The practice of airline code sharing really does work when it comes to filling seats.
That was the message from TAP Air Portugal this week, which revealed that its year-old partnership with JetBlue has reaped big gains for the Portuguese flag carrier — with JetBlue connecting customers now accounting for one in every five TAP passengers to Portugal. That brought an additional 35,000 passengers to TAP in one year, which help to boost the airline's load factor to 85 percent on North Atlantic flights.
And it effectively doubled TAP's U.S. passenger traffic for that year, said Jose Guedes Dias, VP-Alliances, Industry and Regulatory Affairs, attributing the result to "the success of our agreement with JetBlue in delivering so many customers to gateway cities" which include New York's JFK, Newark, and Boston.
In Boston, for example, fully 30 percent of TAP passengers to Lisbon originate on JetBlue flights from 31 cities.
TAP is also raising its profile in the U.S. by adding more cities — New York and Boston in the past year — and by refurbishing its wide-body aircraft, with new fully flat business class seats. The carrier has also placed an order for 53 Airbus aircraft, including A320s and A330 Neos — the updated versions of these popular planes.
The practice of codesharing has caused controversy in the past, with some consumers as well as some travel agents saying it was confusing and even misleading to put one carrier's two-letter designator on another company's flights. Current rules require airlines and travel sellers to clearly communicate to customers when a flight listed under one airline's name is actually operated by another line.
But most cases of confusion result from a major carrier's code being used for a small regional line. In the case of an international cooperation like TAP-JetBlue, there is a stronger case to be made that the benefits outweigh any drawbacks for consumers or agents.