American Airlines and JetBlue seek to keep ties despite losing antitrust case

American Airlines and JetBlue said Friday they should be allowed to continue selling tickets on each other’s flights in the northeast and tie their frequent flyer programs despite losing an antitrust lawsuit over their partnership.

The Department of Justice said that if the airlines granted their wish, travelers would lose the benefits of restoring competition between carriers.

In separate documents, the airlines and the government told a federal judge in Boston how he should enforce his decision last month to sever the partnership. American’s CEO said his airline would appeal the verdict.

The Justice Department has offered a final judgment that would order American and JetBlue to immediately terminate most parts of the agreement. The government has said airlines should honor existing tickets to avoid hurting travelers but then rapidly reduce their sharing of airport gates and take-off and landing slots at major airports.

The airlines want to continue to sell tickets on each other’s flights – known as code sharing – and offer reciprocal benefits to frequent flyers, as these practices “are common in the transportation industry air”. American and JetBlue also opposed the Justice Department’s request to be barred from any agreement involving revenue sharing or route coordination between them for 10 years, and with any other US airline for two years.

The airlines call their partnership in New York and Boston the Northeast Alliance, or NEA.

The Justice Department said that by asking to keep elements of the agreement, the airlines were trying to “create a new ‘NEA Lite’ on the fly.”

The airlines launched their partnership after winning approval from the outgoing Trump administration in January 2021. They argued it helped them compete with Delta Air Lines and United Airlines in the northeast.

The Biden administration sued the airlines in September 2021, arguing their deal would reduce competition and raise prices for consumers. After a non-jury trial last fall, U.S. District Judge Leo Sorokin ruled that the NEA violated federal antitrust laws.

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This story has been updated to correct that the Trump administration approved the partnership in January 2021, not 2020.

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