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TAM Deal Lifts JetBlue's Reach

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( Trefis) -- JetBlue Airways (JBLU - Get Report), the sixth-largest passenger carrier in the U.S. based on revenue passenger miles, recently announced an interline partnership with TAM Airlines (TAM), the largest airline in Brazil, under which it will be able to connect its travelers to 45 cities across Brazil and other international destinations covered by TAM in South America. JetBlue competes with major U.S. passenger airlines including Delta Air Lines (DAL), Southwest Airlines (LUV), American Airlines (AMR) and US Airways (LCC). The low-cost carrier currently enjoys a market share about 1% globally and expects to boost this percentage with the new partnership, which promises increased global reach and enhanced customer benefits.

We have a near-$6.90 price estimate for JetBlue Airways, which is about 70% ahead of the current market price.

The partnership with TAM Airlines entails entering into an interline agreement. Typically, the parties agree to handle passengers traveling on itineraries that require multiple airlines. These differ from code-sharing agreements that involve numbering a flight with one airline's code even though the flight is operated by another airline. No reward points will be accumulated through flying with the other company in an interline agreement.

Benefits for JetBlue

Higher international market share: Through the partnership, JetBlue customers have new access to TAM destinations including Asuncion, Paraguay; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Montevideo, Uruguay; Santiago, Chile; plus 45 cities across Brazil.

The partnership would help JetBlue expand its international reach by increasing the number of destinations served in Brazil and other countries in South America. This should boost its international market share from the current 1%, as it captures an increased portion of the growing U.S.-Brazil traffic by leveraging TAM's strong network. Additionally, its traffic would also improve due to increased customer base from TAM fliers who would now use JetBlue's services in form of connecting flights where TAM does not provide its service.

Under the Trefis model, we currently forecast JetBlue's international market share to increase to 2.33% by the end of Trefis forecast period on back of the advantages it continues to draw from its point-to-point service and low cost structure.

Enhanced customer experience: Owing to the partnership with TAM, JetBlue customers will be able to purchase a single e-ticket itinerary, combining flights on both carriers' networks giving them the ease of one-stop ticketing and baggage check-in along with an enhanced flying experience through TAM's modern airplanes and high-quality services.
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