghty, a former legal partner, has been with JetBlue for the majority of its existence, having joined the airline in 2005. She currently serves as COO and will assume her new role as CEO next month. (Credit: L3Harris Technologies)

JetBlue this week named Joanna Geraghty as its new CEO, making her the first woman to hold the position at a major U.S. carrier.

The news comes after current CEO, Robin Hayes, made the announcement that he will be stepping down from the position after nine years to focus on his health and well-being. 

When it came time for JetBlue’s board of directors to choose Hayes’ replacement, chairman Peter Boneparth said Geraghty, the current COO who has worked for the New York-based carrier for nearly 20 years, received a unanimous vote. 

“Joanna is a proven strategic leader and she is clearly the right person to carry JetBlue forward into this next chapter,” he said in a statement.

Geraghty’s appointment comes as JetBlue seeks to acquire Spirit Airlines, the nation’s largest budget carrier. JetBlue, founded in 1999 under the name “NewAir,” contends that the merger, valued at nearly $4 billion, would help it compete against industry giants like Delta and United, which were founded in the 1920s.

Geraghty has her work cut out for her – the U.S. Department of Justice last year filed a lawsuit to block the merger, stating that JetBlue’s acquisition would hurt cost-conscious flyers. A ruling is anticipated in the next few weeks. 

Geraghty served as a partner at the law firm Holland & Knight before joining JetBlue in 2005. She has helped steer JetBlue through other legal struggles, including the short-lived partnership with American Airlines it was forced to dissolve last year after a judge ruled that the deal violates antitrust law.

Geraghty received her bachelor’s degree from the College of the Holy Cross, and her master’s and J.D. from Syracuse University. She has served on the board of L3Harris Technologies, as well as on the boards of nonprofits like JetBlue Foundation and Concern Worldwide.

“I’m excited to continue working with JetBlue’s 25 thousand crewmembers who are as energized as I am about challenging the status quo and bringing humanity to an industry long dominated by the legacy carriers,” she said in a statement. “I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last 20-plus years, and I am looking forward to building on this momentum as we execute on our strategic initiatives, return to profitable growth, and generate sustainable value for our shareholders and all our stakeholders.”