Former JetBlue Airways chief executive Robin Hayes will succeed Jeffrey Knittel as chairman and chief executive of Airbus Americas, effective 3 June.

Airbus disclosed the executive change on 22 April, saying Knittel, who joined Airbus in 2018, “will remain in the company through an appropriate leadership transition period”, and then retire.

Hayes became JetBlue chief executive in 2015 but left the company in February, having been succeeded by new JetBlue CEO Joanna Geraghty. While leading JetBlue he served on IATA’s board of governors.

“Hayes brings 35 years of global aerospace leadership to Airbus, having served in a series of senior executive roles at British Airways over the course of his 19-year tenure, and JetBlue, where he was CEO for nine years,” Airbus says in disclosing the change.

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes

Source: IATA

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes speaks on 4 October at IATA’s 2021 annual event, in Boston

“Together with the leadership team, we’re looking forward to having Robin and his vast industry experience onboard to further deliver on our strategic objectives for the region across all the Airbus businesses and further grow our North American footprint,” adds Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.

The position will see Hayes oversee Airbus commercial-aviation operations across North and South America – an operation that employs 10,000 people at 50 sites. The position involves “coordination among the company’s helicopters, space and defense businesses in North America,” Airbus adds.

“After some time off, I am excited and energised to join Airbus and build on the incredible success in the region,” Hayes says of the new post. “It is an honour for me to take up this opportunity to be part of the Airbus team.”

Hayes left JetBlue at a difficult time for the airline, which in recent years lost two anti-competition lawsuits brought against it by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). The agency had sued to dismantle JetBlue’s former partnership in the Northeast USA with American Airlines, and to block its proposed acquisition of Spirit Airlines.

A US federal judge sided with the DOJ in both cases, striking down the American partnership in May 2023 and ordering in January that the Spirit acquisition be scuttled. Those losses left JetBlue’s business plan uncertain and prompted the carrier to slash growth plans.

Prior to becoming Airbus Americas CEO, Knittel was president of CIT Aerospace and CIT Transportation Finance.

“My time at Airbus has been a privilege and I am immensely proud of what the team has accomplished during our time together,” Knittel says.

“I want to thank Jeff for his many contributions to Airbus’ success over the years, and I wish him all the best for a well deserved retirement,” adds Faury.