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

CNBC logo CNBC 7/16/2020 Leslie Josephs
  • The partnership will allow the airlines to sell seats each other's planes and earn and burn frequent flyer miles.
  • Executives say it's an effort to capture more travelers in New York and Boston.
  • American formed a similar partnership with Alaska Air earlier this year.
a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: A JetBlue Airways Embraer 190 passenger jet taxis on the tarmac at LaGuardia Airport in New York. © Provided by CNBC A JetBlue Airways Embraer 190 passenger jet taxis on the tarmac at LaGuardia Airport in New York.

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." 


Video: American, JetBlue strike deal to battle Delta, United amid Covid-19 travel decline (CNBC)

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The airlines discussed the partnership before the coronavirus pandemic, said Scott Laurence, JetBlue's head of revenue and planning, and it wasn't immediately clear how many passengers or revenue could be gained from the deal, but New York and Boston make up about two-thirds of the New York airline's network.

Laurence said they discussed the deal, subject to regulator approval, to help their recovery, which has led to billions in losses and threatened tens of thousands of jobs across the industry.

In addition to its big hubs in Dallas/Fort Worth, Charlotte, North Carolina and and Chicago, American operates a large hub in Philadelph3500ia. 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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