Just last week I took a look at how American and JetBlue had changed their presence at New York’s LaGuardia airport once they entered into the Northeast Alliance (NEA). Today, let’s hop on the Van Wyck and take a look a JFK. This one is a little messier.
At LaGuardia, it was pretty clear what happened. American upgauged its 50-seat aircraft to larger regionals, reduced hub-to-hub flying, and left several markets to its new partner. Meanwhile, it leased out slots to JetBlue which that airline could use to build up its previously-small LaGuardia presence. Together, the airlines could use their different products to comprehensively cover LaGuardia within the 1,500 mile perimeter.
At JFK, it’s a different story. JetBlue already had an enormous operation at JFK which covered most of the key US and Caribbean markets. American had a shell of an operation which primarily served Transcon markets that couldn’t fly from LaGuardia due to the perimeter rule and long-haul routes (Barcelona, Buenos Aires, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Rome, and Sao Paulo) along with some hub-to-hub flying and short-haul feed to keep those long-haul airplanes full.
With all this massive feed from JetBlue, American felt emboldened to grow that long-haul operation. It cut some of those Transcon flights that it could cede to JetBlue, but those had very little capacity anyway. Instead, it poured airplanes into the Atlantic, not just in existing markets but also in adding Athens, Delhi, Doha, and Tel Aviv.
But capacity didn’t just grow there. It grew in the domestic market as well. This isn’t just about upgauging from 50-seaters to larger regionals though that helps. Overall, domestic seats are up more than 36 percent comparing July 2023 to July 2019. The only markets which are down, excluding those which were exited? It’s the hubs in Charlotte and Phoenix along with the Transcons to LA and San Francisco. Everything else is up as American tries to rev its long-haul engine at JFK.
As for JetBlue, well, it wasn’t sitting still in this. It did start a variety of new markets while cutting only a few, some of which like Long Beach and Oakland were due to larger structural issues and not the NEA as you can see below.
But what about existing routes? This is where it’s particularly interesting, as you’ll see in the map below. JetBlue, able to add more domestic flights from LaGuardia thanks to those slots from American, reduced capacity on a variety of domestic routes, primarily north-south. Instead, it started those routes shown in the map above but it also increased capacity into the Caribbean where LaGuardia isn’t an option since it has no customs and immigration facility. Here’s a look at routes that saw seats change by more than 10 percent (up or down) between July 2019 and July 2023.
Looking at LaGuardia and JFK together, we see that JetBlue was able to shift more domestic flying from JFK to LaGuardia. That allowed the airline to increase coverage beyond the US at JFK. (I didn’t even mention the non-NEA routes to London, Paris, and soon Amsterdam which JetBlue is starting.) At the same time, American was able to grow its long-haul flights where JetBlue can’t reach from JFK.
Together, American and JetBlue were able to grow their capacity in all markets and become a more successful competitor to Delta and United in New York. Of course, as we’ve learned, that doesn’t seem to matter.