New JetBlue & Norwegian Partnership: Sort Of Logical, Sort Of Surprising

Filed Under: JetBlue, Norwegian

JetBlue and Norwegian have just announced a partnership that I guess isn’t surprising, though I also have some logistical questions…

JetBlue & Norwegian’s New Partnership

JetBlue and Norwegian have signed a letter of intent to launch an interline agreement, with JetBlue and Norwegian planning to sell tickets on itineraries involving both airlines directly on their websites. This will also allow customers to check bags through to their final destination.

The plan is for this partnership to launch for flights in the summer of 2020, with tickets going on sale by early 2020. This partnership is primarily focused on connections at hubs in New York JFK, Boston, and Fort Lauderdale.

JetBlue will offer connectivity to nearly 100 destinations in the US and Caribbean, which complement Norwegian’s nearly 50 nonstop transatlantic routes between the US and Europe.

What JetBlue & Norwegian Executives Are Saying

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes is taking the opportunity to take a jab at the massive transatlantic joint ventures that American, Delta, and United, participate in:

“Norwegian shares our belief that customers benefit when we can bring competition and low fares to the transatlantic market currently dominated by joint ventures, legacy alliances and sky-high ticket prices.”

Meanwhile acting Norwegian CEO Geir Karlsen says the following:

“We are very excited to partner with JetBlue as this will make international travel even smoother and more available for our customers. JetBlue is the largest airline at several of our key gateways in the United States, specifically New York JFK, Boston and Fort Lauderdale, and this partnership will create a plethora of new route connections for customers on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Why I’m Skeptical

On the surface this partnership makes sense, given that both JetBlue and Norwegian are united in their frustration with the massive transatlantic joint ventures of other airlines. There are some logistical challenges here, though:

  • New York JFK is going to be the biggest airport for these connections, and transferring between Terminal 1 & Terminal 5 sure isn’t ideal
  • Norwegian’s on-time record leaves something to be desired, especially for their flights operated by Wamos Air (and other leased) aircraft, so I imagine this will be a logistical challenge for JetBlue; frequent delays plus a challenging terminal transfer are a recipe for a mess
  • Given Norwegian’s ultra low cost structure, it will be interesting to see how they actually sell baggage allowances on itineraries involving travel on both airlines

Also keep in mind that JetBlue plans on launching flights to London in 2021. They take serious issue with the way that slots are awarded at London airports. They’ve requested changes to how slots are distributed, though that seems unlikely.

We all know that Norwegian is perpetually on the brink of collapse, so developing a partnership with them that kicks off for travel next summer is also an interesting move.

Could there be some element of JetBlue hoping to be first in line for Norwegian’s slots at Gatwick should they fail? It’s not like an interline agreement would entitle them to that, or anything, but…

Bottom Line

JetBlue and Norwegian will launch a new partnership next summer, and tickets should be bookable in early 2020. It’s sort of logical for the two airlines to work closely together, though the logistics here do make me scratch my head, especially with JetBlue allegedly launching flights to Europe a year later.

I’ll be curious to see how this plays out.

What do you make of this new JetBlue & Norwegian partnership?

  1. Wonder if theres a backdoor agreement giving JetBlue Gatwick slots or priority refusal when Norwegian goes under in a few months

  2. Could Norwegian start operating out of Jet Blue’s terminal 5? Aer Lingus and Hawaiian both have partnerships w/ Jet Blue and fly from terminal 5.

  3. This is great for all. Fort Lauderdale and Boston are great for Europeans to connect to the Caribbean

    It’s time for a new focus city for JetBlue.

  4. Given Norwegian’s financial situation, I can’t see this amounting to much, unless either (a) it’s a play to get JetBlue’s name out there so they’re in a better position to be considered for Norweigan’s LGW slots (or, at a stretch, a LHR award next time slots become available, in the name of competition).

    I wonder if this could also be a sign that the relationship between JetBlue and Aer Lingus is fraying?

  5. @Grant – Also TAP, no? I think between Aer Lingus and TAP, the widebody gates at T5 are already filled up at the peak transatlantic times. I believe there are only 2 widebody gates, and one 757 capable gate at T5.

    Overall I think this is a bigger win for Norwegian at FLL. Norwegian is mostly leisure and cost conscious flyers, and it will be a great way for them to get people into the Caribbean for holiday. BOS and JFK are just a plus, but I doubt you’ll see much transfer traffic there, at least compared to FLL.

  6. I think you are wrong , JFK is not their focus. JFK is an O and D market. FLL and MCO will be huge for Connections southbound.

  7. i have been saying for years now that JetBlue should buy Norwegian instantly giving them a European network both transatlantic & throughout Europe it’s self via Norwiegian’s 737s. While i don’t honestly know if JetBlue is in the financial situation to make that work this codeshare seems like a logical step for both airlines.

