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JetBlue says CEO succession planning is routine

NEW YORK (AP) -- JetBlue Airways Corp. says its CEO is still committed to the airline and that any internal discussion about succession is just good governance.

A JetBlue spokeswoman made the comment Wednesday after Bloomberg News reported that CEO Dave Barger is considering leaving when his contract expires next year and the board has started planning for a possible successor.

"Our board is always discussing succession planning," JetBlue spokeswoman Real Hamilton-Romeo said in an email. "It's just a matter of good corporate governance. At this point, Dave Barger is committed to JetBlue and conducting business as usual."

Barger did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Barger has been CEO since 2007, when he replaced JetBlue founder David Neeleman. Bloomberg quoted JetBlue director Ann Rhoades as saying that Barger hasn't made a decision but that the board has talked "a lot" about succession, and that the end of his contract would be a logical time for him to consider leaving.

In December, JetBlue promoted former British Airways executive Robin Hayes, 48, to president, a job that Barger had held while also being CEO. Hayes and Chief Financial Officer Mark Powers represented the airline at a Bank of America investor conference in Boston on Wednesday.

JetBlue is the nation's fifth-biggest airline operator. It has a major presence in New York and Boston, and many of its key routes are along the East Coast.

This summer, it plans to launch a premium service called Mint on flights between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco to capture more high-fare business travelers.

It recently reported that first-quarter profit plunged more than 70 percent as winter storms caused the airline to cancel 4,000 flights and briefly stop flying at four airports. Other big airlines except for United saw their first-quarter profits rise.

JetBlue shares gained 49 percent last year, but that trailed many other U.S. airlines and the Arca index of airline stocks. JetBlue closed Wednesday at $8.29, up 9 cents, but is down 3 percent so far in 2014 while other large U.S. airline stocks and the Arca index are up.