Photo credit: Wikimedia / Michael Gray
JetBlue Airways could triple the number of flights it offers at New York’s sought-after LaGuardia airport under its new alliance with American Airlines.
New York-based JetBlue plans as many as 50-60 peak day departures from LaGuardia with the northeast alliance in place, airline spokesperson Philip Stewart told Airline Weekly. This would represent a more than three-fold increase for the airline from 18 departures in 2019. The numbers were first reported by PaxEx.Aero citing an internal memo.
JetBlue could also add as many as 50 departures for up to 240 at Boston, 45 for up to 80 at Newark, and 65 for up to 240 at New York JFK, according to Stewart.
U.S. authorities signed off the alliance that some say borders on a joint venture in January. American and JetBlue are allowed to collaborate on flights from Boston and New York, including the former leasing some of its slots at JFK and LaGuardia to the latter. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is requiring the carriers divest seven slot pairs at JFK — plus up to 10 more if growth targets are not met — and six pairs at Washington’s Reagan National airport.
If all the slot shifts occur, JetBlue could leapfrog competitors at key New York airports. The airline would move into the number-three spot for departures at LaGuardia, jumping ahead of Air Canada, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, according to Cirium schedules. And at Newark, it would jump ahead of American and Delta Air Lines leaving it second only to United.
Neither airline has said how exactly JetBlue will use the new slots. However, recent management comments shed some light on their thinking.
During JetBlue’s fourth-quarter earnings call in January, the carrier’s head of revenue and planning Scott Laurence said certain “monopolist” markets, like those along the Atlantic coast in the southeast, are a “great opportunity for us to disrupt.” This could include cities like Charleston, S.C., Norfolk, Va., Savannah, Ga., and Wilmington, N.C.
American plans to end all 50-seat regional jet flying to JFK and LaGuardia under the alliance, President Robert Isom said during the carrier’s own fourth-quarter call last month. American served 22 cities — including Cleveland, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham and Savannah — from the airports with the small jets in 2020, Cirium schedules show. It is unknown how many of these routes American would shift to larger, dual-class regional jets or cede to JetBlue.
As part of the partnership, the Oneworld alliance carrier will begin new service between New York JFK and Tel Aviv in May, and Athens in June.
American and JetBlue plan to begin implementing their alliance by the end of the first quarter — or around March — and aim to complete the slot shifts by year-end. However, the speed of the coronavirus pandemic recovery may alter these plans as travel has declined more in northeastern markets like Boston and New York than elsewhere in the country. Most airlines expect an uptick in at least leisure passengers later in 2021 once Covid-19 vaccines are widely available.
The new partnership, one of the deepest U.S. domestic tie up in years, is expected to benefit both carriers. For example, Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth has called it a “capital-efficient solution” for American to expand its network.
The pact is not without potential stumbling blocks. Following DOT approval earlier in January, American has disclosed that both the U.S. Department of Justice and New York attorney general have undertaken their own investigations of the alliance. Airline executives have said they do not expect either regulator to block the partnership.