Did Qatar Airways Force JetBlue To Terminate Its Codeshare With Emirates?

One of the claims that the judge makes, ruling against the American Airlines – JetBlue alliance, is that JetBlue is no longer perceived as an independent upstart competitor by regulators. They haven’t been one in a decade. They’ve cut legroom and they sell basic economy fares. They made themselves into a legacy carrier, with worse technology and operations, a long time ago.

However the judge cites regulators just now catching up because of the Northeast Alliance noting that Southwest lost out to Spirit for Newark rights and that JetBlue had hoped to be given 10 year use of slots at London Heathrow for free by the government but lost out on that, too.

So JetBlue had to go lease slots at London Heathrow from Qatar Airways. And they didn’t just pay cash, apparently. They also had to terminate an airline partnership to satisfy Qatar. Here’s are two footnotes to the decision:

The slots were available after the CMA required American and British Airways to divest them in order to remedy competitive concerns arising from American’s Atlantic Joint Business Agreement (“AJB”) with British Airways. Doc. No. 325 ¶ 247. The slots were to be leased, at no cost and for ten years, to a competing airline that was not part of the AJB.

In particular, to lease the slots from another carrier, JetBlue had to pay for them and was required to terminate an existing codeshare relationship with a different international carrier. And, JetBlue is not guaranteed access to the slots for as long a term as the CMA slots would have provided.

Will Horton points out that JetBlue ended its codeshare with Qatar rival Emirates.

Less than a week after JetBlue partnership with Emirates terminated United and Emirates announced a partnership so it’s presumed that was the reason.

What doesn’t make sense in the theory that Qatar made JetBlue give up a U.A.E. airline partnership, though, is that JetBlue replaced its Emirates partnership with… an Etihad partnership.

The years-long blockade of Qatar certainly is a reason for continued bitterness, and Qatar and the U.A.E (and Saudi Arabia) occupy different power centers in the Mideast. It’s unclear why they’d be ok with an Etihad partnership but not an Emirates one? And in any case Qatar’s close partner American has an Etihad partnership as well – and Etihad is based in the U.A.E.’s capital. Moreover Qatar was already a JetBlue partner, a relationship they were willing to have alongside Emirates to begin with.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. good catch, Gary. Likely true
    this highlights the problems w/ extensive non-alliance partnerships as AS and B6 have and also that QR has a major equity stake in British Airways.
    EK swapped its relationship with B6 for UA which is a much bigger fish.
    The gist of US-ME carrier partnerships is still about connections – B6 was connecting traffic for EK and QR in the US while EK will do the same for UA in DXB. The local market is very small and highly competitive which is why DL is not chasing a ME carrier relationship for now.

  2. DL isn’t chasing a Middle East carrier relationship right now? Uh, Saudia’s a member of SkyTeam. Or do they not count? Does it have to be one of the UAE Three? If one of them wanted to team up with Delta, Etihad would have joined SkyTeam by now, especially after Qatar joined oneWorld. They haven’t. The only logical answer to that is that Etihad doesn’t want them.

  3. Saudia doesn’t count any more than AR does in Argentina. Delta has picked its best friends, has equity investments in them, and its best friend list doesn’t even require being in Skyteam. Latam is not and Virgin Atlantic wasn’t for years.

    The issue is that the Middle East local markets are quite small compared to the amount of capacity the US carriers could offer relative to the “home airlines”.
    Turkish fits the same model – lots of capacity to the US relative to a fairly small local US market.

    Further, DL has best friends that fly to most of the markets the ME3 serve – AF/KL and VS all serve India and other countries in S. Asia – the biggest draw for a UA/EK relationship.

    And Delta has said they will serve India with their own metal but needs the right plane – which may or may not mean more high performance A350-900s or the A350-1000.

    And specific to B6 and AS, they serve solely as the domestic feeders for the ME carriers which ironically is what B6 tried to do most closely with AA and AS said it did not want to do for DL’s transpacific operation at SEA.

  4. LOL.. This is hilarious!!! Tim Dunn even found time to innovate a reason to justify why DL does not have any ME partners and and spin it into something as if it some great thing! Well, everyone knows that the real reason why DL cannot get any ME3 partners is because for the better part of the last decade, DL was so busy churning out videos against them. And thanks to that, they don’t have a good partner to serve South Asia. And btw, if you really think AF/KL/VS is their way to serve India, it is a joke because they are absolutely nothing compared to what EK or QR are in India – they have not even managed to fly once daily into BLR/MAA.

  5. relationships with ME airlines COMPETE with the joint venture partners of the big 3.

    There is nothing that UA gets from its relationship with EK or AA gets from its relationship with QR other than a poor production comparison, a very small part of the local market, and connections to parts of India that they can’t carry on their own metal.

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