Two photos: Joanna Geraghty, left, and Mitsuko Tottori, right are women breaking glass ceilings.

JetBlue Airways and Japan Airlines appoint female leaders


To say that the start of 2024 has been a banner month for women in aviation would be an understatement as two high-profile airlines have named female leaders.

JetBlue Airways on 8 January announced that company president and chief operating officer Joanna Geraghty will succeed Robin Hayes as CEO on 12 February. Today, Japan Airlines (JAL) revealed that Mitsuko Tottori, who joined the firm in 1985 as a cabin crew member, will assume the position of president and representative director from 1 April.

These are milestone-level events for both companies and indeed both countries. And they come at a time when both airlines face some challenges — in JetBlue’s instance, a court ruling that blocks its takeover of Spirit Airlines, and in Japan Airlines’ case, the JAL516 accident on 2 January at Tokyo Haneda.

In a statement released earlier this month, JetBlue chair Peter Boneparth lauded 20-year company veteran Geraghty, saying: “The combination of her passion for the business, deep understanding of the airline, and commitment to creating value for shareholders, customers, and crewmembers provided the leadership we needed through times of unparalleled industry disruption.”

Joanna Geraghty CEO jetBlue Airlines

Joanna Geraghy becomes JetBlue’s new CEO on 12 February. Image: jetBlue

Geraghty’s appointment has been widely celebrated as a groundbreaking development, including for women in aviation leadership in the United States.


“Her appointment is a significant stride forward in diversifying leadership roles within our industry,” noted industry veteran Dana Kirchmar, who works to help women ascend in aviation.

“Joanna’s impressive career trajectory at JetBlue, from her start in the legal department to becoming the company’s president and now its CEO, exemplifies the kind of dedication and skill that propels the aviation and aerospace industries forward. Her story is a powerful reminder of the potential women have to lead and innovate in these fields.”

At Japan Airlines, meanwhile, Tottori is replacing Yuji Akasaka, who will become the airline’s chair.

Having started at JAL as a cabin crew member, Tottori assumed roles of increasing importance, becoming a vice president in 2016.

From 2020, says JAL, Tottori has demonstrated “outstanding leadership” in various roles including during the challenging Covid environment. The company credits her with making a “significant” contribution to maintaining safe operations and improving the quality of services provided to customers.

Mitsuko Tottori of Japan Airlines

Mitsuko Tottori assumes the president and representative director role on 1 April. Image: JAL

“The JAL Group will strive in unity towards ensuring the highest level of safety in all flight operations, continue to improve the quality of the products and services to our valued customers, and raise its corporate value and contribute to the growth and development of society,” it said in a statement announcing the appointment today — weeks after the JAL516 accident, where all 367 passengers and 12 crew members on-board evacuated the aircraft.

*Did you know? Actress Maureen O’Hara holds the distinction of being the first woman president of a US scheduled airline. In 1978, she took the helm of St Croix, US Virgin Islands-based Antilles Air Boats, following the death of her husband Charles Blair, famed aviator and founder of the seaplane operator.

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Featured image credited on the left to JetBlue and on the right to Japan Airlines