American Will End 50-Seater NYC Operations As JetBlue Partnership Advances

American Airlines and JetBlue are forging ahead with their strategic alliance. The two carriers are moving forward with their plan to partner on routes out of New York and Boston after a review from the US Department of Transportation (DOT). As part of it, American Airlines is now moving ahead and will be ending 50-seat regional jet operations out of New York City.

American and JetBlue
American Airlines and JetBlue are moving forward with their partnership. Photo: Getty Images

Moving forward with the partnership

After Spirit Airlines and Southwest Airlines put forth their concerns over the partnership between American and JetBlue, the two airlines agreed to certain provisions in exchange for the termination of the DOT review. The two carriers have received the green light for strategic partnership touching routes to and from the three New York City-area airports and Boston. The carriers billed this as a way to accelerate each airline’s recovery from the crisis.

Scott Laurence, head of revenue and planning at JetBlue, stated the following in a press release viewed by Simple Flying:

“Through this alliance, we are one step closer to bringing customers even more competition in the Northeast, especially on routes currently served by only one airline with high fares and poor service. Customers who love the JetBlue experience can look forward to significant growth at LaGuardia and similarly up to 70 daily flights at Newark, as well as seamless connections onto American’s long-haul network in and out of New York and Boston.”

American and JetBlue are only partnering on routes that touch New York or Boston. Photo: Getty Images

Vasu Raja, Chief Revenue Officer of American Airlines, stated the following in a release:

“With this alliance, American and JetBlue will operate the biggest network for our customers in the Northeast, which will allow American to grow our mainline operations as we recover from the pandemic. We are already planning to launch new international routes to Athens and Tel Aviv this summer, which are just two of many new routes we plan to launch.”

JetBlue, Ski Breaks, New Routes
JetBlue’s customers will get to access American’s long-haul international network out of New York and Boston. Photo: Getty Images

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What to expect from the new partnership

There are five key points the airlines highlighted. First is a seamless customer experience. This includes booking itineraries across either website and access to connections onboard both carriers to domestic and international routes. Elite members will also be able to access benefits and an improved on-the-ground experience for both airlines.

However, this does not mean that the two airlines will have the same onboard experience. American Airlines will not be going out and re-adding on-demand seatback entertainment screens on its aircraft, nor will JetBlue be putting a recliner-style business class onboard all of its aircraft.

Network alignment is the next key point. The two airlines, combined, will offer the largest network in New York City and Boston. As part of this, American Airlines will be up-gauging aircraft and ending 50-seater regional jet operations by the end of 2021. Starting in the first half of the year, JetBlue and American schedules in New York and Boston will be aligned for new flight options, improved schedules, better connecting opportunities, and more.

Embraer ERJ-145 Getty
American Airlines is moving to end 50-seater operations out of New York City. Photo: Getty Images

As for service, JetBlue will be expanding its footprint out of New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA). This will likely see American hand over routes it flew with 50-seater jets and other regional planes to JetBlue for operations with Airbus or Embraer aircraft. JetBlue highlighted that it would reactivate aircraft that would otherwise sit idle.

American Airlines has already announced plans for new services from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) and Athens International Airport (ATH). American also noted it was planning additional routes.

Newark is an interesting point in this. American Airlines never considered Newark to be an important hub like LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy. JetBlue only recently began putting a lot of effort into Newark and is now planning to get up to 70 daily flights at Newark– making it just as important for JetBlue as Los Angeles.

In terms of a codeshare agreement, JetBlue will place its code on various AA flights out of New York and Boston. American will do the same on JetBlue flights. Flights touching New York or Boston from either JetBlue or American or connecting combinations of both will be bookable on both airlines’ websites in the coming weeks. JetBlue customers will access more than 60 new routes operated by American. In comparison, American’s customers will be able to access more than 130 new routes operated by JetBlue.

American 777
American Airlines will focus on long-haul international routes out of JFK. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

The codeshare will not extend to other markets. For example, JetBlue and American will not codeshare on routes between Miami and Los Angeles.

For elite members, the biggest benefit is reciprocal elite benefits. This includes the ability to earn and burn miles or points on either carrier. There are no immediate announcements as to what elite members will receive on both carriers. Both airlines expect to announce more details later this year.

Moving closer to ending 50-seater operations out of New York

By the end of 2021, American Airlines will up-gauge aircraft and operate all New York services with a first class cabin. This means the end of Embraer ERJ-140 and ERJ-145 service.

American had long sought to end service with small jets out of New York. These planes were not customer favorites and cost a lot of money, considering they took up ground and gate space at a heavily restricted and popular airport.

American ERJ145LR
The 50-seater jets do not have a first class cabin. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

However, American Airlines was not big enough in New York-JFK to effectively operate these planes with larger mainline jets like Airbus A319s or Boeing 737s, nor was the small enough to exit the market entirely. This new partnership will capitalize on JetBlue’s JFK hub and brand presence and focus on the best of both carriers.

JetBlue will be operating more of the domestic and short-haul routes. Meanwhile, American Airlines will operate the long-haul international services and offer connections to and from JetBlue metal.

The end of the DOT review

Southwest and Spirit Airlines raised concerns over the American-JetBlue partnership, citing concerns about reducing competition. In return for the end of the DOT review, JetBlue and American include growth commitments to ensure capacity expansion, slot divestitures at New York-JFK and Wahington Reagan National Airport (DCA), and antitrust compliance measures.

In addition, the two airlines will also refrain from certain kinds of coordination in city-pair markets where they are substantial competitors to each other, and there is little service from other airlines.

Are you glad to see the American-JetBlue partnership move ahead? Let us know in the comments!