Government Asks Judge To Immediately Shut Down American-JetBlue Alliance

When the Biden administration won its anti-trust case against the American Airlines – JetBlue “Northeast Alliance,” the District Court judge’s decision basically laid out that what the airlines should have done in order to running afoul of competition laws was something alone the lines of the American Airlines – Alaska ‘West Coast International Alliance’ which involves codesharing and a frequent flyer partnership.

In fact, American’s partnership with Alaska was initially the model for talks between American and JetBlue, after initially just talking about American leasing New York slots to JetBlue (and effectively walking away from the market). According to the judge, the two airlines got into trouble by divvying up the market (deciding together which airline would fly which routes) and sharing revenue.

Now that the judge has ruled in favor of the government, the airlines and the government each have to propose what exactly should be ordered to implement the ruling. Both sides have done so.

American Airlines and JetBlue basically asked the judge to do what the judge suggested would have been permissible: codeshare and partner through their frequent flyer programs. That helps retain some competitiveness in the New York market, attracting customers away from the biggest players Delta and United.

The government though wants the partnership itself fully terminated, not only the parts that were found to be anti-competitive. At least they are willing to allow existing tickets sold to customers to be honored with the partnership benefits in effect at the time tickets were issued – so for instance customers could have their checked bag fees waived if eligible.

Robert Isom, CEO of American Airlines, has said that they plan to appeal the judge’s ruling. I haven’t seen JetBlue make the same statement. JetBlue may try to leverage walking away from the alliance to get a deal for approval of its acquisition of Spirit.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. God I hate bureaucrats! They are in an echo chamber and have to perpetuate their existence. We would be better if the vast majority of them were fired and let the market sort things out as it should work in a capitalistic society

  2. Even in a capitalist society, there are rules that everyone has to abide by. Have you ever played Monopoly? Guess what…there are rules.

  3. asking for a simple codeshare with FF program cooperation – but no joint capacity planning or revenue sharing – is an indication that neither side recognizes that the NEA as originally conceived can possibly return.
    The NEA is dead.
    Someone will fly the routes that tickets were issued for. It is up to AA and B6 to pay each other or other airlines to provide the services they planned.

    The discussion of where the slots go becomes the real discussion point in the next few months since it is highly doubtful that AA will use them.

  4. “At least they are willing to allow existing tickets sold to customers to be honored with the partnership benefits in effect at the time tickets were issued – so for instance customers could have their checked bag fees waived if eligible.”

    What a load of BS writing. Sounds like a concession when not only it’s the law, but the DOT had to make this a rule to stop airlines from making post-purchase retroactive changes (which they did).

    Anyway, good for the Government to stop illegal activities. The America way is that nobody is ever above the law, ever. It’s in the Constitition.

  5. Not only did the judge’s ruling lay out what American and JetBlue could do, but the DOJ’s own closing arguments also stated as much. Now, DOJ is reneging. It’s that simple. One could logically argue that this is a question of semantics, which is valid.

    Contrary to what Tim Dunn wrote above, appeals can take years (10 isn’t unheard of), and an appeals court could stay Judge Sorokin’s ruling to unwind the NEA. So, in theory, it could continue quite a while. If I’m not mistaken, American and JetBlue have until July 16th to formally appeal. It’s my opinion (which I state as such, not as a fact), that at least American will appeal (and Robert Isom said it would). JetBlue? Who knows? Stay tuned.

  6. The death of the NEA is a tough pill to swallow for some because it really represents the failure of AA in the Northeast.
    B6 has other alternatives to grow; AA has to grow organically and it has proven over and over again that it does not do well in highly competitive markets.
    The end of the NEA is the end of AA being an even remotely equal player in the highly competitive NYC and BOS markets.
    Like LAX, they tried but their current management realizes they can’t keep losing money on routes that they have tried for decades – without profits.
    There is a time to move on. AA has a strong southern US hub presence where there is abundant growth opportunities.
    Despite being AA’s birthplace, NYC and the NE is now in the history books for AA

  7. IMO… If AA wanted to won in the NE, they should have purchased B6 while they had a favourable DOJ. Instead, AA tried to do it on the cheap.

  8. Do we know if AA actually sold any slots to B6 for the NEA? Or just leased them?

  9. JetBlue and American really need to step up their bribery game with this administration. The “Big Guy” needs his cut!

    Jet Blue wants two things from Spirit:
    -To take Spirits New Planes (The airline introduced 14 new planes in 2022, with plans to add 26 new aircraft in 2023. Additionally, Spirit has a major first with the upcoming delivery of its first A321neo aircraft. Spirit transitioned to an all-Airbus fleet in 2006, and currently operates one of the most fuel-efficient fleets in the industry with an average plane age of about seven years).
    – Jet Blue wants to eliminate Spirit as Competition. Jet Blue wants to eliminate spirits low cost fares.

Comments are closed.