WOW: American & JetBlue Launch Strategic Partnership

Filed Under: American, JetBlue

American Airlines and JetBlue Airways have just announced a partnership, which seemingly came out of left field.

Basics of the new American & JetBlue partnership

American Airlines and JetBlue Airways have today announced a strategic alliance to create more connectivity for travelers in the Northeast. This is also intended to accelerate both airlines’ recovery as the travel industry adapts to new trends as a result of the pandemic.

This new partnership is pretty comprehensive, and includes new and expanded routes out of Boston and New York, a codeshare agreement, and frequent flyer reciprocity.

Let’s dig a bit deeper…

New and expanded routes

This partnership will enable new strategic growth opportunities for both American and JetBlue. As a result of this partnership, American Airlines will launch international service from New York JFK to:

  • Tel Aviv (TLV) — this will complement American’s recently announced Dallas to Tel Aviv route, which has since been delayed due to the current pandemic, and will now launch in September 2021
  • Athens (ATH) — this new seasonal route will launch in the summer of 2021
  • Rio de Janeiro (GIG) — this seasonal route will be resumed as of the winter of 2021

Furthermore, while no specific details have been given, American plans on adding flights from New York to Africa, Europe, India, and South America, once the coronavirus pandemic is over.

This is huge and so surprising. American Airlines has been shrinking in NYC the past several years, and hasn’t added a long haul route from JFK in four years.

It sounds like we should expect most American Airlines growth out of JFK to be long haul, while JetBlue focuses on providing the feed for these flights, including adding new routes.

American will launch a New York to Tel Aviv flight

A new codeshare agreement

Pending government approval, American and JetBlue are expected to launch a codeshare agreement, which will cover more than 60 routes operated by American and more than 130 routes operated by JetBlue.

Exact routes for this haven’t yet been announced, but presumably the codeshares will mostly cover markets where the two airlines complement one another.

American & JetBlue will launch a codeshare agreement

More premium transcon cooperation

This is fascinating. American and JetBlue compete fiercely in the premium transcon market, as both airlines fly from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco:

American’s A321T first class

The codeshare agreement is expected to include these premium transcon routes, and the airlines are even exploring new premium experiences for customers.

I’m curious to see how this is executed in practice. Personally I think JetBlue’s “Mint Suite” on the A321 is better than American’s three cabin first class product, so if I could fly JetBlue on an American itinerary or while crediting miles to American, that would be incredible.

JetBlue’s A321 Mint

Also, could we finally see JetBlue Mint passengers getting lounge access? The airlines are both in Terminal 5 at LAX so it could happen there, while they’re not in the same terminals at JFK. Could it be that JetBlue moves premium transcon flights to Terminal 8 at JFK for lounge access? Perhaps it’s farfetched, but it’s not out of the question, as I see it…

American’s Flagship First Dining JFK

New loyalty reciprocity

While the details haven’t yet been revealed, American AAdvantage and JetBlue TrueBlue members can expect new benefits and reciprocity. It remains to be seen if:

  • Reciprocal mileage redemptions will be offered, and if so, to what extent? Could it include all routes? What about Mint redemptions?
  • Reciprocal mileage earning will be offered across the network, and will it include elite qualifying miles when flying JetBlue?
  • Reciprocal elite benefits will be offered across airlines, and if so, to what extent?

Note that JetBlue isn’t joining the oneworld alliance, and when JetBlue starts flying to London, the airline won’t be part of the oneworld transatlantic joint venture.

What kind of loyalty program reciprocity could we see?

What executives have to say

JetBlue’s President and COO, Joanna Geraghty, had the following to say:

“Pairing JetBlue’s domestic network with American’s international route map creates a new competitive choice in the Northeast, where customers are longing for an alternative to the dominant network carriers. This partnership with American is the next step in our plan to accelerate our coronavirus recovery, get our crewmembers and our aircraft flying again, and fuel JetBlue’s growth into the future.”

