Big News: American Airlines In Surprise Tie-up With JetBlue

a city with water and a body of water

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American Airlines and JetBlue have today announced that they are entering into a strategic partnership that will see American Airlines launch new international services out of New York JFK, JetBlue expanding at all three New York airports, and members of both airlines’ loyalty programs enjoying reciprocal elite benefits.

American Airlines & JetBlue Team Up

American Airlines New Routes & Expansions

As a result of its new partnership with JetBlue, American will launch two new international services from New York (JFK) and restart a third:

  • JFK – Tel Aviv (no start date announced)
  • JFK – Athens (set to start in summer 2021)
  • JFK – Rio De Janeiro (this returns as a daily seasonal service in winter 2021)

JetBlue New Routes & Expansions

We don’t have any details about specific routes that JetBlue will be starting up but the airline has confirmed that it will add flights at LaGuardia and Newark as well as continuing expansion as it looks to feed traffic into American’s international network.

Loyalty Benefits

JetBlue and American Airlines will codeshare on a broad range of routes but neither airline has said what specific benefits will be offered to members of each other’s loyalty programs. One would assume that, at the very least, flyers will be able to credit JetBlue flights to the AAdvantage program and American Airlines flights to JetBlue’s TrueBlue program (under the codesharing agreement) but there’s a lot of scope for the airlines to work with here so we’ll just have to wait and see how generous they’re feeling.

As much as I’d love to be able to book Mint fares out of LA and credit them to American Airlines, the realist in me doesn’t expect reciprocity to be that generous (I don’t expect the codeshare agreement to go that far)…but I’ll settle for being able to use AAdvantage Miles to book Mint seats to the East Coast 🙂

The full tie-up between American Airlines and JetBlue can be summed up by this infographic:

a blue and white advertisement
Click to enlarge

Overall Thoughts

Clearly this looks like very good news for both airlines and it has the potential to be great news for flyers too, but we’ll have to wait and see just what each airline will offer the other’s elites before we get too carried away.

I have to confess that I’m still absorbing this news as I type this post and there’s a part of me that still can’t quite understand what’s driving American Airlines to make the recent u-turns we’ve seen it make – first the airline does a complete about-turn on its relationship with Alaska Airlines (a relationship which had looked terminal for years) and now, after years of cutting back services at JFK, suddenly American is announcing new international routes out of JFK and teaming up with an airline centered around New York. It’s like the airline has two personalities.

What I think has happened is this: American Airlines had no faith in its ability to provide New Yorkers with a meaningful domestic service at JFK and that’s why it saw no point in offering anything but a handful of international routes out of JFK. Now, however, with JetBlue on board, American doesn’t even have to make any pretense about caring about the domestic JFK/NYC market as it can rely on its new partner to do all the domestic heavy-lifting while it concentrates on restarting some of the routes it has spent the last few years dismantling.

Looked upon in that light this latest u-turn probably makes a lot of sense but I don’t expect things to be all plain sailing as I can’t imagine Delta is particularly pleased with this news. American has already shown that it’s up for a fight in Seattle (a city that Delta has worked hard to build into a powerful hub) and now this partnership with JetBlue is going to be a huge threat to Delta in New York. It will be interesting to see how Delta reacts and, if it does, how bloody the fallout will be.

Bottom Line

If we categorize the announcement of American’s renewed partnership with Alaska Airlines as a big surprise, the news out today that American Airlines and JetBlue are forming a strategic partnership has to go down as a truly seismic event in the airline world. For both airlines this tie-up should be a fantastic boost at a time when the aviation sector could do with all the boosts it can get…let’s just hope that we flyers get a nice big boost out of it too.