Delta poaches JetBlue network ace behind the Northeast Alliance
There's a new face at Delta headquarters.
Delta Air Lines has hired Scott Laurence as its new vice president of network planning, effective Jan. 18, the Atlanta-based airline announced on Monday.
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!
Laurence, until recently, was JetBlue's head of revenue and planning — a role that oversees the carrier's network strategy, operational planning and analysis and revenue management.
While executives at all levels frequently move between airlines, Laurence's defection to Delta is notable because of his additional role overseeing airline partnerships at JetBlue, which included the airline's bold tie-up with American Airlines.
That partnership, branded by JetBlue and American as the Northeast Alliance, has become a major thorn in Delta's side as the airline tries to compete with JetBlue for supremacy in the highly competitive Northeast market.
Under the alliance, JetBlue and American codeshare on some routes and offer reciprocal frequent flyer benefits. The airlines have reconfigured schedules and networks around the partnership — for instance, American has cut some routes that JetBlue has begun to operate and code-share on, such as the long-standing shuttle service between Boston Logan (BOS) and New York-LaGuardia (LGA).
Laurence is widely regarded as one of the architects of the Northeast Alliance, and his departure comes at what could be a tricky time for the two partners.
In September, the Department of Justice filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the two airlines, accusing them of anticompetitive practices. The alliance was first approved during the waning days of the Trump administration.
American and JetBlue have vociferously defended the partnership, arguing that it fosters competition by allowing them to go up against Delta and United in the Northeast, where American largely ceded marketshare in past decades and JetBlue has too small of a network and too little access to slots to manage alone.
“Before the alliance, Delta and United dominated the New York City market,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said in September in response to the lawsuit. “The NEA has created a third, full-scale competitor in New York and is empowering more growth in Boston. Ironically, the Department of Justice’s lawsuit seeks to take away consumer choice and inhibit competition, not encourage it.”
Nevertheless, Delta's determination tighten its grip on the Northeast market remains unchanged, and in Laurence, the airline has a network executive with an deep understanding of the current demand, competition and opportunity scene in the region.
More: Delta doubles down on pre-pandemic international airline investment strategy
For Laurence, who has worked in the airline industry for more than 25 years, the position with Delta offers the chance to approach a known market from a new angle. He'll also get to work with a true global network for the first time since he left United Airlines in 2008, where he worked as a revenue manager for nine years.
Laurence will report to Joe Esposito, Delta's senior vice president of network planning.
"Scott is well-positioned and brings a tremendous wealth of experience to build on Delta's leading global network," Esposito said in a statement. "Combined with his innovative, strategic mindset and a spirit of servant leadership, he is a great fit for the Delta team."