- JetBlue Airways and American Airlines launched a partnership earlier this year that allowed each carrier to sell each other’s flights.
- JetBlue is updating its website to highlight more of its on-board features.
- The Justice Department sued the carriers last month, saying the alliance violated antitrust laws and would increase fares.
The next challenge in JetBlue Airways’ partnership with American Airlines is to ensure passengers know whose plane they will board.
JetBlue is selling its website to more explicitly call out services, such as free Wi-Fi and snacks, or to its business class, Mint, combined, JetBlue president and chief operating officer Joanna Geraghty said in an interview this week. Modifying for outgoing flights.
“Transparency eliminates confusion,” Geraghty said. “It makes people feel comfortable if they know what they’re getting when they arrive, and it enables us to talk about our great product offerings and enables American to talk about their “
The New York-based carrier shook up US airline service when it offered seat-back screens with satellite TV in February 2000, and has since sold its Mint Business Class at a lower cost than competitors, as well as at a lower cost than rivals. More legroom is offered. Competitors such as United Airlines are in the process of investing billions of dollars to improve customer facilities.
American and JetBlue launched the Northeast Alliance in February, a partnership that allows carriers to sell tickets on each other’s planes and coordinate schedules in the region.
While JetBlue has grown rapidly over the two decades, it remains small compared to the larger network carriers.
Airlines executives say the agreement helps them better compete with major rivals United and Delta Air Lines in the usually congested airports in the Boston and New York City areas.
But services and aircraft differ on each airline. JetBlue offers free Wi-Fi, seat-back screens and sells alcoholic beverages. American Airlines sells Wi-Fi service and has suspended the sale of alcoholic beverages on domestic coach flights following a surge in unruly passengers this year. Some American Airlines planes have seat-back entertainment, although it does offer free streaming content to passengers’ personal devices as well as Apple TV+ and Apple Music, which is not listed on JetBlue’s site.
“For us, it’s about making sure customers know what they’re buying,” Geraghty said. He said the redesign would include bullet points to show what each flight offered, and would take several months.
JetBlue’s website Tweaks service shows the challenges in communicating the difference, even when airlines are selling each other’s flights.
“Basically it’s a marriage of convenience that has a fixed price for the brand,” said Samuel Engel, senior vice president of aviation at consulting firm ICF. “The more knowledgeable travelers know the difference [in service], and less experienced travelers tend to be more value focused.”
FlightSearch now displays flights on each airline’s website for routes covered under the agreement and notes in small font whether it is operated by JetBlue or American.
Not all fares are available. American does not sell JetBlue’s no-frills Basic Economy tickets. A spokeswoman for American Airlines said the Fort Worth-based carrier plans to eventually change that, but selling it side-by-side with its product could confuse passengers.
JetBlue’s basic economy fare doesn’t allow passengers to bring a bag to the overhead bin, while American does. That carrier has also loosened its basic economy restrictions.
Other difference: A list of flight options on JetBlue’s website shows a link to “Amenities Offered” for its own flights, but not American ones. American, in turn, notes that Wi-Fi is available on JetBlue and US flights, but not that it is free on JetBlue.
American said it plans to eventually tweak its site to show more detailed service information. It recently updated its website to provide seat maps for JetBlue and American and allows customers to access their reservations from any carrier.
This fall, it plans to extend specific frequent-flyer benefits from each airline to customers with that status.
“There were some customer pain points over the summer that we have fixed, a spokesperson said.
The partnership is now under fire.
The Justice Department, six states and the District of Columbia sued the carriers over the partnership last month, alleging it violated antitrust laws and would increase fares. The carrier denies the allegations and said the partnership has helped them add more flights to the region.
“It provides a very viable third competitor for Delta and United in the Northeast,” Geraghty said. “We are very confident in our position for the DOJ.” The Justice Department and the Department of Transportation did not respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
While JetBlue and American coordinate on schedules and routes to and from the Boston and New York area, they are not allowed to work together on fare or pricing information.