Big News: JetBlue & Norwegian Say They Intend To Partner Up


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JetBlue and Norwegian have just announced that they have signed a Letter of Intent for an interline agreement which will “allow customers to combine low fares in a convenient single booking for connecting flights between the Americas and Europe”.

The new partnership is set to launch in “early 2020” and bookings involving the partnership will be for flights starting in “early summer 2020”.

What Does This Partnership Actually Mean?

A partnership between JetBlue and Norwegian would see Norwegian feeding its transatlantic flyers into JetBlue’s domestic US, Caribbean, and Latin American routes with JetBlue, in turn, acting as a conduit between various locations where Norweigan doesn’t have a presence and the European carrier’s transatlantic network.

Travelers will be able to book itineraries involving both airlines on either airline’s website and will see Norweigan gain access to “more than 60 U.S. and nearly 40 Caribbean and Latin American cities” to which it currently has no access whatsoever.

The main connecting points for the two airlines will be…

  • New York-JFK
  • Boston
  • Fort Lauderdale

…so US passengers will be able to fly between any US city JetBlue serves and the three cities listed above before connecting on to a transatlantic Norwegian flight, while Norwegian’s European-based travelers will be able to access a lot more of the US and whole new areas of the world (like the Caribbean) while still using their preferred airline to cross the Atlantic.

Norwegian’s Acting CEO and Chief Financial Officer, Geir Karlsen had this to say:

“We are very excited to partner with JetBlue as this will make international travel even smoother and more available for our customers. JetBlue is the largest airline at several of our key gateways in the United States, specifically New York JFK, Boston and Fort Lauderdale, and this partnership will create a plethora of new route connections for customers on both sides of the Atlantic. The partnership will provide travelers throughout the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America with more affordable fares to Europe and vice versa. And not least it will offer seamless connections with two of the most awarded low-cost airlines in the world”

And Robin Hayes, Chief Executive Officer at JetBlue is quoted as saying:

“This new agreement with Norwegian seamlessly connects JetBlue’s robust network throughout the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America with the exciting European destinations on our new partner’s route map”

“Norwegian shares our belief that customers benefit when we can bring competition and low fares to the transatlantic market currently dominated by joint ventures, legacy alliances and sky-high ticket prices.”

JetBlue Mint Suite – Image courtesy of JetBlue

Thoughts

I love this news for four reasons:

  1. This partnership should keep the pressure on the legacy airlines not to push through any big fare increases on some pretty key routes
  2. The partnership will give Europeans a lot more low-cost access to the Caribbean and Latin America
  3. US travelers based in cities that Norwegian doesn’t serve will now have ready access to a low-cost transatlantic carrier without having to endure the legacy airlines.
  4. The news comes at a time where Norweigan much have been desperate for some positive news to put out and as someone with a soft spot for the airline I’m genuinely pleased that it finally has some to share.

There are one or two things that will need to be clarified (like what happens to passengers who miss connecting flights due to a delayed flight and how will benefits purchased on Norweigan translate over to the segments flown by JetBlue) but assuming those are addressed satisfactorily this should be very positive news for flyers.

One element of this partnership that I don’t understand is how it’s supposed to fit in with JetBlue’s stated intention of offering its own low-cost flights between the East Coast and London from 2021.

London is a huge base for Norwegian and I’d expect it to be a major launching point for travelers looking to connect on to JetBlue’s network once that option opens up…so what happens when JetBlue can offer these travelers a more seamless experience from 2021?

Will the partnership then exclude travel originating in London? Will the JetBlue look to serve Heathrow (an airport where slots are hard to come by and are horrendously expensive) and let Norwegian rule at Gatwick? Will both airlines agree to coexist in harmony?Or is JetBlue rethinking its decision to open up transatlantic routes?

It will be interesting to watch how this aspect of the partnership works itself out.

Bottom Line

It’s been a couple of good days for Norwegian. First the announcement of more flights between the US and Europe from next summer and now the announcement of a very interesting partnership with JetBlue.

Right now I’m excited to see how this plays out and what it looks like when everything goes live next year and I’ll be especially interested to see what the cost of connecting on to JetBlue’s Mint Business Class product looks like when originating in Europe.

Anything that strengthens the hand of the smaller transatlantic players and that puts pressure on the larger transatlantic joint ventures is very welcome in my book so this a really good development to see.

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