Back when the pandemic started, I had an inkling that we would see a few airline mergers and bankruptcies occur due to the steep drop in demand for travel. Fast-forward a year and, thanks to multiple stimulus bills, most U.S. airlines are still flying to a certain extent.
However, we are seeing some interesting agreements and partnerships emerge. In July 2020, JetBlue and American Airlines announced a strategic partnership that would see expanded service, loyalty benefits, and a streamlined experience between the two carriers.
What to Know About the New JetBlue / American Partnership
After approval from the D.O.T. in January 2021, American and JetBlue launched the new partnership in February by announcing 33 new routes and codeshare flights. The agreement eventually plans to allow JetBlue to book customers on more than 60 routes operated by American Airlines and, likewise, American will be able to book passengers on more than 130 routes operated by JetBlue.
33 New Routes Added in the Northeast
The heart of the agreement is in the Northeast, more specifically the Boston and New York markets. JetBlue is expanding rapidly in Newark (EWR) with a total of 10 new routes starting July 1, 2021, while American will be adding more long-haul international flights out of JFK to complement JetBlue’s hub. American is also adding some domestic service from Boston and LaGuardia, and JetBlue will be adding new routes from JFK and LaGuardia as well.
Related: Airline Hub Guide: Which U.S. Cities Are Major Hubs and Why It Matters
New JetBlue Routes
From Newark (EWR), starting July 1, 2021:
- Antigua (ANU) up to 3x weekly
- Aguadilla (BQN) daily
- Cartagena (CTG) up to 4x weekly
- Martha’s Vineyard (MVY) up to 2x daily, 5x per week (summer seasonal)
- Nantucket (ACK) up to 2x daily, 5x per week (summer seasonal)
- Port-au-Prince (PAP) up to 4x weekly
- Puerto Plata (POP) up to 5x weekly
- Seattle (SEA) daily (summer seasonal)
- St. Lucia (UVF) up to 3x weekly
- St. Thomas (STT) up to 4x weekly
From New York LaGuardia (LGA), starting July 1, 2021:
- Charleston (CHS) daily
- Denver (DEN) 2x daily
- Martha’s Vineyard (MVY) daily
From New York Kennedy (JFK)
- Kalispell (FCA) up to 3x weekly, starting July 1
- Boise (BOI) up to 4x weekly, starting July 2
New American Airlines Routes
From Boston (BOS), mostly summer seasonal
- Asheville (AVL) June 5 – Nov. 6
- Columbus (CMH) starting Aug. 17th (year-round)
- Jackson Hole (JAC) June 5 – Sep. 4
- Traverse City (TVC) June 5 – Sep. 6
- Wilmington (ILM) June 5 – Aug. 14
From New York LaGuardia (LGA), mostly summer seasonal
- Kansas City (MCI) starting Sep. 8 (year-round)
- Key West (EYW) June 5 – Sep. 4
- Myrtle Beach (MYR) June 3 – Sep. 7
- Pensacola (PNS) June 4 – Sep. 4
- Rapid City (RAP) June 5 – Sep. 4
- Savannah (SAV) June 4 – Sep. 7
From New York Kennedy (JFK)
- Bogota (BOG) starting May 7
- Cali (CLO) starting May 6
- Medellin (MDE) starting May 6
- Orange County (SNA) starting July 2
- Santiago, Chile (SCL) 3x weekly starting May 7, daily starting in November
- St. Lucia (UVF) starting June 5 (Saturdays)
- Turks and Caicos (PLS) starting June 5 (Saturdays)
Previously announced new routes on American Airlines include summer service from New York’s LaGuardia (LGA) airport to both Kalispell (FCA) and Traverse City (TVC). And American also announced it will begin to fly from JFK to Tel Aviv (TLV) and Athens (ATH) this summer, followed by flights to Rio de Janeiro (GIG) this winter.
