Yesterday, American Airlines announced a new “partnership” with JetBlue. Set in New York and featuring Mayor Bloomberg, each CEO offered some details about how this arrangement will work. I watched the press conference via internet and came away with some thoughts …
The focus, of course, was on New York but there were other matters discussed, including JetBlue’s presence at DCA and American increasing flights via Minneapolis and Atlanta. Kind gentlemen that they are, neither mentioned these happen to be Delta hubs. Also, American is increasing their Chicago-LaGuardia service, a direct stab at Delta’s recent announcement regarding the same route.
Both airlines danced around the topic of oneworld alliance. They didn’t say yes, didn’t say no. Instead, they are “open” to that as a possibility. Indeed throughout the press conference, both CEO’s used the term, partnership. They carefully steered away from using other words such as alliance or codeshare.
It is fair to mention that American and JetBlue are actually competitors in many markets. Nevertheless, yesterday’s announcement avoided their adversarial side, focusing instead on how they compliment each other.
Primary example: JetBlue’s passengers to JFK and Boston will be able to team up with American’s international flights through interline connections. In return, American’s passengers will have more opportunities for nonstop service to select US cities via JetBlue. Not mentioned was that the two airlines fly into different JFK terminals.
Also interesting, American CEO Gerard Arpey specifically mentioned adding Embraer aircraft with a first class section. However, AA’s website says that they will be using modified CRJ-700’s. The latter is more likely.
This caught my attention for a couple reasons. For those who saw the movie Up in the Air, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is seen flying American Eagle sitting in first class. Of course, there are no first class seats on American Eagle. Well, this is about to change in a big way.
This is no doubt in response to Delta’s prior announcement they will be using regional E-175’s for their new shuttle services, which just happen to include 12 first class seats. What this means for passengers is some nice first class seating on these American and Delta flights, with an added benefit of no middle seats in coach.
A couple things in the press conference were disappointing. First, American mentioned they and JetBlue are looking into a reciprocal frequent flyer program but offered no details. Can American passengers fly for fewer award miles on discounter JetBlue? Better yet, can American passengers get full status miles flying a heavily discounted JetBlue fare?
Second, there was no mention at all about Admirals Club privileges. Will JetBlue passengers have access to the lounge and if so, under what conditions? My guess, they won’t unless paired with an American flight.
Perhaps most important – how will American’s oneworld alliance partners and JetBlue partner Lufthansa feel about this American/JetBlue relationship? Will the partners participate or feel short changed? Is this the beginning of ‘AAirBlue’, as one guy on Twitter called it?
There are lots of questions with no immediate answers but this bears watching. At the very least, American Airlines made it clear they intend to be strong in the competitive New York market, with a potential that could be very good for consumers.