Boeing rival Airbus hires JetBlue’s former CEO

Airbus is bringing on the former CEO of JetBlue Airways to head its North America arm as it looks to extend its dominance over competitor Boeing.

Robin Hayes, who headed JetBlue for nine years and before stepping down in February, will succeed Jeffrey Knittel as the CEO of the French aircraft giant’s North American business on June 3, Airbus announced Monday.

Hayes will take the lead of the French plane-maker’s commercial aircraft business and will be responsible for coordinating among the company’s helicopters, space, and defense businesses in North America, the company said.

“After some time off, I am excited and energized to join Airbus and build on the incredible success in the region,” Hayes said in a statement Monday. “Airbus’ commitment to safety and decarbonization is incredibly important to me personally, and I am both motivated by and committed to contributing to the Airbus purpose to pioneer sustainable aerospace.”

Airbus has already soared past its competition this year, having delivered 142 planes to customers in 2024 so far. That’s nearly twice as many as its American rival Boeing, which is facing production backlogs in the midst of heightened regulatory scrutiny after a door plug blew off a 737 Max 9 jetliner mid-flight in January. And Airbus says it will ​​be able to deliver 800 commercial planes through the end of the year, compared with just 350 from Boeing (at its current pace of production). It might even snatch up some of Boeing’s clients, amid the turmoil facing the Virginia-based company.

“The future is bright for Airbus in the region, as it is well-positioned to continue on its growth trajectory,” said outgoing CEO Knittel in a statement Monday.

Airbus shares popped up 1% on Monday afternoon following the announcement.

Hayes departed JetBlue at a difficult time for the low-cost airline. In January, JetBlue announced that Hayes would be stepping down as CEO to focus on his “health and well-being,” on the advice of his doctor.

“The extraordinary challenges and pressure of this job have taken their toll,” Hayes said in a statement at the time. He was succeeded by long-serving executive Joanna Geraghty, who became the first woman to lead a major commercial airline in the U.S.

Last month, JetBlue scrapped its July 2022 merger agreement—worth nearly $4 billion—with competitor carrier Spirit Airlines, after a U.S. judge blocked the deal, citing antitrust concerns. JetBlue has to pay Spirit $69 million for the termination of the deal.

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