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Why JetBlue Stock Is in a Tailspin Today

Motley Fool - Tue Jan 9, 11:40AM CST

On Tuesday morning, JetBlue Airways(NASDAQ: JBLU) announced that its CEO is stepping down at a critical moment in the airline's history. The market hates surprises, and shares of JetBlue were trading down by more than 10% as of 12:25 p.m. ET following the announcement.

A new leader at a challenging time

JetBlue has a lot going on right now. It's currently in court fighting an attempt by antitrust regulators to block its proposed acquisition of Spirit Airlines(NYSE: SAVE). It has also had to deal with operational issues tied to RTX engine issues, and is attempting to expand internationally while moving on from an abandoned partnership with American Airlines.

The last thing the company needs, seemingly, is to add a CEO transition to all that, but that's what investors woke up to on Tuesday. Robin Hayes is stepping down from the post after nearly nine years in charge, to be replaced by President and Chief Operating Officer Joanna Geraghty.

"It's bittersweet to retire from this airline I love, but I will always feel a part of the JetBlue team and be rooting for its continued success," Hayes said. "However, the extraordinary challenges and pressure of this job have taken their toll, and on the advice of my doctor and after talking to my wife, it's time I put more focus on my health and well-being."

The official transition is expected to happen on Feb. 12, and Hayes is expected to serve as a strategic advisor to the company in the coming months.

Is JetBlue a buy?

Geraghty has worked at JetBlue for nearly 20 years, and has been at Hayes side through the company's pursuit of Spirit and its breakup with American Airlines. She's well qualified for the role, and it looks like the transition will be orderly. Still, the change adds another layer of complexity to one of the most turbulent companies in the industry at this moment.

JetBlue is fighting stubbornly high costs in a tough competitive environment, and it could soon have to tackle a complicated integration of Spirit -- if it prevails in court. A loss in court would cause other issues, as JetBlue had hoped to use Spirit's planes and pilots to springboard its growth and achieve the scale needed to match the industry's titans. And the entire airline industry is on guard against a potential slowdown in demand heading into 2024.

JetBlue would be a risky stock right now regardless of who was at the helm. Investors should think twice before jumping in and buying this dip.

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Lou Whiteman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends RTX. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Paid Post: Content produced by Motley Fool. The Globe and Mail was not involved, and material was not reviewed prior to publication.

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