American Airlines and JetBlue Aim to Thwart Illegal Partnership

American Airlines and JetBlue Argue for Partnership Despite Antitrust Loss

US airlines, American Airlines and JetBlue, recently advocated for keeping their partnership to sell tickets on each other’s flights in the Northeast and link their frequent-flyer programs. Despite losing their antitrust trial over the partnership, the airlines voiced their desire to continue their collaboration. In contrast, the US Department of Justice noted that this move would prevent travelers from benefiting from restoring competition between the carriers.

Parties’ Proposals

In different documents presented in front of a federal judge in Boston, the airlines and the government argued about the implementation of the court’s ruling last month, which declared the breakup of the partnership necessary. The Justice Department recommended a final judgement to stop American and JetBlue from continuing most parts of the partnership straightaway. However, the airlines opposed the plea to end ticket selling and frequent-flyer benefits, as these practices are common in the airline industry.

American Airlines and JetBlue’s Responses

The airlines stated that discontinuing their code-sharing practices and reciprocal frequent-flyer benefits would adversely affect the passengers. As a result, the airlines proposed that existing ticket holders should continue to enjoy the benefits of the partnership. Still, they should slowly wind down their cooperation on airport gates and takeoff and landing slots at crucial airports.

Opposition to the Justice Department’s Request

American Airlines and JetBlue also objected to the Department of Justice’s request to be prohibited from any revenue-sharing deals or coordinating routes with each other over ten years, as well as with any other US airlines over the next two years. The alliance between American Airlines and JetBlue, or Northeast Alliance (NEA), was launched after receiving the approval of the outgoing Trump administration in January 2021. It helped the airlines compete against Delta Air Lines and United Airlines in the Northeast.

Filing of the Lawsuit

However, in September 2021, the Biden administration sued the airlines, assuring that their partnership would cause a reduction in competition and raise prices for consumers. After a non-jury trial held last fall, US District Judge Leo Sorokin ruled that the NEA violated federal antitrust laws. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker declared that the airline would appeal the verdict, indicating the company’s intention to keep the partnership despite the setback.

Final Thoughts

American Airlines and JetBlue’s request to maintain their partnership despite their antitrust loss has met opposition from the US Department of Justice. While the airlines argue for the continuity of their code-sharing practices and reciprocal frequent-flyer benefits, the government hopes to break up most of the arrangement. It remains to be seen how the federal judge in Boston will carry out his ruling regarding the partnership.

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