Codeshare Flights and Coordinated Schedules
Initially, American Airlines started selling tickets for 49 codeshare routes on JetBlue, and JetBlue kicked things off with access to more than 25 routes on American. These codeshare flights will keep increasing throughout the year and will soon be available on the new international routes. In the end, more than 60 American Airlines routes will be bookable via JetBlue and more than 130 routes operated by JetBlue will be bookable via American. These will primarily be routes to and from Boston and New York.
The airlines have also coordinated schedules between several major markets. Starting in April, American and JetBlue will offer more flights between New York and L.A. than any other airline. And schedules are also increasing in key markets along the East Coast. Here’s a look at the combined service offered by both American and JetBlue between the following major markets.
- New York and Los Angeles (14 daily flights)
- New York and Boston (9 daily flights)
- New York and South Florida (47 daily flights)
- Boston and Washington D.C. (11 daily flights)
- Boston and South Florida (22 daily flights)
Schedules will also be optimized later this summer in more popular markets such as Boston to/from Los Angeles and Chicago, and New York to/from San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, and Raleigh.
Elite Status Members Get Reciprocal Perks
Starting this spring, members of both American Airlines AAdvantage and JetBlue’s TrueBlue programs will be able to earn points or miles on either carrier. Eventually, the airlines also plan to allow miles to be redeemed on either carrier. It is unclear if this agreement will be restricted to the codeshare routes or if it will spill over and include each carrier’s entire route network.
The two airlines are also exploring the option of recognizing AAdvantage elite status members and JetBlue Mosaic customers across both airlines. This will likely include perks such as priority check-in and boarding, and it’s possible it will extend further to include lounge access, upgrade priority, and more. At the moment, the airlines have simply stated that more details will be announced about reciprocal loyalty program benefits later this year.
More First-Class Seats in Key Markets
When JetBlue announced its Mint Class product in 2013, it really shook the transcontinental market in key coast-to-coast markets such as New York to/from Los Angeles and San Francisco. The new competition forced American, Delta, and United to take notice, improve their cabins, and lower fares. Now that American and JetBlue are partnering in these key markets, there will be a more First-Class service with aligned schedules on some state-of-the art aircraft such as American’s A321T and JetBlue’s A321.
Oddly enough, American even plans to operate the new route between New York-JFK and Orange County Airport (SNA) with its A321T aircraft, which features 10 First Class seats and 20 Business Class seats. All of which convert to a lie-flat bed and provide a great way to get some rest on the long flight across the country. It’s possible we’ll see the two airlines align schedules in other premium markets going forward.
Related: What to Wear When Flying First Class
What Does this Mean for Employees?
Behind the scenes of this partnership is a negotiation between JetBlue pilots and management in regards to contractual relief. JetBlue’s pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), rejected the tentative agreement, which means JetBlue won’t be able to codeshare on as many American flights as hoped.
The partnership will proceed while the two parties keep negotiating. The pilots do have some cause for concern even though this is just a mere partnership and not a full merger at this time. By aligning flight schedules, it could mean there will be less flying for pilots in certain markets. And if this agreement were to ever lead to a full-on merger, seniority and job security could be on the line.
Could JetBlue and American Merge in the Future?
So far, nothing as big as a merger is being discussed. Unlike Alaska Airlines, JetBlue is not joining the Oneworld alliance and it will not be part of the transatlantic joint-venture with American and British Airways once it launches its London flights later this year. For the time being, this agreement is simply allowing each carrier to streamline its flight schedules in the Northeast.
I don’t see a merger happening any time soon, but if the airline industry continues to struggle in the coming years, it could be possible that we see these carriers start to align schedules in other markets. If, for instance, we see another agreement focused on flights to the Caribbean or from the Miami area to Latin America, that would be a pretty good indication that the airlines are heading towards a full-on merger. For the sake of competition (i.e., cheaper flights) and employees of both airlines, I hope the airlines will remain separate entities going forward. Only time will tell.