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JetBlue Hits Back At Eastern Airlines On Ecuador Flights

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JetBlue responded to a request filed by Eastern Airlines with the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to transfer two weekly frequencies for flights to Ecuador from JetBlue to Eastern. The conflict between the two airlines over the frequencies came after JetBlue filed with the DOT to move one daily Ecuador flight departing Fort Lauderdale to departing New York.

JetBlue Airbus A321neo
JetBlue has filed a response to Eastern’s filing seeking to take two Ecuador frequencies away from JetBlue. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

JetBlue fights back against Eastern

JetBlue filed an objection to Eastern Airlines’ motion to reallocate two weekly flights from JetBlue’s allotted slots. For reference, JetBlue wants to move seven weekly flights between Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Quito (UIO) to serve a second daily flight between New York (JFK) and Guayaquil (GYE).

First, JetBlue indicated that the competitive environment had changed, leading the airline to seek a second daily flight out of New York. LATAM previously flew between New York and Guayaquil. With the carrier out of the market, JetBlue sees an opportunity to use an Airbus A321neo on a second daily flight to Guayaquil.

JetBlue A321neo
JetBlue’s Airbus A321neos feature room for 200 passengers. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

JetBlue states Eastern is holding back in Ecuador

JetBlue also noted that Eastern Airlines was not flying all of its US-Ecuador frequencies. In the filing, JetBlue stated that Eastern had received 20 weekly frequencies or almost three daily roundtrip flights. JetBlue states in its filing that Eastern is offering a total of only 26 roundtrip flights in July, which is far less than what it was allocated.

JetBlue went even further and dug into Eastern’s routes and schedules. Eastern Airlines has four weekly frequencies allocated to New York-Quito services, though Eastern has not begun those services. JetBlue’s filing states that Eastern is not selling seats for it until September 2021, which Simple Flying was able to confirm.

Eastern Boeing 767
Eastern Airlines is not selling or operating all of the Ecuador frequencies its been granted. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Another route which Eastern has the approval to run  Los Angeles to Guayaquil flights. It can offer three weekly flights on that route. However, Eastern is not currently selling that route, and it is not listed on the carrier’s website.

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In schedules compiled by JetBlue, the airline showed Eastern’s planned flights per month:

New York-JFK to Guayaquil

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  • 17 roundtrip flights in May 2021
  • 16 roundtrip flights in June 2021
  • 18 roundtrip flights in July 2021
  • 18 roundtrip flights in August 2021
  • 17 roundtrip flights in September 2021
  • 17 roundtrip flights in October 2021

New York-JFK to Quito

  • Four roundtrip flights in September 2021
  • Four roundtrip flights in October 2021

Miami to Guayaquil

  • Eight roundtrip flights in May 2021
  • Nine roundtrip flights in June 2021
  • Eight roundtrip flights in July 2021
  • 12 roundtrip flights in August 2021
  • 17 roundtrip flights in September 2021
  • 17 roundtrip flights in October 2021

Miami to Quito

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  • Five weekly flights in September 2021
  • Four weekly flights in October 2021

The potential outcomes

The DOT will weigh both sides of the argument and decide which airline will get the frequencies in question. It is still possible that the DOT will side with Eastern and give it two weekly frequencies to grow New York to Guayaquil services.

Another outcome would be for JetBlue to receive permission from the DOT to move one daily Fort Lauderdale to Quito frequency to run a second daily New York to Guayaquil flight. With LATAM out of the market, JetBlue has a compelling argument for increasing services on the route.

The final outcome could be that the DOT tells JetBlue to operate its summer-seasonal second daily Fort Lauderdale to Quito flight. JetBlue stated that it would operate those frequencies as required by the DOT.

JetBlue A321neo
JetBlue stated it would fly its full Fort Lauderdale to Quito schedule if mandated by the DOT. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The evolution of the fight for Ecuador frequencies

JetBlue and American filed separate requests to alter Ecuador services in March. American wanted to boost flying out of Miami, its major gateway to South America, while JetBlue wanted to move away from Fort Lauderdale to its base in New York-JFK.

American and JetBlue have a Northeast Alliance. However, for that alliance to gain approval, the US government set out specific conditions both carriers must meet and abide by, including no cooperation or coordination on flights that do not touch the Northeastern US.

JetBlue American
JetBlue and American’s alliance has ruffled some feathers. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Spirit Airlines, which is opposed to the American-JetBlue tie-up, filed a complaint with the DOT, alleging that the two carriers were violating the terms of their alliance with the intended alterations to Ecuador schedules. As that fight ensued, American received approval from the DOT to move Ecuador flights to Miami. JetBlue, however, has not yet received final approval to move its flight.

Eastern Airlines jumped in at this point and sought to receive two of JetBlue’s seven weekly frequencies. The airline believed it should receive the frequencies to counteract JetBlue’s already dominant New York position.

Do you think Eastern should get the route rights, or should JetBlue keep them? 

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