There’s been a lot of talk about the American and JetBlue Northeast Alliance, but until now we didn’t have anything concrete. Things got dicey last week when JetBlue’s pilots voted down an agreement that would open up everything JetBlue wanted to do with American, but just two days later… the plan began rolling out anyway. Today, we’re going to take a look at everything that was in both American’s and JetBlue’s press releases.
Codeshare flights are now on sale for travel beginning this week, and I talked about those yesterday. American has put its code on 49 JetBlue routes, and JetBlue has put its code on “more than 25” of American’s routes. The release notes that these are all “point to point” routes, but that is highly misleading. What it really means is that the codeshare is only on nonstop flights, no connections are sold yet. These aren’t actually point-to-point routes. They are routes the airlines already fly that touch a focus city/hub on at least one end.
AAdvantage members will be able to earn miles on codeshare flights operated by JetBlue, but that seems to be the extent of it for now. Eventually the plan is to have earning and burning of miles along with elite status perks. That should come relatively soon, at least the earning and burning part.
To me, what’s most interesting here is what this means for the networks. Both are planning to add a whole lot of flying… which means cuts must be buried elsewhere. I’ve gone and mapped these by airport using current schedules in Cirium for July 2021. The newly-announced routes are in green. Let’s start in the northeast and work our way southwest.
In Boston, JetBlue isn’t announcing any new routes. American, however, will do Asheville, Columbus (OH), Jackson Hole, Traverse City, and Wilmington (NC). Four of those are summer seasonal routes that fit into the “outdoorsy” leisure market plan that has been implemented elsewhere. The other, Columbus, is more of a businessy route. Columbus was a JetBlue destination, but it hasn’t been served for a few years. It was also served back in the heady days of the Ameria West Columbus hub.
Beyond new routes, they have already started working together on combining schedules to create more coverage. From Boston, the airlines will combine to offer service to the three New York airports (combined) every other hour. They’ll offer “close to hourly” service down to Washington/National and 22x daily to South Florida airports operating “more than hourly.”
This summer, the plan is to also “optimize” flights to LA and Chicago.
Heading down to JFK, it’s a more interesting story, at least for American. On the JetBlue side, they’re just adding Kalispell and Boise for the summer. Those again fit into the summer, outdoorsy type of route that so many airlines love this year.
On the American side, we already knew about Athens and Tel Aviv, but now there are several routes pointing south coming into the mix. American will add a trio of Colombian cities: Bogotá, Cali, and Medellín. We discussed this as length in this week’s Cranky Network Weekly. Santiago will also join the map, going daily by fall. St Lucia and Turks and Caicos will come online too, but that’s Saturday-only service to complement the existing JetBlue flying. JetBlue also serves Bogotá. Together, they really look to be making a move on Colombia, further hurting Avianca’s position.
I have no internal knowledge, but I like this build-up in Colombia. Even better if this could pressure Avianca to come over to your side and away from United. That would be a pretty slick move, albeit a longshot.
Lastly, American will fly JFK to Orange County using the A321T aircraft. I’m guessing this is a route American would have liked to fly before, but it was fully utilizing its A321T fleet. Now with fewer frequencies, it can take a shot at Orange County. It’s only a redeye eastbound, however, so I’m skeptical.
In the world of “route optimization,” LA will combine to offer hourly service while South Florida will be blanketed with 47 daily flights. San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago/O’Hare, and Raleigh/Durham are coming this summer.
Over at LaGuardia, we see both airlines adding flights. JetBlue will take on the competitive Denver route as well as Charleston, a market American serves too. I figure Denver may be better for VFR and leisure in this network, so a JetBlue airplane is preferable. Charleston, well, I’m really curious to see what happens there. That could be about bulking up to compete since American only serves it on weekends. So maybe it fits into the same leisure bucket.
Over at American, look at all these new routes. We have Kansas City, Key West, Myrtle Beach, Pensacola, Rapid City, and Savannah joining the map. These seem to be mostly leisure routes, except for Kansas City. And Kansas City, no surprise, is the only one planned to operate year-round.
I find myself very curious about the future state of American’s existing flights in these markets. Many of these are only running in the summer, so the already depressed schedule won’t need to be cut. But eventually this won’t work without cuts elsewhere. I can only assume that the current plan is to take a wait-and-see approach and evaluate this summer’s performance before deciding what other routes don’t end up coming back to pre-pandemic levels. There are a lot of moving parts here.
Lastly, there’s Newark. I wasn’t even going to bother with this until I saw the incredible number of additions from JetBlue. It’s almost entirely Caribbean as you can see on the map, but there’s also Cartagena in Colombia and Seattle.
The growth JetBlue has undertaken in Newark since the pandemic began is nothing short of madness. Whether that’s good madness or bad madness, I’m not quite sure yet. But what I do know is that whenever United decides it wants to run a full schedule in Newark again, things are going to get very ugly. The airport can’t handle this kind of volume, so something’s gotta give.
In the meantime, American and JetBlue are busy putting together one impressive blanket over Boston and New York. The networks look good, but the key is in the integration. There are a lot of obstacles, including the pilots at JetBlue who are pretty unhappy right now. If they can pull this off, then it will create a powerhouse in the northeast. If not, well, what a waste of an effort that’ll be.