American Airlines has announced a new partnership with JetBlue, adding to its recent partnership with Alaska Airlines. The carrier has pulled off a coup while no one is thinking of travel. Will it pay off?
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American Airlines Adds JetBlue Partnership
American Airlines this week announced a partnership with JetBlue. American will provide codeshares for JetBlue flights on over 100 American operated routes, and JetBlue will add 60 flights to American’s network. While details were scant, speculation is that the JetBlue codeshares will operate on routes where the two carriers do not compete. I am personally hoping for JetBlue routes from Pittsburgh like Boston, West Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale.
The two carriers haven’t announced loyalty program reciprocal access yet but alluded to it. It’s likely (again, speculation) that flights will collect miles and count toward status but not likely elite qualifying dollars. This could be an incorrect assumption, but since the two airlines won’t be sharing financial details to keep anti-trust regulators at bay, at most it would work something like the way that American applies an EQD equivalent to oneworld partners based on distance and class of service.
In addition, American Airlines announced flights from New York JFK (a JetBlue hub) to Athens, Tel Aviv and Rio de Janeiro. This is clearly an effort to allow JetBlue to sell-through to these in-demand destinations.
Alaska Airlines Expediting oneworld Membership
Alaska announced in February that the carrier would join oneworld. While the Seattle-based carrier had explored joining oneworld alliance as a “connect” member (with limited membership overlays), they abandoned those notions in favor of full-membership by mid-2021.
After announcing in February, COVID-19 descended on the industry and changed everything. The good news for Alaska is this downtime has allowed the airline to accelerate plans to join the alliance. Instead of mid-2021, the carrier now intends to become full oneworld members by the end of 2020. The carrier has already begun its partnership with American Airlines by codesharing flights and offering reciprocal benefits (not all, but some) to each other’s frequent flyers. Moving membership forward by six months is a dramatic acceleration and mostly unheard of in the industry.
Of the Majors, These Moves Are The Biggest
There have not been two members of the same alliance in the United States since US Airways merged with American Airlines but that was more an effect of the companies joining. Prior to that, US Airways was a Star Alliance member along with United Airlines. US Airways left Star Alliance in 2014.
Alaska Airlines essentially created its own alliance by partnering with carriers from all over the world and different alliances. The carrier also had a codeshare agreement with both American Airlines and Delta before going to war with the latter and slowly diminishing cross-shared involvement with the former.
Six months ago, every US carrier was more or less unaffiliated with each other and out for themselves. Since February (Alaska announced intentions to join oneworld as a full member) and now in July with the JetBlue announcement, three carriers are now somewhat aligned. While JetBlue won’t codeshare with Alaska (yet) nor join oneworld (yet), American Airlines now has significant market share in both the Northeast (JetBlue) and the west coast (Alaska) while filling seats on its expansive network. It also works for Alaska and JetBlue who have limited networks and would love to fill flights to the coasts from Chicago or Dallas by picking up passengers from smaller markets like Sioux City, Iowa (SUX – the best IATA airport code ever) or Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
American is also shifting some of its flights to more traditional Origin & Destination (O&D) markets. For example, Philadelphia to Tel Aviv or Athens was based on connecting traffic and lower costs from PHL rather than JFK where the carrier finds far greater competition and higher costs. American has pushed the launch (but will likely bring it back once COVID-19 flight restrictions expire) of Seattle to Bangalore, India.
The additions of JFK flights clearly supports JetBlue traffic while the Bangalore-Seattle leg will be helped by Alaska Airlines in Seattle for west coast connections but is also a strong O&D route due to the tech industry in both cities.
Both Alaska and JetBlue were the last two major carriers in the US that could offer such a partnership to a US flag carrier like American, Delta, and United. Southwest isn’t equipped for such partnerships (both because of technology and culture), Spirit like other ULCCs wouldn’t make sense for a partnership because its product doesn’t align closely enough with the majors. Frontier, for the same reason, would be a tough partner as would Allegiant who would also have a difficult time due to network choices. Hawaiian may still partner with Delta (United doubled down on flights to the islands when Southwest entered the market) but wouldn’t add a meaningful amount of flights to the other partner.
While the world is focusing its attention elsewhere, American Airlines will emerge from the coronavirus crisis with two very strong partners. As the market reshapes following COVID-19, American has pulled off a coup by partnering with the only two other carriers suitable, delivering relationships look to be beneficial to all partners in a fairly equal distribution.
American can now serve even more customers on international flights while Alaska and JetBlue can deliver value for customers who want to extend beyond the carrier’s networks without moving all of their flying throughout the year. American’s new network will be substantial without the expense of building all of the flights back. Further, Delta and United won’t likely be able to find similar partnerships based on who is left available.
I have been highly critical of American management in the past (for good reason) but the carrier’s moves lately have me reconsidering the airline.
What do you think? Did American pull off a stunning coup to build a better network through partnership in the US? Is this all smoke and mirrors? Could Southwest, United, and Delta find a way to do something similar?
I think American is starting a flight from Seattle to Bangalore
Yes they are and it’s already confirmed by the govmt of India.
JetBlue has always been a great airline. American airlines will ruin them.
I agree 100%. AA has spiraled down the drain for the last several years. AS and JetBlue will need to mandate that AA step up their efforts to once again become a world class airline. This is the only solution to making profits and creating a good partnership between these three airlines.
Will I be able to use my Jet Blue miles on American airlines?
