JetBlue in Lockstep With Fellow Airlines on ATC, but Not Much Else

JetBlue stands in solidarity with the “Big 3” airlines—American, Delta and United—on removing air traffic control from the FAA's control, but not much else.

The company's president and CEO Robin Hayes addressed the AeroClub of Washington Sept. 18 on issues ranging from the recent hurricanes to air traffic control to Open Skies.

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes

The bulk of JetBlue's routes are in the congested Northeast Corridor, Hayes said. A proposal by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) to spin off air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration to a non-governmental entity will make air travel more efficient due to better management and reliable funding, Hayes said. 

"We have the highest percentage of flights, as JetBlue, in constrained air space of any other airline. About 70 percent of our flights are in constrained air space, higher than anyone else. And so we actually have the most to gain," Hayes told reporters after the event. “We also have the most to lose if it doesn't happen.” 

JetBlue is a member of Airlines for America, which is advocating on the airlines' behalf for the air traffic control proposal.

The Big 3

Air traffic control was perhaps the only issue Hayes addressed that puts him in the same company as his fellow members of A4A.

JetBlue airplane

American, Delta and United are pursuing anti-competitive policies on everything from Open Skies to joint ventures to access, Hayes said.

"Smaller airlines like JetBlue act as a moderating factor on the unchecked power of the Big 3," he said.

On access, Hayes said: "Fewer airports have commercial service today due to consolidation, and carriers like JetBlue cannot grow as we wish in key markets due to the strength of the consolidated carriers and their tight reins on airport facilities.”

On Open Skies, he said: "The Big 3 act like it’s the end of the world. Make no mistake, this battle is not about the U.S. airline industry against airlines from the Middle East. We believe it’s three mega U.S. airlines who favor protectionism over competition.”

On joint ventures with international airlines, he said: “When the Big 3, along with many of their international alliance partners, are granted immunity from U.S. antitrust laws, they are given a permission slip to do what otherwise would be illegal: collude and coordinate on pricing, scheduling and marketing decisions, all based on glorious sounding promises of how delightful and inexpensive travel will be for consumers."