    I personally don’t think JetBlue expanding into the transatlantic market would be a problem for Norwegian. There are plenty of legacy carriers who codeshare and have aircraft flying the same routes. One big advantage of course is the added capacity without added risk or without having to commit additional aircraft and instead using those on new routes.

    Depending on how this move works out, it may also be possible that Norweigan abandons some of its shorter Atlantic routes such as boston and new york to london, allowing jet blue to fly them with their new long range narrow bodies. And instead commit their 787 fleet to longer routes with higher ticket prices that JetBlue could not currently service.

    Overall i see this as a big win for both these airline and consumers. Hopefully the partnership will expand into reward miles soon.

  8. I could see this going a couple ways:

    1- JetBlue uses this time to study (stratify) the amount of customer interest from East coast to Europe & beyond (Norwegian’s destinations), West (Best) coast to Europe & beyond (Norwegian’s destinations) utilising Norwegian as either the “Partner” or sacrificial lamb.
    2- JetBlue builds up the route network and when all is said and done either flies the routes dropping Norwegian, or utilising Norwegian to carry “Discount” flyers abroad using their own product for “Loyalists.”

    As for the baggage concern, It would be a non-issue if you by the right fare through JetBlue, but, buying through Norwegian the baggage remains the same. Perhaps using the two companies to distinguish services/products.

    If Norwegian fails, they could possibly reach out to one of their current partners to complete the trips.

    In 2021 I could see them utilising the data gathered from the year prior to make a solid decision as to what service & where ex. SFO/LAX-BOS/JFK/FLL-LGW/ORY/LIS/SVQ etc.

    One can hope.

  9. I’m willing to bet that Norwegian goes belly up before this is implemented. All JetBlue want is to secure a few slot pairs at Gatwick before IAG swoops in and buys the vast majority.

  10. @BR, agree.

    I do find this surprising, and I don’t think this makes sense at all unless their partnership agreement allows some sort of priority for JetBlue on the LGW slots when Norwegian finally goes under. However, I was under the impression those slots had already been pledged as collateral to Norwegian’s creditors in the last round of loan extensions.

    This is probably a publicity stunt more than anything else.

  11. Transferring between terminals at JFK isn’t ideal, but JetBlue already has a bunch of international airline codeshare partners, most of which already require changing terminals at JFK. So, it’s no worse than the other partnerships JetBlue already has, anyway.

  12. The numerous coordinated posts repeating the chorus of Norwegians demise are telling. Obviously there are plants that are working on behalf of the large almost monopoly airlines. Then there seems to be a bunch that just repeat what they hear. Anyway, I have flown with Norwegian across the Atlantic and elsewhere several times. In my experience they provided professional service that was higher quality than what I typically experience on the big monopolies here in the US. I think it is great they are signing partnerships like this with JetBlue. I also do not understand why you would think it strange that they would partner with them even though they are planning on flights to London. Both American and BA fly the same routes to various locations, and so do Delta and KLM, and I could find numerous such examples. Why is this strange and those are not? Is it brought up to further other negative comments?

  13. In the aftermath of Thomas Cook there will be plenty of LGW slots coming up for winter and summer seasons.

  14. “New York JFK is going to be the biggest airport for these connections, and transferring between Terminal 1 & Terminal 5 sure isn’t ideal”

    Its not unheard of for airlines to move terminals though is it? Plus people switch terminals at JFK every day. Sure it’s not a short stroll but then it’s not the long march either!

    Plus there is the redevelopment at JFK which will also facilitate this as well.

  15. It’s only a letter of intent… bit of a media stunt really. DY are in debt to the tune of 150% of turnover without the cash to get through the winter. They lost 4m dollars last year in the same period and don’t have enough to get past Christmas. Without new investment they are doomed in my opinion and having defaulted on their bond repayments I can’t see anyone lending them anymore. JetBlue are making a mistake.

  16. The last time I was in JFK Terminal One during the late afternoon/early evening it was complete chaos.

    Moving Norwegian out of there and into JetBlue’s terminal would provide welcome relief.

  17. @ David said “The numerous coordinated posts repeating the chorus of Norwegians demise are telling. Obviously there are plants that are working on behalf of the large almost monopoly airlines.”

    Or, and here’s a thought, we all read the news and see reports of Norwegian’s ongoing financial woes? It’s not a state secret that they’ve lost money for the last two years (for 2018 it was 2.5 billion NOK, or roughly 270-275 million USD) and at their last earnings release their cost per ASK was more than their revenue per ASK (on a RPK or ASK basis.)

    Now there are extraordinary considerations, mainly from fleet issues – problems with their 787s and the grounding of the 737 Max. They had to sell some non-airline holdings (shares in Bank Norwegian) and do a sale-leaseback on their owned flet.

    It’s not an exaggeration to say their survival is questionable.

  18. Norwegian has been on the verge of bankruptcy for many years now and still they survive. Which is good in a way, as SAS definitely needs competition to get their lazy asses in gear.

