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It appears the days of American Airlines and JetBlue Airways’ partnership through the Northeast Alliance are numbered. Following a federal judge’s ruling in May, the two airlines have now outlined initial steps to wind down their partnership. Starting July 21, the two airlines will stop selling tickets aboard each others’ flights, American and JetBlue shared in separate statements July 14.
Though existing reservations booked as part of the partnership will remain unchanged, the changes seem to mark the beginning of the end for an alliance that enabled codesharing on certain flights and allowed members of both airlines’ loyalty programs to receive reciprocal perks on the carriers.
This step comes after a lengthy court battle with theU.S. Department of Justice that saw a federal judge strike the alliance down earlier this year, arguing it stymied competition and, ultimately, hurt consumers.
American Airlines is currently appealing that May ruling. However, the carrier announced in early July that JetBlue would not be joining the legal battle.
What is the Northeast Alliance?
Launched in 2021, the Northeast Alliance between American Airlines and JetBlue featured two main elements. First, American and JetBlue have codeshared on certain flights in and out of four key Northeast airports in New York and Boston. Additionally, both American and JetBlue’s loyalty members could take advantage of reciprocal loyalty benefits, which transfer between the airlines.
In announcing the looming end to both aspects of the alliance, American continued to argue the agreement has been “pro-competitive, pro-consumer.”
“We are disappointed to be ending popular benefits like codesharing and reciprocal loyalty benefits,” added JetBlue vice president Dave Fintzen in a written statement.
What happens to the Northeast Alliance now?
The most immediate change passengers will feel when it comes to the Northeast Alliance has to do with booking.
Beginning July 21, American Airlines and JetBlue customers will no longer be able to book codeshare flights split between the two airlines.
Additionally, customers will have through July 20 to book award tickets aboard the other carrier — whether it’s a JetBlue flight booked with AAdvantage miles or an American flight booked with TrueBlue points.
Customers with an existing reservation booked through the Northeast Alliance need not worry.
“We will continue to work with the JetBlue team to ensure customers who have existing codeshare bookings can travel seamlessly without disruption to their travel plans,” American Airline said in a statement.
There is one thing travelers with an existing reservation should do as soon as possible, though: add your preferred frequent flyer number to your reservation. Members of both airlines will only have until July 20 to do so.
This step will ensure you can earn miles in the loyalty program of your choice, and enjoy any elite status benefits on your upcoming flights.
Good or bad for consumers?
At its essence, the court battle over the Northeast Alliance focused on what’s ultimately good for customers. Both airlines argued in court and after the judge’s decision that their partnership has been a “win” for flyers.
But in his opinion, Judge Leo T. Sorokin argued otherwise.
“Until 2020, American and JetBlue were fierce and frequent head-to-head competitors. … The NEA changes all of that,” he wrote, raising concerns about fares and features offered as part of the partnership.
Florian Ederer, an associate professor at Yale University’s School of Management, who focuses on antitrust cases, is optimistic the alliance’s end will be good news for consumers.
“I do think that disbanding this agreement will actually reinject a healthy dose of competition, lower prices and higher quality for consumers in the Northeast,” he says, adding the alliance was “a merger in everything but name.”
Meanwhile, as American continues its appeal of the judge’s ruling, albeit without JetBlue’s participation, JetBlue still faces an additional legal hurdle: another Justice Department lawsuit over its proposed merger with ultra low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines.
(Top photo courtesy of JetBlue)
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