JetBlue Chief Seeks Broader Tie-Ups With Airlines Abroad

JetBlue Airways Corp. Chief Executive Officer David Barger said the U.S. discount carrier will introduce one or two two-way code-share agreements this year as it expands international ties to feed its route network.

The first of such deals will emerge from one of six existing code-shares with foreign airlines, Barger said today in an interview at the CAPA Centre for Aviation conference. South African Airways may be the inaugural partner, he said in Powerscourt, Ireland.

JetBlue is adding one-way Aer Lingus code-share operations to 33 U.S. markets this month. The deal, which expands a long-running partnership, adds to similar agreements JetBlue has with equity stakeholder Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Emirates, Japan Airlines Co., Hawaiian Airlines Inc. and South African Air.

“When you really want to optimize your relationship you need two-way codes,” Barger said. “Our policy has been to move a little bit slow because we want to make sure the technology is ready.”

Barger said he’s also interested in expanded ties with Aer Lingus after the Irish carrier co-located its operations at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in JetBlue’s facility. A similar move in Boston would be of interest, he said.

Aer Lingus Ties

The relationship could further grow if Aer Lingus expands its network, he said.

“We’d love to see something non-stop to Cork” in Ireland, Barger said. JetBlue is not interested in taking an equity stake in the Irish carrier, he said.

Beyond the code-share deals, JetBlue has 17 other partnership agreements with other airlines. That number could grow by six to eight more, Barger said.

Later this year, the airline will roll out details of a premium product and will eschew the first and business-class labels, Barger said. Demand for the offering is driven by high-yield transcontinental U.S. routes, rather than the link with foreign airlines, he said.

The product will become available in the second quarter next year, he said. The product will feature on the carrier’s fleet of Airbus SAS A321 narrow-bodies, with delivery of the first of 30 expected in October, Barger said. Some of the smaller A320s could also get the premium product.

Barger said JetBlue could buy additional Airbus A320neo jets, the re-engined version that the Toulouse, France-based aircraft maker is developing. JetBlue has already bough 40 neos.

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