American’s Partnerships With Alaska And JetBlue Will Force American To Improve

American Airlines has new partnerships coming online with JetBlue and Alaska Airlines. Normally we think of these sorts of partnerships as reducing competition, but there are two ways this will increase competition.

  • Alaska and JetBlue are strong in places where American is weak. Combined they’ll be strong enough to be viable in markets like New York where Delta and United are bigger than either competitor separately. Alaska is already strong in Seattle, but lacks its own long haul route network.

  • Alaska and JetBlue offer better inflight products than American Airlines on domestic and short haul routes. Customers can easily choose to fly JetBlue or Alaska instead of American on routes where there’s overlap or where flying either involves a connection. With coordinated codeshares, rather than metal-neutral revenue-sharing joint ventures, American still needs customers to fly its own metal. That means the partnership may spur American to improve its inflight product (or fall behind).

JetBlue offers a little more legroom, free internet and seat back TVs. American Airlines doesn’t even have a date for bringing back live TV streaming to customer devices, and they’ve just started a test of free Facebook messenger on a subset of their fleet. JetBlue’s business class (Mint) on domestic and short haul international is far superior to what American offers in seat, catering and service.

Alaska Airlines offers better domestic first class seats, better food up front, and friendlier service. And customers get more room too.

  • An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 has 159 seats.

  • American Airlines is taking their 737-800s with 160 seats and adding 12 seats to them. Each customer gets less space on the aircraft.

JetBlue was in cost-cutting mode before the pandemic. It’s possible that the partnership brings everyone down to American’s product. But there’s no reason to expect that. What’s the mechanism that would encourage JetBlue to remove seat back video after 20 years?

I’m looking forward to the partnerships that will allow American Airlines AAdvantage elites to continue earning status while opting out of flying American’s new domestic ‘Oasis’ product. And if enough customers make that choice, American might reconsider key elements of the new domestic product which they were rumored to be doing a year and a half ago.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, emailed you at gmail and gmu, ok if you don’t want to answer, just let me know you received, please

  2. Only way that American will improve is to get rid of upper management and change out the majority of F/A’s, Gate Agents, etc. They need management that actually knows how to run an airline and F/A’s that actually want to be there and not there just because of the money and free travel benefits.

  3. OneXmarine,
    Totally agree with you as well as American should return to the seats before these. Americans are NOT getting any smaller. IMO, Companies should not have to follow federal dictates as to size, appearance, et al.

  4. @ Joanie Adams – No we are not getting smaller. This pandemic hasn’t helped anyone either. The stress even for those still working is tremendous and that adds to the weight.

  5. Perhaps the most relevant books in an MBO program and in business are in competition-for a reason. Competition is the essence of successful business.

    American has turned its back on positioning by rejecting and refusing to invest in the customer experience. American’s race to the bottom could indeed have a negative impact on the more passenger favorably inclined Alaska; even Jet Blue.

    Readers should know how railroads interacted during the golden age of passenger trains—through 1955. The Southern Pacific inter-changed Pullmans to eastern lines. Given a choice to New York, the Southern Pacific would actually compare the Pennsylvania and New York Central between San Francisco to New York by actually measuring the quality and length of flowers used in dining cars; as well as the size and quality of lounge space.

    Today, Amtrak is a classic example of existing in a non-competitive environment. This explains why it has failed to provide a consistently acceptable and high quality brand denoting its product and service. Why? Without competition, no need to be positioned to fight for traffic.

  6. If American needs to improve fire Parker He brought a once a great airline to the worst in the industry.

  7. @John C – I’ve been around along time and AA started going downhill when Bob Crandall retired. As far as Parker goes he should be fired, no argument there, but AA was going down the tubes long before he came along. He just accelerated it. But you can’t blame Parker for the attitude of F/A’s and Gate agents. That’s on them.

  8. Now Gary, you know these partnerships will not force AA to improve. AA should improve no doubt, but they are in a world of financial hurt – more than any other carrier – and will not have the flexibility to make those improvements. Adding 12 extra seats was their way to squeeze more revenue out of those planes. I cannot see them reversing this trend especially coming out of this pandemic and need for additional revenue.

    We will be stuck with the same old American Airlines.

  9. You can put a 120 more seats on a plane and if your service is so poor that the traveling public won’t buy your tickets you’ll go out of business regardless. Certainly there are a certain percentage of the population that will fly in the cargo hold if it will save them money, hence carriers like Ryan Air, Spirit, etc., but is that the kind of carrier the people are willing to hand over big bucks to fly? I don’t think so. AA needs to restructure their pay scale and get rid of the bad apples that make people want to fly other carriers. Your loyalty program will only carry you so far.

  10. “What’s the mechanism that would encourage JetBlue to remove seat back video after 20 years?”
    That mechanism is Doug Parker becoming JetBlue’s CEO

  11. I disagree. In most all of these sorts of corporate “partnerships” the “lowest common denominator” usually prevails. Given AA’s larger size in the “partnership” they will either force the partner to standardize to the AA level or AS and B6 will figure out quickly that they can get away with AA’s bare minimums. Lets see where things shake out after a couple of years.

  12. I’m Plat with AA and trying to get to state 50 in 2021–Alaska. I just read that AA is going to add FAI as it planned last year. If I can fly AA direct from DFW, I will do it in a heartbeat, even if it costs more, rather than the maze it takes me now on AS, through SEA or who-knows-where, even after the Oneworld merge. At the end of the day, if AA can take me from DFW or a place that can quickly connect me to DFW, which is likely, and fly me direct, I am there. And I think AA knows that. I’ve taken two long haul charitable business trips over the holidays (on one now), both with AA because 1) they got me there directly with great fares and 2) they counted this mileage for both years. So far, they are batting 1000, so I do hope they keep it up. Some things still have to happen in person (this week I am delivering supplies to an orphanage in Latin America–which never would have made it in a shipment, for example).

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