In a twist, American partners with JetBlue in bid for New York and Boston

A JetBlue Airways Embraer 190 passenger jet taxis on the tarmac at LaGuardia Airport in New York.

Robert Alexander | Getty Images

American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are teaming up — again.

The airlines, which ended a similar partnership in 2014, have formed an alliance that will allow the carriers to sell seats on each other’s planes, a proposal that aims to capture more market share in New York, where JetBlue is based, and Boston, a longtime battleground among carriers. The partnership could give them control of more of the market to fend off competitors like both airlines’ big rival: Delta.

“JetBlue has always had great, great brand strength in New York and Boston, which American for years, we struggled to be relevant in those two markets,” Vasu Raja, chief revenue officer of Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines, told CNBC in an interview. “By contrast, American has immense relevance for customers across the Midwest, the Southeast … and even a big global reach too.” 

The airlines discussed the partnership, which is subject to regulator review, before the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to billions in losses and threatened tens of thousands of jobs across the industry, said Scott Laurence, JetBlue’s head of revenue and planning. He said, however, they expect the deal to speed up their recovery.

It it wasn’t immediately clear how many passengers or revenue could be gained from the deal. Laurence said New York and Boston make up about two-thirds of the New York airline’s network.

In addition to its big hubs in Dallas/Fort Worth, Charlotte, North Carolina and and Chicago, American operates a large hub in Philadelphia. JetBlue has an extensive network from New York and Boston, throughout the Caribbean and northern Latin America, and offers cross-country flights featuring its business-class Mint. JetBlue is still planning to launch service to London from the East Coast next year.

In a turf war on the other side of the country, American and Seattle-based Alaska Airlines expanded their partnership in February to include international flights to try to get more high-paying business travelers from companies like Amazon.

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