Etihad, JetBlue Agree To Code-Share on U.S. Routes

 - January 22, 2014, 1:51 PM
“The U.S. is a major and growing market for Etihad Airways," said its president and CEO James Hogan, shown here on a visit to Washington, D.C., last April. (Photo: Bill Carey)

Abu Dhabi state-owned carrier Etihad Airways announced a code-share agreement with JetBlue Airways on January 22 that would extend its reach into the U.S. market if the Department of Transportation (DOT) approves. A week earlier, Etihad said that it will double its flights between Abu Dhabi and New York City by introducing a second daily service.

U.S. and foreign airlines that plan to offer code-share services must obtain DOT authorization. Etihad already has a code-share agreement with American Airlines.

Under the new partnership, Etihad plans to code-share on 38 JetBlue routes from New York’s JFK International Airport to destinations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and on two routes from Washington Dulles International Airport to New York and Boston. Etihad will place its “EY” code on additional JetBlue flights once it begins daily flights to Los Angeles in June. “The U.S. is a major and growing market for Etihad Airways and this partnership with JetBlue will enable us to offer our guests more options for travel within and beyond the U.S.,” said James Hogan, Etihad president and CEO.

Etihad also plans to code-share with JetBlue on five non-U.S. routes JetBlue operates from New York JFK to Colombia, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, subject to U.S. and foreign government approval.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) in the U.S., which has protested other recent developments involving Etihad, declined to comment on the carrier’s code-share agreement with JetBlue. Last week, the pilots union announced that the DOT had denied an application by Air Serbia, formerly called Jat Airways, to code-share on Etihad flights. ALPA opposed the application, citing Etihad’s plans to acquire 49 percent of Air Serbia and manage its operations for five years. “ALPA successfully made the case that a possible ownership/management relationship between Jat and Etihad would provide effective control by Etihad and thus would not be in the public interest,” said association president Lee Moak. “We applaud the DOT’s action because allowing the proposed arrangement to go forward would have created an even more unlevel playing field for the U.S. airline industry.”

ALPA, Airlines for America (A4A) and other U.S. airline industry groups waged an apparently unsuccessful campaign to prevent the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency from opening a customs pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport, Etihad’s hub. The airline groups contend that the facility will benefit only Etihad by helping it facilitate travel from Asia and Europe through Abu Dhabi to the U.S. No American carriers currently fly between Abu Dhabi and the U.S.

An omnibus appropriations bill that President Obama signed on January 17 contains language that allows the CBP to open the Abu Dhabi pre-clearance facility. The agency did not immediately respond when asked if the facility will begin operating on February 1, the date A4A has mentioned.

Despite the protests of U.S. airline industry groups, Etihad continues to enlarge its U.S. footprint. On January 15, the national carrier announced that it will double its flights between Abu Dhabi and New York JFK by introducing a second daily service beginning on March 1. Initially, it will operate the new flights using Boeing 777-300ERs leased from its “strategic partner,” India’s Jet Airways. Beginning on May 1, Jet Airways will operate the flights.