In the summer of 2020, American Airlines and JetBlue Airways announced a new strategic partnership, which caught most of us off guard. During the six months since the initial announcement, we haven’t heard much more about it, given that the alliance was going through regulatory approval. Well, there’s an update as of today.
Basics of the new American & JetBlue partnership
American Airlines and JetBlue Airways have received Department of Transportation (DOT) approval for a new strategic alliance. In order to get this approved, the airlines did have to divest some slots — American had to divest four slot pairs at JFK and four slot pairs at DCA, while JetBlue had to divest three slot pairs at JFK and two slot pairs at DCA.
Now that the partnership is approved, the two airlines state that this is intended to create more connectivity for travelers in the Northeast. It will 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. Here’s the latest of what we’re being told to expect about this new partnership.
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 the following two international routes from New York JFK as of the summer of 2021:
- Tel Aviv (TLV) — this will complement American’s Dallas to Tel Aviv route, which is now only expected to launch in September 2021
- Athens (ATH) — this will be a seasonal route
On top of that, American also plans to launch New York to Rio de Janeiro flights as of December 2021.
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, especially given that American Airlines has been shrinking at JFK the past several years, and hasn’t added a long haul route from the airport in over four years.
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
Starting this quarter (by March 31, 2021), American and JetBlue will launch a codeshare agreement, which will cover more than 60 routes operated by American and more than 130 routes operated by JetBlue.
It’s expected that this will include a majority of the routes operated by both airlines out of Boston (BOS), New York Kennedy (JFK), New York LaGuardia (LGA), and Newark (EWR). This also means that flights touching Boston and New York on either airline (or a combination of both) will be bookable on aa.com and jetblue.com in the coming weeks.
American & JetBlue will launch a codeshare agreement
Network alignment in the Northeast
American and JetBlue tout that this alliance will offer customers the largest network in Boston and New York, and it will enable growth opportunities for both airlines. In addition to the above, we can expect:
- By the first half of 2021, American and JetBlue schedules in Boston and New York will be aligned and optimized, to improve schedules and connections
- By the end of 2021, American will upgauge aircraft and stop flying 50-seat regional jets to Boston and New York (these planes don’t feature first class)
American will fly bigger jets to the Northeast
New loyalty reciprocity
Later this year, American AAdvantage and JetBlue TrueBlue members can expect new benefits and reciprocity. We’re told that the airlines are exploring opportunities to provide reciprocal mileage earning and redemption, as well as opportunities to recognize JetBlue Mosaic and American AAdvantage elite members across both airlines.
It remains to be seen:
- To what extent reciprocal mileage redemptions will be allowed — will redemptions be allowed across both carriers’ networks, and will the pricing follow a zone-based or revenue-based system?
- To what extent there will be reciprocal mileage earning opportunities — will these opportunities exist across both airlines’ networks, or only routes routes where there’s cooperation?
- To what extent reciprocal elite benefits will be offered — are we talking priority check-in and boarding, or could we see more?
What kind of loyalty program reciprocity could we see?
More premium transcon cooperation
While it’s not being mentioned with the latest update, we have been told that there will be cooperation between the two airlines in premium transcon markets. Historically American and JetBlue have competed fiercely in the premium transcon market, as both airlines fly from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco:
- JetBlue offers its incredible Mint product on the A321
- American offers its special A321T product, featuring first and business class (though for the time being American has been partly flying 777s on these routes)
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
How does this play into American’s overall strategy?
One thing is for sure — American Airlines sure has changed stuff up in the past year. For years American management seemed to be asleep at the wheel, but that most definitely hasn’t been the case in the past year, as that trend has been reversed:
- American Airlines and Qatar Airways announced a strategic partnership, and it has even been stated that American may fly to Doha
- American Airlines and Alaska Airlines expanded their partnership, and Alaska plans to join oneworld; the two airlines intend to introduce reciprocal upgrades soon
- American Airlines is adding long haul flights out of Seattle, so far to Bangalore, London, and Shanghai
- Now American Airlines is adding long haul flights out of JFK, thanks to a new partnership with JetBlue
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 commend American for trying to get creative, though I do think this is all a big gamble, and we’ll see if it pays off:
- 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
There’s some irony to American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier, relying on two other US airlines to provide feed for its international network.
American Airlines & Qatar Airways also have a new strategic partnership
The new partnership between American Airlines and JetBlue Airways has received DOT approval, and will be launching in the coming weeks. With this, we can expect extensive codesharing in the Northeast, new long haul flights on American, and frequent flyer reciprocity.
It’s fantastic to see American reversing the previous trend of shrinking in New York. I’ll be curious to see how American’s strategy of partnering with JetBlue in the Northeast and partnering with Alaska in the Northwest works out.
What do you make of the new American & JetBlue partnership?