    Norwegian has also had their share of trouble with the fleet and operations. That of course had a serious impact on the results. Therefore I’m still giving them the benefit of the doubt, more than any such troubled airline.

    Given the appalling track record of Norwegian Air Shuttle for long haul flights, I won’t be using any JetBlue service booked via Norwegian. Personal experience is part of this: I was left in New York for four days due to Norwegian being incompetent a few years ago. Flight deck couldn’t start the engines of a 787 from external batteries…

  19. @David Norwegian is in a very bad state. They’re losing hundreds of millions of dollars yearly, they are cutting routes like crazy that they werent able to really try due to aircraft choice being unavailable(737 Max & 787). I hope they do survive as competition is a good thing, especially on JFK-London where its a duopoly. But the numbers just dont add up to its survival, sadly. Too many airlines have gone under recently and Norwegian looks primed to be the next one, unfortunately.

    @Kerry to add on to my slots post, AMS & CDG also are big destinations B6 wants to get into but Delta(by the way of their European entities Air France-KLM) are fighting tooth and nail. This Norwegian agreement could help their too if/when Norwegian go under. I find it telling that JetBlue has not released a peep of this at all and it was all Norwegian but for a very small blurb from Robin Hayes for their statement. Makes me think the underlying goal is really the slots for Europe.

  20. Living in Jacksonville Beach and needing to get to Europe often (especially Russia) leaves challenges when it comes to low prices of the commuting variety. Given that Norwegian gets a hop to St. Petersburg then this would be great. The issue with many flight to Eastern Europe is number of stops and this would get rid of one stop in LHR which is usually a deal killer with operation fees. Lots of risk here and maybe they want to have sex before marriage to try it out first!

  21. Norwegian will win big time in a lawsuit against the criminal Boeing.
    They will be around for a good while.

  22. I will never fly Norwegian again. I missed my flight by 10 minutes and instead of putting me on the next flight, they told me tough cookies. They offered to give me a pathetic “credit” for the ticket on the next flight which would have cost me more than if I booked an entirely separate ticket with a totally different carrier. Ended up costing me $2000 of lost fare for the three of us. They just don’t give a crap. I’ve never been on an airline other than Spirit that would not put you on a later flight for free. I admit my mistake but don’t make me lose the entire value of the tickets.

  23. Perfect brand match, non overlapping brand awareness , same type of service , nice planes. Similar founders. Jet Blue can help Norwegian get access to the US transactional underwriting market to complement Norwegians capital access and solve they’re major cash flow problem in payments. And it is an interline that can solve a major risk for travellers when inbound connecting flight is late ….involuntary JFK overnight stay.

  24. As a holder of a JetBlue credit card with lots of frequent flyer miles I would like to see this happen. I am now living overseas and I find it more difficult to use my points, so this would be great since Norwegian is probably my number one transatlantic carrier. But I know that they are always in financial jeopardy

  25. Nobody has mentioned the wild card, JetBlue’s 320s can’t reach most of South America from any of it’s hubs. With abysmal competition between North and South America, Norwegians 787s are perfect for routes like JFK EZE. JetBlue can run tons of 321LRs from BOS and JFK with Mint to Europe, including Norwegian’s 30 A321s on order.

  26. B6 will be cutting MEX service starting Jan 2020. Look for DY getting space at B6 terminals in BOS/JFK/FLL. DY will be in T5, and B6 do ground handling likE with HA/EI. This partnership is perfect. B6 is working so they have slots 2021. DY is just holding slots for B6 till then. DY will start to move planes to increase Latin America and inter Europe/Asia/Northern Africa markets. I’m sure B6 will give deal at JFK so DY will be profitable.

  27. I wonder if Norwegian eventually becomes a investor/ co-developer of t6/7 at JFK.

    I realize that Norwegian is way more excited about the Interline agreement, but Norwegian was looking for a America’s based investment partner A while back.

  28. I think your going to see DY start to transition to a B6 type of pricing. B6 is going to buy back 800 million shares of stock. This is to stabilize shares. B6 made promise to investors about share price for 2020. I defiantly agree with DY Investing in B6. This would make DY a major player in the market. It’s an upside for both companies. It wasn’t by chance that DY left Guadeloupe and B6 just slipped in. They have some behind the scenes stuff happening for sure

  29. IndiGo’s a little quiet don’t you think.

    Norwegian is a LCC. They are super sensitive beings and the fact they are quiet suggests contrary to naysayers, Norwegian is in fact, doing well. They need to get rid of the 787 though.

    I think 6E and HO and maybe AY are in on this.

  30. Most people are overlooking the compensation payments from Rolls Royce and Boeing. The fact is that, despite all of the aircraft problems not of Norwegian’s making, the airline has continued to run. Once the fleet is fully back in service next spring, things could improve very rapidly.

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