7 key takeaways as American, JetBlue expand again in Northeast

Apr 21, 2021

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American Airlines and JetBlue just unveiled a major Northeast-focused expansion, including 24 new routes, three new countries and eight new cities.

In addition to the new route-map pins, the airlines are also streamlining connections and launching reciprocal loyalty benefits in the coming months.

While there are plenty of details to unpack, here are seven of the most interesting announcements from Wednesday’s news.

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JetBlue will land in Canada, Honduras

This is big. JetBlue is adding service to Canada for the first time in its roughly 22 year history.

According to the airline, this has been a top request from flyers and crew members. But JetBlue’s expansion north of the border might not be to the city you expect — it’s landing in Vancouver (YVR), not Toronto or Montreal, as some might’ve anticipated.

Map courtesy of JetBlue

Service will launch next summer, with year-round flights from New York-JFK and seasonal service from Boston. It remains to be seen what aircraft JetBlue will deploy on the route, but here’s hoping it’s a Mint-equipped Airbus A321.

It remains to be seen how much competition JetBlue will face on its first-ever Canada service.

Air Canada last flew the BOS to YVR route in September 2019, according to Cirum timetables, but there’s no scheduled resumption date. Airlines that have recently served Vancouver from the New York area include Cathay Pacific and Delta from New York-JFK, and Air Canada and United from Newark (EWR). It remains to be seen which, if any, resume post-pandemic, though Cathay’s JFK-YVR fifth-freedom route was permanently cut in February 2020.

American’s making a splashy return to India

In February 2020, American announced that it would return to India after a nearly 10-year hiatus with service from Seattle (SEA) to Bangalore (BLR). Though the flight has been postponed due to the pandemic, it’s slated to start in the coming months.

Now, American is planning a big splash in the Indian market with a second high-profile route. This one, to New Delhi (DEL), will be from the carrier’s New York-JFK hub, in partnership with JetBlue. It’ll launch on Oct. 31, just one day after the Bangalore flight is scheduled to start.

Despite the pandemic and ever-changing entry restrictions, American cites “strong local demand” as the reason to launch the 7,318-mile route. The carrier will go head-to-head with flag carrier Air India from JFK and Newark, as well as United from Newark.

New Delhi joins four other new AA long-haul routes from JFK, including Athens (ATH) launching on June 3, Tel Aviv (TLV) starting May 6, and Santiago (SCL) and Rio de Janeiro (GIG) planned to begin in the coming months.

Connecting at JFK will be easy

To support the growing network at JFK, the two carriers are introducing a streamlined connecting experience between terminals.

Launching this summer, the airlines will offer an airside bus running between JetBlue’s Terminal 5 and American’s Terminal 8 at JFK. Of course, it’d be great if the airline could co-locate in the same terminal, but space constraints currently make that impossible.

LaGuardia growth means JetBlue needs a new home

As part of Wednesday’s announcement, JetBlue is also planning major growth at New York LaGuardia (LGA) — with the goal to triple in size by 2022. JetBlue’s currently based at the Marine Air Terminal, but it likely can’t handle all of the carrier’s new and expanded LGA flights.

The Marine Air Terminal is housed in an art-deco historic building (Photo by myLoupe/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The Marine Air Terminal has just six gates, and Spirit Airlines is about to begin operations there in the coming days.

It remains to be seen if JetBlue ultimately moves terminals at LGA, but it’s possible that AA and JetBlue could co-locate in American’s new LGA Terminal B.

Local flyers might be displeased to see JetBlue go. The Marine Air Terminal is one of the most convenient at LGA. It’s accessed via a dedicated exit from the highway and doesn’t suffer from the same road congestion as LaGuardia’s other terminals. With just six gates, it almost feels like you’re flying private.

Reciprocal mileage earning starts soon

In the coming weeks, American and JetBlue will add reciprocal loyalty benefits, starting with the ability to earn points or miles on either carrier. The details are still forthcoming, but this is the first timeline that we’ve seen so far for this much-anticipated offering.

Until the new benefit launches, you can earn American AAdvantage miles for JetBlue flights booked on aa.com. JetBlue TrueBlue members cannot yet earn points for American flights.

Reciprocal elite benefits, as well as partner award redemptions, are coming later this year.

Delta, United throw in the towel on Boston lie-flat service

Both Delta and United have recently dropped premium transcon service from Boston to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Instead of flying planes with posh lie-flat seats up front, they’ve downgauged to standard domestic recliners.

That’s why it’s even more interesting to learn that American will bring its premium-heavy Airbus A321T to Boston. The 102-seat jet, outfitted with a first-class, biz and coach cabin, will be deployed on all of AA’s flights between BOS and Los Angeles (LAX). This joins the existing A321T service from New York-JFK to LAX, San Francisco (SFO) and soon-to-launch Orange County (SNA).

Biz on American’s Airbus A321T (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Combined with JetBlue’s Mint business-class service, American and JetBlue will operate the most domestic lie-flat seats from the Boston area. It’ll be interesting to see if, and how, Delta and United respond.

Regional jet upgrades are coming

American has reaffirmed its commitment to remove all 50-seat regional aircraft from New York by the summer in favor of larger jets that feature both a first-class and coach cabin.

This comes as the carrier is gearing up to retire its smallest all-coach jet, the Embraer 140, in the coming weeks. American’s other economy-only plane, the Embraer 145, will be taken off the New York schedule shortly.

This means routes like New York-JFK to Cleveland (CLE) and LaGuardia (LGA) to Wilmington, North Carolina (ILM) will all get upgauged to a CRJ-700, Embraer 175 or larger.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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