‘We thrived’: JetBlue’s president reflects on history of the airline, promise of Northeast Alliance

Nov 19, 2021

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Lost in the craziness that was 2020 was a very important milestone for JetBlue Airways.

The New York-based carrier turned 20 on Feb. 11, 2020, just 15 days before JetBlue would become the first U.S. carrier to temporarily suspend all change and cancellation fees due to the emerging pandemic.

Speaking about JetBlue’s legacy, Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, succinctly summed up JetBlue’s first two decades as “we not only survived. We thrived.”

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Geraghty was addressing a room full of roughly 250 well-dressed aviation executives, bigwigs and other industry dignitaries at the monthly Wing’s Club luncheon on Thursday at the Yale Club in Midtown Manhattan.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

JetBlue, the sixth-largest carrier in the U.S. now accounts for just 5% of seats available in the domestic market, said Geraghty.

She explained several of the airline’s major milestones in its 20-year history, including the introduction of one of the most comfortable domestic coach and Mint business-class products, as well as the fact that the airline has never furloughed or sent a furlough warning to any crew member, pandemic included.

While she spent roughly six minutes outlining the JetBlue story to date, Geraghty quickly turned to the carrier’s future.

And front and center to the airline’s next phase of growth is the new Northeast Alliance with American Airlines. (Perhaps it was meant to be that Elise Eberwein, the current president of the Wing’s Club and the executive vice president of people and communications at American, had introduced Geraghty to the podium.)

American and JetBlue partnered up in July 2020, as part of the Northeast Alliance, to become a formidable competitor against Delta and United, two of the largest carriers in Boston and New York.

“When all is said and done, the Northeast Alliance will account for roughly 70% of the JetBlue network,” Geraghty said

This includes the 58 new routes and 130 routes with increased frequencies that have been unveiled to date as part of the partnership.

In fact, the two carriers will operate 500 daily flights from New York City’s three major airports this winter — half of which will be flown by JetBlue.

And it’s not just about more choice for flyers headed to or from the Northeast. JetBlue is hiring more than 1,800 new crewmembers to directly support growth from the Northeast Alliance, according to Geraghty, “jobs that would not otherwise be created.”

While Geraghty received a round of applause during the celebratory luncheon in the 18th-floor ballroom, it hasn’t only been smooth sailing for the Northeast Alliance.

In September, the Department of Justice filed a suit against the alliance, alleging that it violates anti-trust regulations. The alliance had received approval in the last days of the Trump Administration after the airlines agreed to forfeit several slots in New York and Washington and to avoid coordinating fares or revenue management.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Geraghty didn’t appear to be phased by the regulatory challenges. Though she didn’t explicitly mention the suit, it was clear that in Geraghty’s mind that the benefits of the pact far outweigh any possible challenges.

“The alliance is supercharging competition, provoking a competitive response from entrenched legacy carriers, and ultimately benefitting consumers with more flights at lower fares,” she added. (Both Delta and United have added Northeast routes since the pact went into effect.)

Perhaps most interestingly, Geraghty’s remarks come just days after American made sweeping network cuts in the New York area. This weekend, the carrier filed plans to pull out of 18 routes from New York, leaving eight cities unserved under the Northeast Alliance.

Geraghty didn’t address these cuts, but she left the attendees with an optimistic message.

“We are very much still in the ramp-up phase,” Geraghty said, referring to additional growth still to come in the Northeast Alliance.

We don’t yet have the details, but it likely won’t be much longer until we learn about another round of expansion under the Northeast Alliance. After all, JetBlue is going all-in on the partnership, with an overwhelming majority of its network soon to be dedicated to the pact.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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