American’s President, Robert Isom, had the following to say:

“This is an incredible opportunity for both of our airlines. American has a strong history in the Northeast, and we’re proud to partner with JetBlue as the latest chapter in that long history. Together, we can offer customers an industry-leading product in New York and Boston with more flights and more seats to more cities.”

How does this play into American’s overall strategy? 

I feel like American Airlines’ management was asleep at the wheel for so long, and suddenly in the past few months that trend has reversed:

The thing that stands out here most is that American is really going after Delta. American is adding long haul flights out of both New York and Seattle, which have historically been Delta hubs. Meanwhile American is retreating at LAX, a market where the airline has grown so much in recent years.

For so long Delta has been in the driver’s seat in the US airline industry, so to see American go on the offense against Delta is pretty remarkable.

I’m not sure if this strategy is going to work:

  • On the one hand, individually a lot of these partnerships make sense, at least from the viewpoint of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”
  • On the other hand, the partnerships seem all over the place; American will be partnering with both Alaska and JetBlue on domestic flights, while neither Delta nor United partner with any other major US airlines

One thing is for sure, though — I’m impressed that American Airlines management is genuinely trying, which I feel like they didn’t do for far too long. That’s refreshing to see.

American Airlines & Qatar Airways also have a new strategic partnership

Bottom line

This is huge, huge, huge, news. American and JetBlue are announcing a partnership that will include a codeshare agreement and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits. American has been shrinking at JFK for years, and now plans on reversing that trend by adding more long haul flights out of New York.

I can’t even say to what extent this has caught me off guard.

What do you make of this new American & JetBlue partnership? Are you as surprised as I am?

Comments
  1. You are going to see a reversal of the trends of the last decade… airlines will need to ‘consolidate’ to some extent to survive. The industry is going to be smaller going forward for many years. If you don’t live in a convenient location, your airfare will also be going up!

  2. As a New York-based American frequent flyer, I’m extremely pumped. American are doing with JetBlue on the East Coast what they did with Alaska in the Pacific Northwest. Say what you want about Doug Parker. He may not be as customer service oriented as we’d like. He may be hands-off where he could be more hands-on. But the guy is an incredible deal-maker.

  3. Lucky, what do you think will happen once JetBlue is starting its New York and Boston to London flights? If they end up not flying to Heathrow I could see it work out well. However, if so, I would imagine BA will not be happy about this partnership.

  4. Sucks for me. i bailed out on AA a couple years ago and jetBlue jettisoned IAD so i lost my Mosaic status….so no status on either carrier any longer. I have One World Sapphire but that apparently isn’t going to help here.

  5. Looks like American is taking on Delta in Seattle, Boston, and New York. I’ve complained for years about American lacking in competitive spirit since the merger with US Air, but suddenly they’re getting aggressive. I welcome it.

  6. Looks like American is taking on Delta in Seattle, Boston, and New York. I’ve complained for years about American lacking in competitive spirit since their merger with US Air, but suddenly they’re getting aggressive. I welcome it.

  7. I wish PHL was included more in this strategy. A PHL-LAX Premium transcon product is needed (as a TATL gateway) and this would have been a good chance to include one.

  8. Instead of figuring out ways of getting people onto planes, focus on getting your COVID under control. Economists have already said that ending lockdown early doesn’t actually help the economy recover, and this has been shown to be true factually, if you look at Sweden: https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/sweden-didn-t-lock-down-but-economy-to-plunge-anyway-1.4973195

    Fix the COVID train wreck, THEN try to fix the economy. This mess is partly caused by putting the cart before the horse.

  9. I feel like this is all about post COVID recovery.

    There is no risk for JetBlue in this case, as they haven’t stated they must add any routes, smart win B6!!

    JetBlue has a superior product. So now will AA be launching two new routes to Tel Aviv, or could we see the Dallas service moving to JFK?

    This appears to be a direct attack on Delta and United in the Nyc Market

  10. It’s great to see things happen like this, though I’d be much more excited if JetBlue joins OneWorld.

  11. I know El Al is having issues and DL hasn’t restarted JFK-TLV yet but landing in T5 and getting to T8 to connect to AA’s TLV flight seems miserable and time consuming. Is it really a MAJOR opportunity?

