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Robin Hayes: oration

Read Professor Rajani Naidoo's oration on Mr Robin Hayes for the honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration in July 2023.


Robin Hayes
Robin Hayes

Pro-Chancellor, Robin Hayes is a Bath graduate who is now President and CEO of one of the top ranked airlines in North America, JetBlue, whose market capitalization value is in excess of $7.3 Billion. Under his leadership JetBlue has gone from strength to strength recognised not only as a leader in terms of customer satisfaction but also as one of the top companies for which to work (No 19 in America’s top 500 Best Employers – Forbes Magazine in 2015; Best Places to work for LGBT Equality – Human Rights Campaign in 2014 and 2015 and Best Airline for North American Travel – Business Traveller in 2016).

Robin became JetBlue’s Chief Executive Officer and a Member of the Board of Directors in February 2015. Prior to this, Robin was JetBlue’s President, responsible for the airline's commercial operations and from 2008-2013, was JetBlue’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. Prior to joining JetBlue, he was British Airways’ Executive Vice President for The Americas over the span of a 19-year career.

His style of leadership, and the culture which he has built at JetBlue has set him apart. Operating in the highly competitive budget leisure and business travel category, JetBlue have consistently been ranked as the No 1 Airline in the USA by multiple awards, including the JD Power Customer Experience surveys. JetBlue has obtained a sustained and ambitious level of growth by focussing on customer experience rather than simply price. This has been achieved through a focus on the culture and belief system within the staff. Robin has championed investment for all staff, showing genuine concern with regard to their enjoyment of work and sense of success. He leads by example, stopping to help clean a plane after it has landed whenever he flies, expecting the same of his executive team.

Robin believes in the transformational effect of education and JetBlue is one of the first major US companies to invest in an innovative programme allowing all staff to attain a high school certificate or university degree. JetBlue Scholars provides any JetBlue employee who hasn’t completed a high school or higher education degree course with funding and time off within their working schedule to pursue this. Robin also demonstrates his interest in and commitment to higher education through regular guest lectures and speaking engagements at Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College and at the Hoover Institute at the University of Stanford, amongst many other individual events.

After many years away from Bath, Robin has reconnected with the University. He has been incredibly proactive in helping to explore the possibilities for placements within JetBlue for Bath students. The first student has been successfully placed and Robin was instrumental in driving it through the company’s HR systems and is open to more students. Robin was also very enthusiastically involved in the winning enterprise students’ trip to the USA in summer 2017, hosting a major session for the winning teams at JetBlue giving them an opportunity to pitch to executives from the company providing an incredible opportunity and valuable feedback.

In conclusion, JetBlue is an incredibly successful and trusted company which embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship and achievement ever present at Bath. This success is in no small part thanks to the inspirational leadership shown by Robin. In recognising Robin, we recognise the success of one of our graduates in not only leading a major multi-billion dollar company, but also in building a culture which champions educational value and places a trusted and enthused workforce at its core.

Pro- Chancellor, I present to you Robin Hayes who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Business Administration, honoris causa.

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