American Airlines Boosts Commitment to New York with JetBlue Pact

 - March 31, 2010, 12:00 PM

American Airlines promised to take a bigger bite out of the Big Apple today, as the Dallas-based carrier’s CEO, Gerard Arpey, stood with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and JetBlue Airways CEO Dave Barger at the American Airlines Theater near Times Square to announce a series of initiatives aimed at expanding its commitment to New York City and beyond. The centerpiece of the effort involves a new interline partnership between American and JetBlue in New York and Boston and a slot swap between the two airlines that will see American transfer eight slot pairs at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and one slot pair at White Plains, N.Y., to JetBlue, while JetBlue transfers 12 slot pairs at JFK to American.

Although Arpey said “we haven’t crossed that bridge yet,” when asked about the possibility of a full code-share agreement with reciprocating frequent-flier programs, the interline agreement would start in June in non-overlapping markets. Pressed on what considerations for a full code-share deal remain unresolved, Arpey said simply, “Economics.”

Under the terms of the deal, JetBlue passengers will connect on flights to 12 of American’s international destinations from JFK and Boston, including Barcelona, São Paulo and Tokyo. On domestic routes where the carriers don’t now compete, American customers will be able to book nonstop JetBlue flights from JFK and Boston to 18 domestic markets, including Portland, Maine; Nantucket, Mass.; and Burlington, Vt.  

American, meanwhile, announced plans to add 31 new flights on 13 new routes from La Guardia and JFK Airports by the end of the year, bringing its total New York City daily departures to 216 and unique destinations to 63. Today’s announcement includes seven new destinations served on 23 new roundtrip flights. When combined with new options for travel on JetBlue, American’s New York customers will gain access to 81 unique destinations on 217 nonstop flights by year-end. American also serves four destinations with 18 daily departures out of Newark, N.J.

“Very importantly to us, this deal will generate a lot of traffic in support of our international network, including planned joint ventures with British Airways and Iberia across the Atlantic and with Japan Airlines across Asia,” said Arpey. “While we’re not prepared to offer details today, we fully expect to announce new international flights out of New York as soon as we’re allowed to discuss schedule and capacity decisions with British Airways and Iberia.” American plans to launch the transatlantic joint venture involving those European airlines in the second half of this year.

From La Guardia, American plans to field newly delivered Bombardier CRJ700s, outfitted with both first class and coach, via its American Eagle subsidiary. New routes from La Guardia include Minneapolis, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C. It also plans to use the dual-class CRJs to upgrade existing routes from La Guardia to Toronto and Raleigh-Durham and increase service from La Guardia to Miami and Chicago.

From JFK, as previously announced, American begins service in April and May to San Jose, Costa Rica; Madrid; and Manchester, England. Previously announced nonstop service to Austin, Texas, begins in July. Today, American announced it will add twice-daily nonstop service between JFK and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and increase daily frequencies to Orlando, Las Vegas and Miami starting in November. For its part, American Eagle will start new daily round trips between JFK and Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Norfolk using Embraer ERJ-series jets by year-end. Starting in early 2011 American plans to use the new two-class CRJ700s to upgrade service from Kennedy to Reagan Washington National Airport, Boston and Toronto.

Along with the service enhancements, American said it plans to invest another $30 million in terminal improvements at La Guardia to complement the Concourse D checkpoint expansion it finished in 2008 and current installation of escalators in the baggage claim area. American has recently chosen an architectural firm to refurbish its La Guardia Admiral’s Club location, including an upgrade of all furnishings, restroom renovations and expansion of seating areas. It expects to finish the job in roughly two years. Meanwhile, the airline is considering various options to connect the two concourses on the secure side of the terminal to allow its passengers flying out of Concourse C easy access to the Concourse D Admiral’s Club.

Also at JFK, American has issued requests for bids on a 3,000-sq-ft expansion of its 11,000-sq-ft Admiral’s Club, along with some reconfiguration and refurbishment. Meanwhile, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has issued a proposal to American Airlines and British Airways to expand JFK’s Terminal 8 and allow the airlines to colocate their operations.