JetBlue Airways and American Airlines have expanded their collaboration, with plans to operate some 700 daily flights from New York’s John F Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, and from Boston Logan International airport, by next summer.
The carriers are forging ahead with their so-called “Northeast Alliance” (NEA) despite a lawsuit brought by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) claiming the tie-up is stifling competition in those markets.
“A new year brings new opportunities for the Northeast Alliance to add more JetBlue flying in New York and Boston and to deliver on the customer benefits we’ve promised since first announcing this innovative partnership,” says JetBlue’s Joanna Geraghty, chief operating officer, on 16 December. “As we look ahead to 2022, the NEA is poised to deliver incredible growth, which will bring more of our award-winning service and low fares to travellers in the Northeast as, together with American, we create a true third competitor in the region.”
“The Northeast Alliance is delivering on promises to offer customers more choices and travel benefits,” says American’s president and chief-executive-designate Robert Isom. “We’re excited to offer our New York and Boston customers even more frequencies and even more destinations when they travel next year.”
At JFK, the alliance will offer up to 300 daily departures, with JetBlue operating 195 of those flights. Combined, the airlines will operate almost 200 daily departures from both LaGuardia and Boston. They intend to launch new routes and increased frequencies to US cities, Vancouver and Halifax in Canada, and popular vacation destinations in the Caribbean.
”The airlines are now codesharing on 185 routes, as American will have its code placed on 70 JetBlue routes while JetBlue will place its code on 115 American routes,” the carriers say.
The airlines are expanding their alliance even while mired in controversy and legal limbo. In September, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sued in US federal court to force American and JetBlue to stop their partnership, alleging the pact violates the Sherman Act, an anti-trust law.
The suit, filed in US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, claims the partnership hinders competition and harms consumers. DOJ also said the pact gives American too much sway over JetBlue, and threatens JetBlue’s ability to remain a successful low-fare counterweight in an industry that has significantly consolidated.
DOJ describes the alliance represents a de-facto merger in the region. But the carriers say their deal evens the playing field in New York, helping them better counter United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which have operated more New York flights.
Attorneys general in six states and the District of Columbia joined the DOJ as plaintiffs in the suit.
American and JetBlue reject the accusations and in November asked the court to toss the suit.
On their joint website, the carriers say: ”By all metrics, the NEA has supercharged competition in the region both directly, by providing more choice and better service for customers, and indirectly by provoking a competitive response from the historically dominant carriers.”
”The [DOJ’s] lawsuit is perplexing. After a year of investigating the NEA, the DOJ has presented no evidence the alliance has harmed consumers. Also, the DOJ has not explained its opposition or unwillingness to recognise the significant and demonstrable benefits that the NEA has and will continue to provide to consumers travelling from and to New York and Boston,” the website reads.
Fort Worth-based American and New York-headquartered JetBlue revealed their partnership plan in July 2020. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) approved it in January 2021, allowing the carriers establish a pact that includes code shares, coordinated flight schedules and aligned frequent-flier programmes.
The airlines say the collaboration has resulted in lower fares and better schedules, to the benefit of consumers.
But the alliance was controversial from the start, with other passenger airlines, including low-cost carriers Spirit Airlines and Southwest Airlines, opposing the collaboration.