New JetBlue-British Airways Alliance Could Pose Major Challenge to American Airlines

British Airways and JetBlue have filed with the Department of Transportation to codeshare.

They’re requesting “a blanket statement of authorization” to place their flight numbers on each others’ flights, and they’re asking for expedited consideration and waiver of the usual advance notice in order to begin marketing these services “in the near future.” Although the specific authorities sought are broader,

  • British Airways says it plans to place its code on 39 domestic routes from New York City, and 36 domestic routes from Boston.
  • JetBlue says that it plans to place its code on 17 British Airways European destinations from London Heathrow.

British Airways Business Class Suite

Under this formulation, neither airline would place their codes on the other airline’s transatlantic flights. British Airways substantially dominates London Heathrow and additional codeshares would be likely to raise objections. British Airways and JetBlue have had an interline agreement since 2013.

Enilria suggests that this could be JetBlue ‘edging closer to oneworld’ membership. JetBlue and American Airlines had a partnership that was struck down by a district court in the Biden administration’s anti-trust lawsuit. American is appealing that ruling, while JetBlue moved on to focus on securing its acquisition of Spirit Airlines which was also struck down.

The judge in the American Airlines-JetBlue case said that a more modest partnership – that didn’t involve the airlines jointly deciding which carrier would operate which routes, along with revenue sharing – would pass muster in much the same way that American and Alaska partner today. There’s been some public comment on openness to re-opening that partnership.

It is possible that American and JetBlue could re-consummate a partnership. That would be great for New York and Boston customers, and well as addressing each one’s challenge in New York that they’re smaller than Delta and United and have a difficult time meeting all the needs of New Yorkers given government slot controls at New York JFK and LaGuardia which prevent them from growing.

However I think it’s at least as likely that this is British Airways thumbing its nose at joint venture partner American Airlines.

  • British Airways recently ran a status match offer seeking to directly acquire U.S. customers. This directly encroached on American Airlines turf (and offered American Airlines lounge access free to current elites of competitor airlines). I’m told that American Airlines Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja was furious over the offer.

  • British Airways is supposedly very unhappy with American Airlines moves to walk away from managed corporate travel, offering fewer corporate deals and reducing staff that service those deals. American has also moved away from working with many travel agents, limiting the fares they have access to and – starting in July – even restricting the tickets they issue from earning miles unless those agencies meet certain milestones for how they book American Airlines tickets. British Airways relies on corporate travel to fill its large premium cabins especially in cities like New York and Boston, where they’ll be linking up with JetBlue.

British Airways Airbus A350 Forward Business Cabin

American Airlines and British Airways coordinate schedules and share revenue across the Atlantic, along with Finnair and other members of BA’s IAG ownership group. They’re co-located in New York JFK’s terminal 8. But British Airways is clearly not happy with the connectivity they’re getting from American there, or the connecting traffic onto their European departures, hence the deal with JetBlue.

These seems like it could represent a fissure in the American Airlines relationship with British Airways, who seems to be increasingly willing to make moves in the U.S. market separate from American. However they won’t be picking up local JetBlue customers in New York and Boston for non-stop London flights with this deal.

Meanwhile, JetBlue has been struggling and this at least helps their London Heathrow flights, since transatlantic has underperformed while helping them sell domestically.

British Airways Terminal 5, London Heathrow

(HT: @airlinefilings)

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. Hopefully AA access to BA premium cabin awards doesn’t deteriorate as a result of this deal. Surcharges sure but there are opportunities Id hate to see go.

  2. Maybe I misread this post?

    American and Alaska don’t jointly decide which carrier will operate which routes?!?!


  3. Totally agree with you Lav. Only way to save B6 in the long run. BA and AA a long term marriage that a little on the side won’t break up.

  4. Gary always has make drama with AA. This is just business.
    I agree with the above comments, AA-B6 should do a simple code share, ala, AA-AS.
    “However I think it’s at least as likely that this is British Airways thumbing its nose at joint venture partner American Airlines.”
    Yeah…no. Such a drama queen Gary! You were a flight attendant for AA, right?

