JetBlue won’t appeal NEA ruling, ending deal with American Airlines

JetBlue has announced that it will be ending its Northeast Alliance (NEA) partnership with American Airlines after choosing not to appeal the judicial ruling against it. 

The US low-cost airline said it would instead be focusing on its proposed merger with Spirit Airlines in the hope that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) may reconsider its opposition to the plan if JetBlue was no longer tied to American. 

A statement from the airline said: “The flying public deserves better than the status quo. The DoJ itself has acknowledged the benefits of JetBlue’s disruptive impact on the industry and we are open to working with the DoJ to address any remaining concerns they have.” 

Despite JetBlue’s decision to end the partnership, American has said in a statement that it will be moving forward with an appeal against the “erroneous” judgment: “JetBlue’s decision and reasoning confirm our belief that the NEA has been highly pro-competitive and that an erroneous judicial decision disregarding the NEA’s consumer benefits has led to an anti-competitive outcome.” 

The NEA was a partnership between the two airlines encompassing their operations in the New York and Boston areas as a way of competing with Delta and United, who have dominated the region’s aviation options. 

However, the alliance had been challenged in a lawsuit from the DoJ, which had described it as a “de facto merger” of the two airlines’ operations in the area that diminished JetBlue’s incentive to compete with American Airlines in other regions. 

Eventually, Judge Leo Sorokin of the US District Court sided with the department and ordered the alliance to come to an end. 

The decision by JetBlue to focus its energy on persuading the DoJ to support its $3.8bn deal to acquire is not surprising due to the size of the deal and the department’s heavy opposition to it, describing it as an opportunity for the airline to “eliminate its largest ultra-low-cost rival”.

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