American and JetBlue pair up to up the competitive stakes during and after Covid-19

20 July, 2020

Even as most airlines worldwide are focusing on how to navigate the severe impacts of the Covid-19 crisis on their businesses, they are also working to position themselves competitively once a recovery in demand begins in earnest. A new partnership between American Airlines and JetBlue aims to help those operators up the stakes against Delta Air Lines in New York and Boston.

American and JetBlue are joining forces to codeshare on routes from the New York area and Boston. The airlines have stated that combined they plan to offer 489 flights and 120 nonstop destinations from the greater New York area. JetBlue's customers will have access to 60 of American's routes, and American's customers can opt to travel on 130 of JetBlue's routes.

Before the pandemic, JetBlue was the second largest airline in New York JFK, and American and JetBlue are leveraging that position through American's plans to launch flights from JFK to Tel Aviv and Athens in 2021, and resuming seasonal flights from JFK to Rio de Janeiro. JetBlue has used its position at JFK to forge numerous interline and codeshare partnerships with international airlines.

This is the second partnership American has forged with a US value airline in 2020. American and Alaska are joining forces on the US west coast, and American plans to add long-haul flights from Alaska's hub in Seattle to Bangalore and London, and is seeking to move its Shanghai service from Los Angeles to Seattle.

Delta Air Lines has made a sizeable investment in New York, and before the Covid-19 pandemic it was the largest airline in both LaGuardia and JFK, measured by departing frequencies. The airline has also transitioned Boston into a hub, challenging JetBlue, Boston's largest airline, in numerous markets during the last couple of years.

It will be interesting to see how American and JetBlue use their new partnership to target business travellers. Both airlines offer premium transcontinental service from New York JFK to the US west coast, and JetBlue has recently tabled its plans to launch its Mint service from United's Newark hub to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Their tie-up definitely gives American some traction in the greater New York area, a region where it weaker than its larger global network rivals Delta and United.

Now American, through JetBlue's extensive presence in the US northeast, has expanded leverage to engage with corporate travellers in New York and Boston, and JetBlue almost instantly gains an ability to significantly expand its network without the hefty costs necessary to grow organically.

The premium experience will also be expanded to the fleet. American intends to operate more dual-class regional aircraft featuring first class beginning next year, providing the premium experience corporate travellers in the US Northeast demand.

JetBlue says it is not joining the oneworld global alliance or the AA/IAG Atlantic joint business agreement and will continue with plans to independently launch and operate trans-Atlantic flights to London in 2021. That's not to say it won't in the future.

Essentially the new partnership is a low risk way for American and JetBlue to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis with more tools in their respective war chests, and there's little doubt that most airlines are working to determine their optimal footing in a post Covid-19 world.