Norwegian and JetBlue: will they go all the way…to a codeshare?

JetBlue has yet to decide which London airport it will serve once it launches highly anticipated long haul trans Atlantic flights in 2021, but it is laying the groundwork for an extended network in Continental Europe through a proposed new interline agreement with Norwegian.

The new partnership begs an obvious question – will they deepen their commitment to a codeshare once JetBlue makes its trans Atlantic debut?

Norwegian and JetBlue have signed a letter of intent for an interline agreement and plan to launch that partnership in the summer of 2020. Customers can book connecting flights on each airline’s website under a single booking,

JetBlue’s three largest bases – New York JFK, Boston and Fort Lauderdale – feature prominently in the partnership. The airline boasts connections to more than 60 US and 40 destinations in the Caribbean, and Norwegian states that it serves more than 20 nonstop routes to Europe from those three airports.

From JFK and Boston, Norwegian Air UK operates services with Boeing 787s and Airbus A33s to London Gatwick, a potential airport for JetBlue, and Norwegian Air Shuttle operates to numerous destinations from those airports with widebodies.

It is an interesting proposition for the customer, connecting from JetBlue’s narrowbody flights onto Norwegian’s widebody aircraft, and creates the possibility of significantly expanding customer pools for each airline.

It’s a big win for Norwegian, gaining access to JetBlue’s sizeable network, and gives JetBlue a major European partner ahead of its debut to London. As Norwegian points out – it is the third largest operator at London Gatwick.

JetBlue’s dominant position in JFK, Boston and Fort Lauderdale has created numerous opportunities for interline and codeshare agreements. JetBlue’s codeshare partnership portfolio features a lot of full service airlines, so having a low cost codeshare operator to partner with on flights to Europe is important for the low fare proposition that both JetBlue and Norwegian tout to customers.

It is as yet uncertain whether JetBlue and Norwegian will transition their interline agreement into a full blown codeshare, but that could make sense once JetBlue launches service. The benefits of codesharing would provide formidable competition to their full service competitors in terms of seamless service for a presumably lower fare.

Even if Norwegian and JetBlue don’t take their relationship further than a codeshare, their proposed interline is setting the stage for intriguing market dynamics in the US-Europe trans Atlantic market.