  5. @ Lav — Yep, and we’ll really know it’s coming when we start seeing Doug Parker and hearing talk of AA and/or B6 filing bankruptcy. Right up his alley.

  6. B6 needs to clean up its hub &spoke act at BOS and JFK to impress the Brit crowd. Also, what about Lounge access?? Are B6 flights to LHR granted access as well? Lots of details to iron out!!

  7. AA does not really serve BOS or even JFK other than to connect to their hubs, so this is not a surprise. It offers BA a chance to get one-stop connections to a whole lot of new cities that do not have direct flights to LHR.
    B6 need to sort out their ops though!

  8. @ Pilot93434 — I agree. I don’t think this is a big deal, and I do think that JetBlue will, one way or another, be folded into oneworld if they survive as an independent airline.

  9. How will this work for connecting pax? Since they operate in different terminals, will jetBlue pax have to go through security again to make their BA flight? Or is everyone expected to get on a new inter-terminal bus service?

  10. Let’s hope this finally puts pressure on AA to back down from their standoff with corporate travel. Right now I can barely book any AA fares through my corporate travel site as fares are often 200-400 higher than United.

  11. Yet no codeshare with American hmmmmm.

    This move is a no brainer and has been suggested by everyone

  12. Given the Atlantic joint business agreement between AA and BA, you’re really stretching by saying this hurts AA. Here I am giving you a click anyway though. Shame on me, really.

  13. This benefits the AA-BA joint venture regardless. If BA suddenly has more connectivity on this side of the Atlantic thanks to B6 providing onward travel to 70+ new locations…BA can pick up more TATL traffic in general that I assume would benefit the overall revenue pool shared across the JV.

  14. How can you say AA doesn’t serve BOS? It’s nearly as large as DL there, and DL calls it a hub. Almost all major business cities are served from JFK by AA and thoses that are not (ATL), BA fly to non-stop. This is noise about nothing. . .typical.

  15. AA/BA have a metal-neutral JV. BA might not be happy with AA feed, but B6 feed is good for AA as well. This is making a mountain out of a molehill. I highly, highly doubt that AA and BA would get a divorce, so to speak. They are just looking for ways to maximize the partnership. And if B6 can’t feed AA, feeding BA is just as good.

  16. @pedro nogal – you seem to be missing the point, which is this seems to suggest BA is unhappy with what AA has been bringing to the table- the JV is not forever

  17. I’m looking at the B6 Route Map and trying to figure out where this codeshare will benefit the most.

    A lot of B6 flying out of BOS/JFK is to existing cities with BA or AA service to LHR. Most of the relevant routes will be East Coast US – as there are other larger AA hubs that can handle mid-west and traffic further west. Charleston, Richmond, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Portland ME, Jacksonville and Tallahassee would be sizeable mid-tier cities where the B6 codeshare could be compelling. For these destinations it’s probably use up the larger planes going to JFK/BOS for connections versus limited space on CLT and PHL flights.

    Where I think this codeshare will be most used is around UK School/Bank Holidays and holidaymakers looking for trips to MCO / Beachs in Florida. Business travel would be down, but the frequencies to BOS/JFK remain and this allows BA to take passengers to JFK/BOS and for them to connect to MCO/ rest of Florida.

  18. Last week JetBlue touched down at Edinburgh Airport for the first time with its daily services between Edinburgh and New York now underway.

    It’s great news for Scotland… but also this route is perfect for US visitors to ‘open jaw’ their visits to the UK. It’s a brilliant marketing opportunity especially when LHR to EDI can be booked on a B6 flight number (codeshare on BA). JetBlue could really go t town in marketing this itinerary. If they build a booking widget to make booking that itinerary super quick & easy they could easily see significant uplift in bookings.

    They could do the same for visiting London and other European cities served by JetBlue.

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