American Airlines CEO Robert Isom made his first appearance at the federal courthouse in Boston on Monday, testifying that American’s Northeast Alliance with JetBlue Airways was born largely out of competition with Delta.
Isom said the partnership with JetBlue would bring both airlines more routes and a bigger presence in the large New York market to stay on par with Delta.
Delta, based in Atlanta, “runs a nice airline,” Isom testified according to the Associated Press and has more takeoff and landing slots at the three major New York City airports than American. That led to the Northeast Alliance with JetBlue, which is based in New York and has a strong presence there and in Boston.
The Department of Justice and six states filed suit against American, alleging the Northeast Alliance with JetBlue amounts to a merger and violates antitrust law by creating a monopoly. With the defense testifying first since the trial began on Tuesday, September 27, witnesses so far have defended the Alliance.
Ironically, evidence was introduced during the trial in the form of a text from Scott Laurence – an executive previously with JetBlue and Delta and now with American – who messaged a colleague and said, “I think NEA is dead as Robin (JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes) isn’t supportive,” in January of 2021.
As the AP pointed out, the defense so far has tried to show that neither American nor JetBlue were able to grow their base in the New York market, hence the Alliance. When JetBlue tried a variety of other options, including
JetBlue resorted to unusual tactics including red-eye flights, and it tried to get slots from other airlines.
“How did that go?” JetBlue lawyer Richard Schwed asked Laurence on the stand.
“It went poorly,” the executive replied. “I don’t think our competitors were interested in seeing us gain more access.”
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