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JetBlue and American will share passengers in bid to fend off United and Delta

While the airlines discussed the partnership before the pandemic, they expect the deal to speed up their recovery.
Image: American Airlines Jetblue
American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are teaming up to sell seats on each other’s planes. Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images
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American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are teaming up — again.

The airlines, which ended a similar partnership in 2014, on Thursday unveiled a new alliance that will allow them to sell seats on each other’s planes, giving them more market share in the New York area, JetBlue’s home; and Boston, a longtime battleground among carriers. That could give them a better shot at fending off competitors such as Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. Travelers can also earn and burn frequent flyer miles with flights on either carrier.

“JetBlue has always had great, great brand strength in New York and Boston," where American has "struggled to be relevant,” Vasu Raja, chief revenue officer of Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines, told CNBC. “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 regulatory 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 wasn’t immediately clear how many passengers or how much 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 Mint business-class. JetBlue is still planning to launch service to London from the East Coast next year.

American said it will grow its international network to include service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Tel Aviv, Athens and Rio de Janeiro.

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 such as Amazon.