Blumenthal calls on Buttigieg to investigate American Airlines-JetBlue partnership

Blumenthal calls on Buttigieg to investigate American Airlines-JetBlue partnership
© Greg Nash

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Friday urged Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg aims to use Tucker Carlson flap to spotlight paternity leave Biden's Big Labor policies will create next round of inflation Airlines should give flight attendants 10 hours of rest between flights: FAA MORE to investigate a partnership between American Airlines and JetBlue Airways, warning that it could saddle passengers with higher airfares. 

The two carriers launched a strategic partnership in July 2020 to create more routes in the Northeast and allow customers to book tickets and earn rewards with either airline.

The agreement drew scrutiny from the Justice Department as antitrust officials expressed concern that it could decrease competition at airports in New York and Boston. 

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“Antitrust enforcers have traditionally been highly suspicious of agreements that lead rivals to cooperate instead of compete. And they should be especially suspicious when major airlines agree not to compete in an already highly consolidated industry, with major implications for lower-cost carriers,” Blumenthal wrote in a letter to Buttigieg. 

The Department of Transportation (DOT) approved the partnership in the final days of the Trump administration, but under President BidenJoe BidenGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Sanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE, the agency has fielded requests from rival carriers to investigate the partnership.   

In his letter to Buttigieg, Blumenthal, the chairman of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on consumer protection, noted that Biden’s July executive order to crack down on anticompetitive practices specifically names the airline industry as being too heavily concentrated. Biden’s order directed the DOT to require airlines to refund baggage fees when a flight is delayed and clearly disclose cancellation fees.

A JetBlue spokesperson said that the partnership "does quite the opposite" of what Blumenthal suggested, stating that it allowed the airline to expand its number of flights at New York airports and "create a third competitor" to Delta Air Lines and United Airlines in the Northeast.

An American Airlines spokesperson said that the alliance is "provoking a competitive response from other carriers in the region by compelling them to step up their own products and services."

The airlines have stated that they made commitments to ensure the alliance “increases competition and travel options for customers.”

Updated at 6:51 p.m.