  12. Clearly AA no longer sees being the largest airline in the world (by one or another measure) is not an advantage in this new reality. It is downsizing its domestic route system (and staffing) to be more effective on lower yield intra-US flights, and re-evaluating which overseas routes are most beneficial and profitable. Also reducing competition reduces the chance of price levels that can’t sustain operations. All airlines are downsizing significantly and partnering in the east/central with JetBlue and Alaska in the west appears to be how AA (and those carriers) are addressing it. Seems UA and DL are just going on a diet to wait out the return of more passengers.

  13. I’m glad for this development. I’d abandoned AA on my regular NYC flights, because their product had sunk so far below B6’s. But I am confused and disappointed: LGA, & EWR are both included in the agreement, which is surprising, considering they don’t seem to be part of the connectivity argument, but HPN, my preferred airport, is not.

  14. There’s irony in the fact that the once-dominant carrier in the northeast is an ancestor to the modern AA.

  15. Any connection here to JetBlue moving into PHL for a bunch of new routes? Wouldn’t really make sense to become competitors and strategic partners at the same time.

  16. It is direct competition to DL in the SE in cities where JetBlue flies out of to NY. Like MCO, JAX, SAV and other cities. I love because I’m in the SE and American now becomes a viable option for flights out of JFK. Prior to this I would have had to taken a very expensive flight to and out of Charlotte or 2 flights to get to NYC. JetBlue has a direct connection to JFK from my cities and offers an option other than DL.

    @ Lucky, does JetBlue fly out of MIA or just FLL for you?

  17. I agree with @Sharon. You complain about AA not being competitive, but airlines were making record profits. You didn’t need to fix something that wasn’t broken.

    The COVID airline hit is real, and although air travel started to rebound, we are seeing very quickly that it was too soon and states are re-shutting down and imposing quarantine requirements on other states. Furthermore, antibody studies are showing a loss of immunity after 2-6 months, which shutters a herd immunity theory. It was an untenable position for AA to remain stagnant. I think we see some mergers in the next 1.5 years.

  18. AA is suddenly positioned pretty well in a slimmed down post-Covid world. They can cut back their domestic network while Alaska and JetBlue feed their long haul operations. American focuses on Miami and the mid-continent hubs where they have less price competition. That’s not a bad strategy when they’re simultaneously gaining access to 2 relatively large, and loyal, customer bases.

  19. I agree with many here. This would have been HUGE news pre-COVID, but now its just 2 airlines looking for a way to survive. Don’t get me wrong, its interesting, and as an Exec-Plat I just may use it, but this is for no other reason than BOTH airlines need to shrink, and duplicating efforts wastes money, so they will codeshare for a bit. The interesting question is how long this agreement is for. I would bet no more than 2 years. This is NOT a long term thing.

  20. Interestingly, when AA began to shrink their domestic network at JFK in the mid 2000’s, they formed an interline agreement with JetBlue to get the feed. Looks like that was terminated back in 2020: https://skift.com/2014/03/10/the-honeymoon-is-over-as-american-airlines-and-jetblue-cancel-interline-partnership/ This is perhaps more thorough than that ever was.

    Flew back from SFO to JFK in May and AA had farmed out most of their SFO & LAX flights to Alaska (which has temporarily(?) abandoned their new home and lounge in T7 to join American in T8). When I arrived at JFK May 13th, there were just 5 flights on the AA terminal 8 boards: an AS flight to JFK, AS flight to LAX, 2x BA flights to LHR and only actual AA metal flight was one departure to LAX. Used to fly AA out of T8 all the time as a kid when they had seemingly hundreds of daily departures. Was surreal to see that they had just one flight operating out of JFK. Felt as though they had given up (coronavirus aside) though I guess that is not the case.

    JFK Transcon market will be odd. AS has a pretty rigorous transcon franchise from JFK as does B6 and AA. If they are all working together, that will be 60+ peak daily departures to SFO/LAX.

