Last updated: 01:00 PM ET, Fri March 04 2016

How JetBlue Uses Interlining To Offer Global Flights

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | March 04, 2016

How JetBlue Uses Interlining To Offer Global Flights

Photo courtesy of JetBlue

JetBlue has added new routes to its code-sharing deal with South African Airways, expanding the low-cost carrier's network. The two airlines already code share on SAA flights from the United States to Durban, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, East London and Dakar, Senegal, and the latest addition to this list is South African’s service from Washington D.C. to Accra, Ghana.

JetBlue is not a member of one of the three major airline alliances. Nonetheless, it has built a strong global network through various interlining and code sharing deals. These agreements allow passengers to travel with a single itinerary even though they are using two or more airlines.

Building its own alliances

Usually, these arrangements happen for airlines that are part of the same alliance (Oneworld, Skyteam and Star Alliance). However, JetBlue, which is not part of any alliance, has made deals with certain airlines so that it can increase its reach.

READ MORE: What Does JetBlue's Cabin Redesign Mean for the Industry?

JetBlue started building its independent network of alliances with Aer Lingus. This first deal allowed 'Blue passengers the ability to book flights to Boston Logan or New York JFK where they could then catch an Aer Lingus flight to Europe. Ireland-based travelers could use JetBlue’s network when traveling in the United States. In each direction, passengers would have a single itinerary and would be able to check their baggage all the way to their final destination.

International reach

This particular deal began as an alliance of independents, since like JetBlue, Aer Lingus was not (and still is not) part of any of the three airline alliances, though it is now owned by airline giant IAG. The success of this first deal led ‘Blue to approach other carriers. Lufthansa, which owns a 15 percent stake in JetBlue, was the next choice. The German carrier was able to use JetBlue’s network in the States as a kind of feeder service for its flights out of East Coast hubs like Logan and JFK.

JetBlue subsequently began interlining agreements with South African Airways, Air China and Jet Airways, among others. They were also briefly allied with Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines, but both these deals have since ended.

READ MORE: JetBlue CEO: Our Growth Is Tied To The Caribbean

A blueprint for other non-alliance airlines

These arrangements allow JetBlue to act as a feeder airline for major international carriers, and it also gives JetBlue diehards the chance to use the airline for international flights instead of having to opt for airlines that are part of one of the major alliances. Other non-allied airlines have also used this strategy to offer an expanded network to their customers and to get the extra business that comes from being a feeder airline for a major carrier.

Another example of this kind of strategy comes from regional carrier Silver Airways, which recently announced an interlining deal with Brazilian airline Azul. Though both Silver and JetBlue are very active in Florida, they offer several code sharing flights as well.

JetBlue’s interlining agreements show that independent airlines do not need to join one of the major alliances. If they are savvy enough, they can expand their reach by interlining and offering shared itineraries with major international airlines. 


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