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American unveils new refundable fares, more benefits with JetBlue alliance

Nov. 09, 2021
4 min read
American Airlines JetBlue
American unveils new refundable fares, more benefits with JetBlue alliance
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American Airlines is rethinking its approach to business travel with new refundable fares launching next year.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier unveiled a new "Main Select" product on Tuesday, which will be available in key business markets, including the Northeast shuttle routes, with expanded benefits.

The "Main Select" fare will offer a fully refundable ticket along with a handful of other perks, including priority Group 4 boarding and check-in, complimentary access to extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra seats and free same-day flight changes. At launch, the fare will be available on high-frequency business routes between New York LaGuardia (LGA) and both Chicago (ORD) and Washington National (DCA), between Boston (BOS) and DCA and on select routes from Los Angeles (LAX) and Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW).

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There's no telling yet how American will price this fare, but elite travelers may consider passing on this offer since many of the benefits are already included with status.

(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

As part of the move, American is retiring its Shuttle product, which offered shorter check-in cutoff times, dedicated kiosks and more-convenient boarding gates. As part of the move, American will be pulling out of the Boston to New York/LaGuardia market in January, and JetBlue will operate exclusively in that corridor going forward.

In a statement, Vasu Raja, American's chief revenue officer, explained that the move "means creating an easy and seamless travel experience that has the amenities [business customers] want, the flexibility they need and a network that offers access to any destination they want to go.”

American's new Main Select fare isn't the only new bundle that the airline will sell — recently, the airline began offering a "Main Plus" upgrade, which offers complimentary access to Main Cabin Extra and preferred seats, along with an additional checked bag and Group 5 boarding, for an upcharge over the standard coach fare. A carrier spokesperson confirmed to TPG that American will only sell one buy-up on eligible routes — meaning that you'll either be offered the Main Plus or Main Select upgrade, but not both.

(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

Interestingly, American's new Main Select offering will complement JetBlue's existing "Blue Extra" fare, which offers free same-day changes and other similar benefits for an upcharge compared to the standard coach fare. While the two airlines can't coordinate on fares as part of the Northeast Alliance, this is seemingly as close as they can get without discussing fares.

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As the two airlines team up in the Northeast, American and JetBlue will market a similar bundle of fares, which helps streamline the experience for customers. (However, once you step foot on a JetBlue plane — equipped with free high-speed Wi-Fi, power outlets, USB ports, entertainment screens and walk-up pantries — you may not miss flying with American.)

Along with the new refundable fare, American and JetBlue continue to tout the benefits of the Northeast Alliance, despite the pending lawsuit from the Department of Justice alleging that the pact is anti-competitive.

For one, the recently announced reciprocal elite benefits are getting expanded on Tuesday to include free access to preferred seats for JetBlue Mosaic members traveling on American. This joins the existing benefits unveiled earlier this fall, including priority boarding, priority security and additional checked bag allowances.

Additionally, redeeming American AAdvantage miles for JetBlue flights will begin later this month.

Other than the frequent flyer perks, American says that the Northeast Alliance has opened nearly 60 markets for customers in New York and more than 48 markets in Boston. Since January, the tie-up has yielded 58 new routes, increased frequencies on more than 130 routes and codesharing on 175 routes. By next year, the Northeast Alliance will have created 18 new international routes.

The Northeast Alliance has already drawn a strong competitive response. Delta Air Lines recently unveiled a New York-focused expansion, as well as new long-haul service from Boston to Athens, Greece, and Tel Aviv — a seemingly tit-for-tat move after American launched new routes there from New York-JFK. Earlier this year, United Airlines returned to New York-JFK for the first time in five years.

Together, all these moves would seem to weaken the DOJ’s case against American and JetBlue. Until the suit gets its day in court, flyers headed to or from the Northeast will enjoy many more flight options than ever before, along with expanded benefits and other perks.

Featured image by (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.