  21. The writing on the wall is clear. With Alaska in Seattle and JetBlue at JFK (and now consolidated operations LGB&LAX)- AA is planning on greatly reducing their domestic foot print and shifting focus on premium international.

    I also expect consolidation on overlap routes- the elimination of three cabin 321s, elimination of F on the 77W… I also doubt AS will restore JFK-LAX to the schedule, instead shifting it to EWR

  22. I agree too, but post COVID it puts these 3 airlines in a much stronger position than DL or UA. AA/AK/B7 makes for the king of North/SouthAmerican airlines. Add GOL (which will grow given the holes in SA market now) and OneWorld having the stronger airlines, plus interest in China will likely be way down. AA/OneWorld/B7 make one sweet airlines when you combine it all.

    What would be a strategic coo would be for OneWorld/B7/AA combine their FFP into a single plan, could you image the benefits and strengthens of that! I am impressed with AA’s new management, Doug P (IMO) was held back by old thinking from both airlines execs and Kirby. Now Kirby will distroy UA (I see a messy merger with DL at some point) DL has invested poorly and has a week domestic network and AA well, is making moves. Can’t wait for the next chapter of this book.

  23. I also must add…. consolidation is never ever good for us the consumers. JetBlue is the reason why we see $600-700 business fares on the trans con…. not no more

  24. It’s a poison pill on Alaska or Jetblue for other acquirers – get them tangled here to make it harder to integrate with UA or DL

    Really hope this doesn’t stifle transcon competition that would be bad for fliers

  25. Oh boy does this change the game for me. If Mint now gets AA lounge access and can credit to AA, I might just leave DL behind. I will need to see full details, but Delta’s tired 763 product on transcon is not difficult to leave behind. Being LAX based, I am also willing to fly into EWR or JFK depending on price, as both are pretty convenient to me.

    We will also have to see what happens with AAdvantage, if it gets terrible like Skymiles, I won’t know what to do. But right now there is more value in AAdvantage and if it stays that way, I think I’m on my way over.

  26. Am curious to what degree this will allow me to use Jetblue travelbank funds (of which I currently have a lot) on American flights.

  27. The writing on the wall is clear. With Alaska in Seattle and JetBlue at JFK (and now consolidated operations LGB&LAX)- AA is planning on greatly reducing their domestic foot print and shifting focus on premium international.

    I also expect consolidation on overlap routes- the elimination of three cabin 321s, elimination of F on the 77W… I also doubt AS will restore JFK-LAX to the schedule, instead shifting it to EWR

    – John G

    Your two points seem contradictory to me. In the first paragraph you mention American have seemingly renewed focus on premium international routing, with which I’d agree. But then in the second paragraph you suggest eliminating Flagship First and ditching the A321T transcon, which might as well be an international service. Those sound like conflicting goals/strategies.

    In any case, I don’t think it’s true that American would eliminate Flagship First. Currently, they’re contractually obligated in the TATL joint venture with IAG to provide international first class service. So at the very least, they’d need to renegotiate those terms. The existing Flagship First hard product certainly is getting old, but if anything, I think we can expect a refresh from American in the next year or two.

    I also must add…. consolidation is never ever good for us the consumers. JetBlue is the reason why we see $600-700 business fares on the trans con…. not no more

    – John G

    There’s a lot of attention paid to monopolistic corporate practices in our society right now, but it’s not necessarily always true that corporate partnerships harm consumers. Corporate partnerships are beneficial to consumers when it wouldn’t make sense for either of the corporate partners to provide a product or service on their own. In other words, to use a cliché buzzword, when there’s an opportunity for “synergy.” Here are a couple examples:

    1. Taco Bell & Frito-Lay: “Doritos Locos Tacos”
    Frito-Lay would never launch a chain of Mexican fast-food restaurants, and Taco Bell would never introduce a line of flavored snack chips. Together, they can offer a product that consumers apparently enjoy and buy. (I mean, if you’re into that kinda thing.)

