In the latest airline industry shakeup, American Airlines and low-cost airline JetBlue have announced plans to form a new strategic partnership, pending regulator approval, to boost finances amid the coronavirus pandemic. The partnership would include reciprocal codeshare flights and shared (but as of yet unspecified) loyalty benefits. Most importantly, it would give American Airlines a big leg up against Delta and United in the highly competitive Northeast market.
"American Airlines has been pulling back on New York flights for years. This partnership will allow it to become a more powerful player in the country's economic center," Scott Mayerowitz, executive editorial director at travel website The Points Guy, said in a statement. "JetBlue has big ambitions to expand, especially internationally. But space and government limitations in New York, Boston, and Washington have prevented it from doing so."
The proposed alliance's most significant impact on customers is a massive expansion of the airlines' joint route network. JetBlue has reliable domestic routes, particularly in the Northeast—the airline's hub is New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)—while American has an extensive international route network. Under the partnership, customers loyal to either airline will be able to more easily access new destinations under a single booking.
The partnership will also enable American to open new long-haul routes from JFK, something the airline hasn't done for four years. American will soon offer year-round service between JFK and Tel Aviv (TLV), and seasonal service between JFK and Athens (ATH) and JFK and Rio de Janeiro (GIG).
While this agreement is a significant move, it's not the first such partnership for either airline. "Since its inception two decades ago, [JetBlue] has partnered with a host of different carriers to help fill its planes," said Mayerowitz. "While this is potentially its biggest—and most visible—deal, it follows a long pattern for JetBlue."
And for American, this is the second major partnership announced this year. In February 2020, the airline initiated a partnership with Alaska Airlines, based in Washington at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), giving it a strong foothold in the Northwest. But while Alaska Airline intends to join American in the Oneworld alliance, JetBlue has no such plans, moving forward independently with expansions to new international destinations.