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JetBlue Gets New Leader. New Direction Next?

SmarterTravel

Although it’s no surprise — the rumors have been circulating for months — JetBlue’s announcement that Dave Barger will be stepping down as the company’s CEO on February 16, 2015, still comes as a shock.

Barger has been with JetBlue for 16 years, and is widely credited, together with company co-founder David Neeleman, with creating an airline that has inspired enviable levels of customer loyalty with its singular mix of high style, upgraded service, and value pricing. From a flyer perspective, JetBlue has been a huge success.

Wall Street has a different take on Barger. The investment community narrative is that Barger has been overly focused on establishing the airline as a consumer favorite and insufficiently focused on maximizing the airline’s profits.

That perspective has apparently prevailed. Although it will never be acknowledged by the company, the pressure from Wall Street to put shareholders ahead of customers has to have been at least one contributing factor in Barger’s departure.

So, will JetBlue start charging for checked bags and add more seats to its planes, as most airlines do and as industry analysts have been recommending as a quick fix for the company’s industry-lagging financial performance?

Replacing Barger as CEO will be Robin Hayes, the former British Airways executive who is currently JetBlue’s president. In an interview reported by the Associated Press, Hayes pointedly declined to comment on plans for either more fees or tighter seating. But that refusal itself speaks volumes.

And consider this: Immediately following the announcement, JetBlue’s share price spiked 4.6 percent. That’s a clear signal that professional investors fully expect JetBlue’s new management to realign the airline’s interests with its shareholders’. Which can only be bad news for JetBlue flyers.

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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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