Controversial US airline alliance makes lie-flat seats standard on transcon flights

November 10, 2021
Image: American Airlines.

The Northeast Alliance (NEA) is continuing its controversial rollout, introducing lie-flat seats on all intercontinental flights from New York and Boston next month.

Partners JetBlue and American Airlines remain defiant in the face of a US Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit seeking to end a deal, signed in the last days of the Trump administration, allowing them to coordinate schedules at Boston Logan, New York JFK and New York LaGuardia airports.

The DOJ has teamed with attorneys general in six states and the District of Columbia to fight the alliance on competition grounds.

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The department alleges the deal will eliminate important competition in the cities involved and harm air travelers by weakening JetBlue’s incentive to compete with American in other areas of the US. It also says the alliance consolidates an already highly concentrated industry.

The airlines argue they are providing competition in a region historically dominated by rivals United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

In the latest NEA announcement, American said customers would experience the full benefits of the alliance next year when it would provide the most flights in dozens of markets from New York and Boston, lie-flat seats on all American and JetBlue transcontinental routes from the cities and “a robust international network”.

This included access to almost 60 markets from New York and more than 48 from Boston as well as 18 new international routes launched or planned to meet market demand.

“The NEA is open for business, providing customers the most frequencies in New York, the best routes across key business markets and reciprocal status benefits,” American chief revenue officer Vasu Raja said.

“With lie-flat seats offered in all transcontinental markets and a robust international network that includes the launch of 10 new routes, the NEA is spurring competition in New York and transforming travel beyond the northeast.”

American said it will launch a new fare product called Main Select next year in key business markets.

This would provide refundable fares, priority boarding, priority check-in, free same-day flight changes and the choice of all seats in the main at time of booking, including Main Cabin Extra.

The introduction will see American retire its existing Shuttle product on select routes in the US Northeast.

“We are revamping the high-frequency travel experience to meet the needs of today’s business customers,” Raja said. “That means creating an easy and seamless travel experience that has the amenities they want, the flexibility they need and a network that offers access to any destination they want to go.”