    2. Starbucks & Spotify: “Music Ecosystem” (…their name)
    Spotify licenses its service to Starbucks, store managers create & curate playlists, which customers can then stream while at participating locations directly in the Starbucks mobile app. It doesn’t make sense for Starbucks to build out a whole music streaming service infrastructure on their own, and Spotify definitely isn’t opening a chain of coffee shops.

    (Sorry to call out both of your posts at once, by the way. I’m not trying to sh*t on your comments. I actually think they bring up some interesting questions/discussions.)

  28. @ Luke,

    Thanks for the feedback. I don’t feel like you are “sh*ting” on my post, I enjoy positive and well written responses. Instead of the personal attacks/censorship that I sometimes see.

    1. My point was about premium international traffic- not domestically. JFK-LAX between JetBlue and AA is extremely overlapped and you don’t have connecting traffic on those flights. I can’t see AA continuing to offer it in its current capacity.
    JetBlue’s product is superior (hard wise).

    I know from friends at AA global sales most of the seats in F are HBO contracts and the like- but a majority of the time it’s 6 non revs and 4 revs, while business was sold out (16 booked, 4 upgrades)- this data is from a few years of having access to this info.

    However, the business travel landscape is changing dramatically- I expect more use of stuff like Microsoft Teams instead of business travel.

    International F is being phased out even by BA- look at modified 772s coming into JFK with the new club world. AA only offers one flight now with F (flight 100)…

    2. Those examples are fine but the airline industry is a whole another animal… show me one example of a merger/JV benefiting the customer (fare wise) and I’ll eat my words.

  29. Total ignorant business question: Could AA technically buy AS or B6 and operate them as separate business units? I see a better fit for AS, as AA has minimal market share in the PNW/Bay Area.

  30. @Roberto

    AA is in no position to acquire anyone at this point. I expect them to file BK by the end of the year.

    JetBlue would be a likely candidate to swallow them up to be honest, they tried once before.

  31. Color me surprised as well as delighted. What an incredible year to not be flying but to have a combined 200,000+ miles/points on these two airlines. Where it gets even more exciting is in the Royal Air Maroc having joined OneWorld — imagine flying Mint from West Coast USA to New York then going somewhere fun in Africa first class using miles.

  32. Very surprised to get this email from AA this morning. This is excellent news for my travel patterns. The partnerships with Alaska and Qatar are useless for me but I understand their value to other AA passengers. AA is certainly making the most of this COVID catastrophe with major strategic realignments. Another great change for me was the T5 move at LHR. AA loyalists could emerge from this crisis with better options. Good job!

  33. AA has one of the worst customer experiences, and Jet Blue is one of the better ones. If UA had inherited the Continental Management rather than the other way around they would be a worthy competitor. DL has improved quite a bit compared to AA and UA. Post COVID the question is which one of these groups emerge as a travelers choice, and whether fares go skyrocketing due to consolidation and lack of traveler interest

  34. Is this perhaps a roundabout way to get access to the codeshare flights between Azul and JetBlue, now that LATAM has bailed out of oneworld?

  35. I think Alaska Airlines should buy some of American Airlines and JetBlue buy some of American airlines.

  36. Hmm… It doesn’t seem like UA or DL have made any type of partnerships or announcements yet. It’s going to be interesting to see what they will announce and the schedules they will unveil.

  37. I just question Jet Blue’s decision on this.
    American: Bad company
    Jet Blue: Good Company

  38. @Bobo

    “What if … American, Alaska, JetBlue merger?”

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, well Alaska/American merger anyway. Not sure if AA could get away with merging with BOTH of these airlines! Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens and probably not all that pretty for the consumer…

  39. “If UA had inherited the Continental Management rather than the other way around they would be a worthy competitor.”

    United *did* inherit Continental’s management… basically lock, stock and barrel. They showed themselves categorically incapable of managing a global carrier at scale, led the airline and its customers through a chaotic 5-6 years of terrible decisions, and finally left in a blaze of federally-investigated corruption.

