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American Airlines CEO Takes The Stand In JetBlue Alliance Trial

In the second week of the antitrust trial of the Northeast Alliance (a partnership between American Airlines and JetBlue), American Airlines Chief Executive Robert Isom was called as a witness. Isom denied allegations that both airlines essentially acted as one and the same in Boston and New York.


Robert Isom takes the stand

Today, the United States Justice Department lawyers continued their mission to prove that the Northeast Alliance between American Airlines and JetBlue eliminates competition in the northeast United States. Bringing American’s CEO to the stand, DOJ attorney Bill Jones said that customers viewed JetBlue and American as the same in the four airports included in the alliance.

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“No, that’s not true. We have our own gate(s). We have our own planes. We have our own services that make us distinct.” – Robert Isom, Chief Executive Officer, American Airlines

Perhaps one of the most peculiar things from Isom’s time on the stand was his admittance to not knowing that JetBlue offered lie-flat seats on some of its aircraft.

“I’ve never flown the Mint product, I don’t know if Mint is lie-flat. [JetBlue] has a domestic first-class product, I can’t speak to all the amenities they include.”

The subject of lie-flat seats was brought up by DOJ lawyers, looking into competition and cooperation between JetBlue and American on select premium transcontinental routes. These routes include flights to and from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, and New York. American Airlines operates a significant amount of its transcon flights with its Airbus A321T aircraft, which have 30 premium lie-flat seats.

American Airlines’ Airbus A321T have two cabins that feature lie-flat seats. Photo: Justin Hayward | Simple Flying

The way the questioning proceeded, it seemed that the DOJ was arguing that competition was eliminated in these markets due to both airlines offering lie-flat, premium products on transcon routes.

“With the NEA in place you don’t have to worry about JetBlue coming after American for your premium customers, right?” – Bill Jones, Attorney, United States Department of Justice

Isom made it clear that the alliance did not reduce competition but enabled American to be a viable competitor in Boston.

NEA trial

The Northeast Alliance antitrust trial began last week in Boston, with the DOJ claiming that the alliance created a defacto merger between American and JetBlue. The trial is a perfect opportunity for the current administration to demonstrate its commitment to maintaining competition in the aviation industry in the United States.

“This is a major test of Biden’s crusade against big business and corporate monopoly. Biden has staked his reputation on being a trust buster. They’ve certainly challenged a few lawsuits, and they’ve brought lawsuits against. But this would be a major victory if he manages to stop it.”- William Magnuson, Associate Law Professor, Texas A&M

Defending the airlines are teams representing each airline and protecting the Northeast Alliance. The airline attorneys argue that the alliance generates more competition in New York and Boston because United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have long dominated the two markets.

American Airlines and JetBlue are defending an alliance that may cease to exist if the Spirit – JetBlue merger is approved. Photo: Lukas Souza | Simple Flying

Darren Bush, a former antitrust lawyer in the government’s airline division and a current law professor at the University of Houston, thinks the DOJ dug its grave.

“The DOJ is its own worst enemy in this case because they are arguing that the industry is too consolidated after allowing consolidation for decades. This wouldn’t be as big of an issue if they didn’t let it get to this point in the first place.”

As updates on the trial become available, Simple Flying will continue to bring you the latest information.

For more updates check below links and stay updated with News AKMI.
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