American Airlines adds Athens, Tel Aviv routes from New York under new JetBlue pact

Jul 16, 2020

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American Airlines plans to beef up its long-haul options from New York next year under a new partnership with JetBlue Airways.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier will add service between New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) and both Athens (ATH) and Tel Aviv (TLV) next summer, American said on Thursday. The airline also reaffirmed plans to resume seasonal service between JFK and Rio de Janeiro (GIG) in the winter of 2021.

The routes are part of a new alliance between American and JetBlue that will see them codeshare on nearly 200 routes and provide “seamless” connections at Boston Logan (BOS) and the three big New York CIty-area airports. The tie up will also include as-of-yet unspecified reciprocal “loyalty benefits.”

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New York-based JetBlue will also add flights from JFK, Newark Liberty (EWR) and New York LaGuardia (LGA) under the pact, according to the carriers. They did not provide details of what these additions will entail.

American is breaking the mold, so to speak, of traditional U.S. airline tie-ups. Instead of focusing on capturing domestic travel by expanding flying with its own jets while partnering with a plethora of carriers abroad, it has now inked expansive deals just this year with both Alaska Airlines and JetBlue — the country’s fifth and sixth largest airlines by passenger numbers, respectively.

The country’s other major carriers — Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines — continue to focus on their own recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and future organic growth.

Related: American, JetBlue jolt industry with plans for Northeast alliance

American’s tie up with Alaska will see the carriers codeshare on flights from West Coast hubs including Los Angeles (LAX) and Seattle (SEA). In addition, the major carrier plans to add new routes to Bangalore, India (BLR), London Heathrow (LHR) and Shanghai Pudong (PVG) from Seattle next year.

The international additions by American in New York, on top of its plans for Seattle, ratchet up its competition with industry leader Delta. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Atlanta-based Delta flew between JFK and Athens, Tel Aviv and Rio, and has already resumed service to the Israeli city.

American also appears to be taking advantage of Israeli airline El Al’s financial struggles. The carrier has suspended operations for the month of July, though its future remains in doubt as the crisis decimates airline revenues.

Related: American drops 19 long-haul routes; cuts in LAX, adds in Seattle

United Airlines has moved quickly to become the largest carrier flying between the U.S. and Israel. The Chicago-based carrier has maintained its flights between Newark and Tel Aviv through the pandemic; resumed service between San Francisco (SFO) and Tel Aviv this month; and will add and resume flights to the Israeli city from Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Washington Dulles (IAD) this fall.

American had planned to return to Tel Aviv from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) this summer after suspending Philadelphia (PHL) flights in 2016. However, those plans were suspended when the coronavirus hit. Its current plans call for new service to the city from both Dallas/Fort Worth and JFK in 2021.

Two decades ago, American nearly flew between JFK and Tel Aviv after its acquisition of Trans World Airlines (TWA) in 2001. TWA was one of the few U.S. carriers serving Israel at the time, having flown nonstop between JFK and Tel Aviv since the 1970s.

Related: Alaska Airlines plans to join Oneworld, forms alliance with American

Of course, American could still adjust its international expansion plans at JFK. No one knows when international travel restrictions will lift with airlines’ monthly schedules adjusting with often little notice as quarantines and border closures change.

American has not said what aircraft will fly its new long-haul routes from JFK. However, with the retirement or storage of its Airbus A330 and Boeing 767 fleets plus on-going deliveries of new Boeing 787s, the likelihood of service with a Dreamliner is high.

Prior to the pandemic, 767s and Boeing 777s were the only wide-body jets American flew from JFK, Cirium shows.

Related: A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Featured image by Alberto Riva/TPG.

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