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American Airlines' tie-up with JetBlue clears federal review, despite opposition from Southwest

American Airlines’ partnership and codesharing agreement with competitor JetBlue cleared federal antitrust review, despite objections from low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines and crosstown rival Southwest Airlines over control at critical New York-area airports.

Fort Worth-based American and New York City-based JetBlue said the airlines were willing to give up some slots at tightly controlled JFK International Airport and Ronald Reagan International Airport outside Washington, D.C.

American and JetBlue proposed the deal back in July to strengthen the New York City presence for both carriers through a codesharing agreement and by sharing loyalty points on those flights, a deal that allowed American to create international routes to Tel Aviv, Israel, and Athens, Greece.

“With this alliance, American and JetBlue will operate the biggest network for our customers in the Northeast, which will allow American to grow our mainline operations as we recover from the pandemic,” said chief revenue officer Vasu Raja in a statement. “We are already planning to launch new international routes to Athens and Tel Aviv this summer, which are just two of many new routes we plan to launch.”

American had been struggling to keep its presence in the northeastern U.S. while JetBlue needed American’s international connections to grow.

Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines and Dallas-based Southwest both objected to the deal, saying that more than 90% of slots at JFK Airport were taken by American, JetBlue and Delta.

“Consequently, at all three New York airports, there would be no opportunity for other carriers to grow,” Southwest said of JFK, La Guardia and Newark in a letter opposing the partnership.

JetBlue and American also control 60% of the slots at Reagan.

American argued that the deal would give customers in the Northeast more regional and international options and connections without actually taking any slots from competitors at those airports. JetBlue is a major player in New York and Boston, but has a weaker network in other parts of the country.

JetBlue said it plans to continue to expand at LaGuardia Airport.

“Through this alliance, we are one step closer to bringing customers even more competition in the Northeast, especially on routes currently served by only one airline with high fares and poor service,” said Scott Laurence, head of revenue and planning at JetBlue, in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Dallas Morning News

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