American Airlines, JetBlue call off their relationship

From the onset their relationship was a strange one, even in the world of airlines. JetBlue and American Airlines were both using each other a bit to feed specific routes and specific markets while one tried to grow and the other to not shrink too much. And in that sense the partnership was arguably tremendously successful. Alas, it is now set to terminate at the end of the month. As of 1 April 2014 JetBlue and American Airlines will no longer offer interline service nor reciprocal frequent flyer points earning on select flights from the other carrier.


Just over a year ago JetBlue CEO David Barger was quoted as saying he hoped the merger would expand the relationship between the two airlines.

But clearly, we look forward to deepening and expanding the relationship with American Airlines and we’ll see how that plays out as we move into, call it the third quarter into the fourth quarter [2013], based on the news that was put forth a couple of weeks ago.

It is not entirely clear where that hope came from, but it is now officially dashed; there will be no more partnership between the two.

When the interline agreement was originally announced in 2010 it was all about feeding passengers on to each others flights at JFK and Boston. American also gave JetBlue some landing slots as part of the deal, essentially conceding that JetBlue was better able to draw local passengers in to JFK from some domestic markets and that a portion of those would connect onward to international service offered by American. The deal was very limited, covering only a couple dozen routes, essentially those where the two carriers had no overlap. Frequent flyer reciprocity wasn’t even part of the original offering; that took another 8 months to develop and implement.

Today JetBlue has grown at JFK and American no longer has long-haul service at Boston. JetBlue is launching new routes from Washington National (DCA) using slots they acquired from American in order to compete on routes with the new American (currently both Charleston and Hartford are served by US Airways). JetBlue is competing more on transcon routes with American thanks to their Mint premium offering. And JetBlue now has several other interline partners for international feed which they did not have at the time the American deal was signed. Some of these even include codeshares, a deeper level of integration JetBlue and American never realized.

At the same time the integration of US Airways into the American route map essentially fills the major holes in the southeastern United States which JetBlue was feeding into American’s operations in New York. The feed will still require an extra connection in many cases, but that’s something American figures its customers will deal with. Or those passengers can be routed via Philadelphia without the extra hop, leaving the NYC market for the generally higher yielding O/D traffic.

It is hard to see this move as anything even remotely close to surprising.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Would you look at this as AA choosing PHL over JFK as its northeast hub? The NYC market can fill planes with O/D traffic more consistently than Philly. Depending on how it shakes out, could you see this as a precursor to a similar decision looming on CLT and MIA with the latter able to sustain good O/D making its hub operation less necessary?

    1. I don’t really think so, though I do believe that PHL will be more for connections and JFK for O/D. That said, not all the JFK markets can stand on their own. But I do understand why the combined AA/US would want to push connections to PHL.

      Mostly I think this is about cutting off JetBlue feed into Florida, an area where US Airways is already reasonably strong.

  2. What about as a *A partner? When US leaves *A, there are zero additional partners here in the USA except for Silver and Cape but that’s regional at best…

    Might be a fit.

    1. Highly unlikely IMO. The coverage is mostly duplicative with a few exceptions on the east coast. And I’m not so sure *A fully needs that versus the limited bilateral agreements JetBlue is inking on their own.

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