To be determined. No official announcement yet.
AA’s planning on flying to Bangalore not Hyderabad
Thank you AJ & B, the post has been corrected.
That’s right. Hyd is always going to be secondary for US carriers.
What does this do to or for the employees of each airline? I’m a FA with American and we are seeing thousands of possibly furloughs and many different buy outs on the table.
It should help them, as domestic feeder flights from Alaska and JetBlue enable many more transatlantic and transpacific flights than AA could support on their own, and those planes will need crews.
The AA moves with Alaska and JetBlue are major, but they also speak to an AA desperate to hobble together something — anything — as a means to try to maintain its self-relegation to third class service levels amongst US carriers and stick to its customer-unfriendly, race-to-the—bottom way and benefit from yet more anti-competitive allowances from the government.
Wartime avatar of Kyle (covid war)? From smiley photo changed to tough man drawing, is he an agent of AA trying to scare Delta and United, ha ha? Just kidding. Nice article.
Jet blue doesn’t allow award redemptions on their partners. Will that change?
The carrier also had a codeshare agreement with both American Airlines and Delta before going to war with the latter and slowly diminishing cross-shared involvement with the former.
If Alaska was the victim, then this may be technically correct but doesn’t convey that.
I wonder if the FAA needs approval. If not, all airlines could codeshare with all others and charge and arm for a one way and an arm and a leg for a round trip.
Well GUWonder, I have a feeling you had an unpleasant experience at AA? Lost piece of luggage? Maybe got fired? Try offering comments about the subject without sounding like you have a grudge. You sound immature.
Marketing agreements are smart, forward thinking opportunities for every company involved. AA is fortunate to have a tie-in the two new partners. They are well run airlines.
BTW, new service begins to GIG, and resumes to GRU from JFK.
Did AA pull off a coup? I think the better question to ask is why did AA fail so miserably on its own at JFK in the first place, including a previous partnership with JetBlue.
I’m not sure how much you understand the New York market but since all airports (JFK, LGA, & EWR) are slot constrained AA does not have enough through put with so few slots at JFK to make all JFK routes work. They have to rely on DO traffic for the most part. After AA restructured it’s JFK hub by eliminating non performing routes and up-guaging all the rest to 777’s they were profitable for the first time ever for all 12 months of the year. The JetBlue deal gives them more feed to launch more international routes. Hence the announcement of Tel Aviv & Athens. Post a Covid there will be more
Please correct post. AA adding back GIG (Rio) seasonally in winter of 2021 as part of this announcement. GRU (Sau Paulo) is already served by AA and has nothing to do with B6
Good catch, it’s been adjusted. And of course you’re correct, that GRU route is operated by a 77W, my favorite equipment.
Will this affect, i.e., prevent, JetBlue’s codesharing with international airlines flying out of Logan? If so, Boston’s days as a gateway city look numbered.
Excellent question, Michael. You asked John, but I just wanted to add that I don’t think it will change much. Emirates offers Newark-Athens but connecting passengers wouldn’t have come much from JetBlue given that most of their concentration in the NYC market is out of JFK.
It would be interesting to see a super low cost carrier emerge with southwest allegiant spirit and frontier . Something on the horizon eventually.
Hawaiian and JetBlue already have a partnership. Not sure if it’s a true code share but wondering if that remains with the new AA news.
While an interesting development the breathlessness of bloggers on this topic is amusing.
AA was partners with both Jetblue and Alaska until not long ago. Not much new under the sun.
Fair point Greg, B6 and AS were both partners in the past but now that those two carriers have matured and expanded some, I think it’s more intriguing now. Consider too that since AA had both as limited partners in the past, JetBlue now has a major hub in FLL, getting ready for long-haul international service with Mint and Alaska has since merged with Virgin America (there is some overlap but the AA partnership was already fading by then.)
Alaska has also expanded its network with its own equipment in a material fashion. For example, adding Omaha-Portland and Seattle, Pittsburgh-Seattle are all new routes since the partnership with American ended, JetBlue has since added two direct flights to Florida from Pittsburgh and operates to Boston again (American abandoned the route last year.) Cases like these make it a stronger alliance for all three parties than it was in the past. While I can’t speak for other bloggers, that’s why I am excited about it this time around I have been no American Airlines apologist.
Big win for AA. They have finally awoken from their slumber (thanks to Vasu Raja). There’s nothing left for other carriers to grab now. Bravo
SUX is my home airport. We tried to change the code for years, but decided to embrace the SUX. I’ve got a “Fly SUX” hat. Many other items also available. It’s actually a supremely easy airport to get in and out of, especially if you compare it to huge international airports like Newark or Lisbon or Heathrow. Just in and out. And it’s a 20-minute drive from my house.
I am familiar with SUX… both gates. When I was a kid, my Dad once drove me by that airport and the cockpit and nose from UA232 was still positioned by the fence years after the accident.
If these three wind up merging Alaska’s former “Proudly all-Boeing” philosophy will be severely tested. American is half Airbus and Jet Blue has nothing else.
Let’s also not forget the incredible timing of decoupling with Latam! Anyone that thinks that AA management is just lucky these days is fooling themselves. Vasu’s interview with Plane Business in the middle of the lockdown should make it abundantly clear that from a strategic point of view AA is in it to win and build its market share. No doubt the groundwork for these agreements was laid over the past few years and the covid mess just sealed the deal.