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Update: As of Oct. 13, 2021, the Northeast Alliance partnership between JetBlue and American includes some reciprocal elite status benefits with more expected to follow in late 2021. Additionally, as of late 2021, JetBlue awards flights can now be booked on American's website, a small, but important improvement to the partnership.
American Airlines and JetBlue issued a surprise announcement in July 2020 laying out a new strategic partnership that provides more route options, especially for travelers in the Northeast.
Here’s what you need to know about the new agreement and what it means for you, the traveler.
The new American and JetBlue partnership
This strategic codeshare partnership, along with American adding new long-haul routes, aims to enhance connectivity for travelers in the Northeast.
Benefits to flyers include a proposed codeshare on 190 routes currently operated by the individual airlines, which would allow travelers to combine these within a single itinerary for simpler ticketing, check-in and connections.
Additionally, both airlines plan to offer new frequent flyer benefits and reciprocity between programs.
What we know now about the new agreement
The new routes
American announced it would resume international service from New York (JFK) to Rio de Janeiro this winter and add service to Athens, Greece, and Tel Aviv, Israel.
JetBlue will add to its presence in the New York City area with new flights at LaGuardia and Newark, as well as more flights at JFK. Together, the two airlines will operate 489 daily flights and serve 120 destinations from the greater New York City area.
JetBlue’s extensive network from JFK will help feed American’s long-haul international routes with connecting passengers.
After the COVID-19 pandemic ends, American Airlines also plans to launch new flights to Europe, Africa, India and South America out of the Northeast. This move represents a massive shift in American’s strategy, as they haven’t expanded their long-haul routes from JFK in over four years.
A codeshare agreement
American and JetBlue’s new codeshare agreement will offer flyers seamless flight connections to more destinations by combining forces, along with additional schedule options. In total, more than 60 routes operated by American Airlines and 130 routes operated by JetBlue are slated to be included in the codeshares.
Premium cabin travelers can look forward to expanded premium transcontinental service from New York to the West Coast. Both JetBlue and American Airlines customers will have the option to fly on American’s Airbus A321T and in JetBlue’s popular Mint class.
Both airlines have additionally stated that they will be expanding their premium cabin fleet.
» Learn more: How to choose a travel credit card
The unknown: Details on reciprocity
Although released details are vague, frequent flyers can expect to see added benefits along with reciprocity between both airlines' loyalty programs.
Exactly how each program’s benefits will crossover is unknown, as currently, both airlines operate very different loyalty program structures. JetBlue currently only has one elite status level, whereas American has four.
At a bare minimum, it’s safe to assume that travelers can expect reciprocity across lower-level benefits such as free checked bags and priority boarding. However, the devil will be in the details on how reciprocity applies to higher-level benefits such as upgrades, lounge access and bonus mile earnings.
It’s also important to note that JetBlue is not joining OneWorld, so reciprocal benefits will only go as far as American Airlines flights (not partner airlines). Also of note is that JetBlue operates on a cash-based award chart (meaning the cost of an award ticket is directly tied to the cash cost of the flight), whereas American’s award chart operates off pre-set geographical zones and various award levels having set prices.
Maximizing the new partnership
While some details are still to come, the real question is: How can you benefit the most from this new deal, and will that be different for current JetBlue customers as opposed to current American customers?
What JetBlue flyers get out of this new partnership
With the new partnership, JetBlue loyalists can expect to gain seamless routing to far more destinations with American Airlines codeshare flights. The codeshare partnership will significantly increase the number of domestic and international destinations reachable with TrueBlue points, making your TrueBlue points that much more versatile than JetBlue’s somewhat limited routing options in the past.
The ability to earn and eventually redeem JetBlue TrueBlue points on American Airlines flights will help you both accelerate your TrueBlue status and earnings as well as offer greater versatility in destinations for point redemptions.
If you are a JetBlue Mosaic status holder, you can look forward to status benefit reciprocity when flying on American (details to be announced). Hopefully, passengers flying on JetBlue’s Mint will gain Admirals Club access when flying premium transcontinental flights.
Another detail to keep an eye on will be redemption values of JetBlue points on American Airlines flights. With a cash-based dynamic award system, there are currently limited “sweet spots” for JetBlue awards, but that may change once you can use them for American Airlines flights.
» Learn more: JetBlue TrueBlue rewards program: The complete guide
What American Airlines flyers get out of this new partnership
One of the biggest takeaways for American Airlines flyers is gaining access to fly (hopefully using miles) in JetBlue’s premium Mint cabin. With lie-flat seats, special dining options and next-level service, the Mint experience is an excellent option for coast-to-coast flights as well as trips to the Caribbean. And, as mentioned previously, American flyers will now have more options domestically (via JetBlue codeshare flights) to connect themselves to American Airlines' long-haul international flights.
Another huge win will be the possibility to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles while flying on JetBlue flights — all while getting loyalty benefit reciprocity along the way.
» Learn more: American Airlines AAdvantage program: The complete guide
The bottom line
The American Airlines and JetBlue partnership announcement may have come as a surprise to many, but it doesn’t diminish several valuable already known benefits. Keep your eye out for more details of the partnership to be announced in the coming months.
This partnership offers travelers more destinations, new routes, enhanced schedules, more ways to earn, more ways to redeem and expanded loyalty benefits. All in all, a win for flyers.
Image courtesy of Businesswire.com