    Pre-merger Continental did a great job running a three-hub operation in cities where it was dominant, but its leaders were blinkered and parochial in their thinking. Other than looking across the Hudson River periodically from EWR, their management had no idea how to compete. They suddenly found themselves in highly competitive markets (like Chicago, Denver and the Bay Area), tried to execute the same playbook they’d used at Continental, and failed.

    The AA-US merger experience was by no means perfect, but it was nowhere near the flaming dumpster that was UA-CO.

  40. I will be blown away if AA/AS and AA/B6 both pass regulatory review. One maybe, but both? Not happening.

  41. @James S – was about to reply, but couldn’t say it that better than you did.

    I would say CO was really 2.5 hubs (CLE being the 0.5)

  42. So does this mean I can credit my B6 miles to AA and be able to squeeze out more than 1cent a mile? How would one redeem AA miles on B6 mint? Would it be a fixed amount of points or same as what B6 uses now? So many questions!

  43. For the first time since when I see something that almost looks like a strategy with AA. Ignore the competitive domestic mess and focus on what´s harder to stand up: International longhaul operations. Heck, at the end of the day AA could even become profitable!

  44. American sucks. I’ve had nothing but problems every time I fly with them. Luckily I’m at a skyteam hub anyway, so…

  45. This seems like a desperate ploy to get this through under the current administration. No way either of these partnerships get approved with a new administration given the drastic reduction in competition on the transcon market.

  46. American and Alaska Partnership at Seattle

    American & Jet Blue at New York and Boston

    American & British Airways Partnership @ London Heathrow ( The best part Concierge Key & F class can use Concorde room ) and their Concierge Key Rep services!!

    American is determined. Works better for me 100 percent. AA will make lots of buisness from this Partnerships for sure . Well done Mr parker

  47. @James S The problem with Continental management running United was the change within the management. During the 1990s and 2000s, Continental was run by Gordon Bethune, then Larry Kellner. Both CEOs had a great runs at Continental. During the tenures of Bethune and Kellner, Continental was actually better than Delta, Northwest, and American, let alone United and US Airways. However, the problem within Continental started on New Years day of 2010, when Kellner stepped down and Jeff Smisek took over. Before the United merger even started, Continental flyers already saw changes for the worse in 2010, after Smisek took over. To add insult to injury, Smisek decided to merge with United at a really bad time. Continental was going downhill after Smisek took over and United with the tulip was still in a bad state. Kellner, on the other hand, found it better to not do a risky merger

  48. I think AA is very smart in doing this. Partnering on the East Coast with B6 and on the West Coast with AS. There is no way they can’t partner with AS because they are joining OW, so like it or not, a partnership is inevitable. In terms of potential mergers, I’d much prefer an AS/B6 merger that creates a national airline as opposed to making AA even bigger than it is. Maybe even add HA to the mix. It looks like AA is looking to grow through other airlines’ networks as opposed to growing on their own – in this environment, that makes sense. Ultimately, if it comes down to it, I don’t see a problem a potential AA/AS merger being approved – same alliance, not much overlap (if any). But adding B6 to the mix can be tricky – of course that will depend on how things look few months from now. HA is also a good merger candidate. Regardless of what happens, everyone partners with them for HI service – it’d be interesting to see if it merges with one of the big 3(4), who will provide inter-island service to the others. And WN can try and take advantage of the situation and try to take out a competitor in the face of Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country but I’d much prefer some of those if not most just to go bankrupt than to continue on in some share or form. Other merger possibilities I don’t see likely -1) DL and AA – CLT, ATL, MIA are so close – it makes no sense, then we have ORD and MSP and DTW – same situation. 2) AA and UA – presence at ORD alone makes this a non-starter but adding DFW and IAH to the mix and IAD and DCA makes this impossible. Finally, UA and DL – you have JFK and EWR, again DTW, ORD and MSP, adding SLC and DEN – doesn’t make sense. Maybe a big carrier with a smaller one – like AA/AS, DL and HA (don’t see a DL/B6 match with the recent B6/AA partnership or the significant presence of both at JFK and BOS). UA and B6 also doesn’t seem like a good match – with large presence at both EWR and JFK. But time will tell what will emerge.

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