IATA: JetBlue continues careful expansion of overseas partnerships

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New York-based JetBlue Airways, which announced its latest international partner at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Beijing, vows to continue its search for the right like-minded overseas collaborators.

Its interline deal with Air China, which will become a full codeshare if approved from the autumn, adds to its existing 18 interline agreements and several codeshares built up over the past three years, says Dave Barger, chief executive of JetBlue.

"We've done it carefully," says Barger of its overseas expansion with partners. Work with partners has centred on making sure the financial model works for both sides and that the customer experience works, says Barger. "It's been about quality assurance," he explains.

After starting with simpler interline deals some partnerships are moving to codeshares, such as with South African Airways. It also codeshares with Japan Airlines on its Boston-Tokyo route.

The diversification of JetBlue with international partnerships and its Latin market push has helped the carrier to a record first quarter, says Barger. "It's good when unit revenue is outpacing unit growth," he says.

As the airline expands its international footprint in New York it is investing $2 million in an international arrivals area at its Terminal 5 location at John F. Kennedy airport.

One of the latest overseas partners for JetBlue is Hawaiian Airlines which recently started services to New York from Honolulu. Its flights will operate from JetBlue's T5, the carrier will be handled by JetBlue and the deal includes a codeshare, says Barger.

JetBlue would like to see more carriers moving to T5. "We will hopefully see Aer Lingus moving over to our terminal," says Barger. Aer Lingus currently operates its Dublin-New York service into Terminal 4 at New York JFK. JetBlue has had a ticket cross-selling deal with the Irish carrier over New York for a couple of years.