JetBlue Airways CEO to retire in February

Robin Hayes
Source: JetBlue
Robin Hayes

David Barger will retire from his job as CEO of New York City-based JetBlue Airways in February, the company announced on Thursday. President Robin Hayes will take over the top job.

Shares jumped about 5 percent after the news broke.

Barger took on the role of CEO in 2007 and is a member of its founding team. "Helping to found and lead JetBlue has been the experience of a lifetime," Barger said.

Hayes, a former executive at British Airways, has served as the company's president since 2013.

"We've watched Robin Hayes over the last couple of years as president. We're very comfortable with his vision operationally. His strengths lie on the operations side of the business (the new Mint first class, transcontinental service expansion happened under him) and we think he'll continue that growth," JetBlue Chairman Joel Peterson told CNBC.

Speculation about changing CEOs has swirled around JetBlue for several months. Wall Street analysts have expressed hope that a new CEO might take steps to increase revenue, such as adding a fee for the first checked bag. Hayes is declining to say whether he will do that.

Barger will leave when his contract expires, and Hayes will take over on Feb. 16.

—By CNBC staff. CNBC's Phil LeBeau and The Associated Press contributed to this report.