More details emerge on JetBlue’s new premium cabin
Talk around the office Espresso machine these days is all about JetBlue, the budget carrier that apparently has first class aspirations. We noted the airline’s plans for a transcontinental route with an upgraded cabin when announced in August, and details are starting to spill.
The new service is called Mint, and will begin June 15th, 2014 with one flight per day on the JFK-LAX route. By the end of next year, all seven daily JFK-LAX flights will be converted, as will select JFK-SFO flights. As mentioned previously, the Mint cabin will have 16 premium seats, which the company claims are the longest lie-flat beds in domestic business class (80 inches). Four of them will be private suites with sliding doors – the first on an American carrier.
The Mint experience will begin with a pre-departure drink, plus a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres in-flight. En route, a menu created by New York’s Saxon + Parole restaurant will be served “tapas-style” and feature several “comfort food with a twist” offerings. Of course, for us the highlight will be beverages dispensed by the first cappuccino machine purposely-built for an American airline! Okay, we’re also looking forward to the adjustable air cushions and massage functions built into the seats, and the Birchbox amenity kits, customized for men and women. Mint passengers will also have individual 15-inch monitors with up to 100 channels of DirecTV programming, 100 channels from SiriusXM, 110-volt power outlets and a pair of USB ports. Sweet.
Perhaps the most stunning detail released so far, though, is that one-way Mint fares will start at $499 during the first week (of course, that initial June 15th flight is sold out). We priced a few non-stop competitor flights and found the cheapest at almost $2,200. JetBlue’s current schedule ends June 18, 2014, so we couldn’t price flights after the introductory offering, but the company says prices will stay low, starting at $599 one-way. We call that champagne for our beer budget.
JetBlue ups their game…and maybe the industry
As enticing as Mint is, what we’re most intrigued about is what JetBlue is calling a “refreshed core experience” for the rest of the plane. Their new Airbus A321s will feature a new seat design that offers more legroom. Coach passengers will also have larger monitors, in-seat power outlets, and the same entertainment options that Mint passengers will enjoy. Best of all, the entire plane will feature free Fly-Fi, JetBlue’s in-air Wi-Fi. While you will have an option to purchase enhanced internet service for streaming media and other high-bandwidth activities, basic internet for browsing, email, social networking and similar activities will be free.
As much as we hate the term “game changer” around here, that might be appropriate for one more new concept from the airline: self-serve in-flight snacks and beverages; something akin to the “grab & go” movement replacing stale breakfast buffets at many hotels. No more waiting for the service cart to come banging down the aisle, or getting stuck behind it on your way to the loo. Thirsty? Help yourself to a soda. Peckish? Grab some snacks. Anytime. (It doesn’t hurt that Terra Blues are among the favorite snacks around the office.)
We’ve been JetBlue fans since they entered service in 2000, promising “to bring humanity back to air travel” while maintaining the low-cost model the founders brought with them from Southwest. Thus far, they’ve succeeded, topping their category in the JD Power Airline Satisfaction Study for eight straight years. Heck, they have a higher score than Alaska Airlines, which has topped the “Traditional Carrier” segment for seven years now. People love their JetBlue! Now they are raising their aim and shooting for the lucrative transcontinental business market with the same low-cost, high-standards approach. Good on ya, JetBlue.
We’re always interested to hear. Have you flown JetBlue, or do you plan to try their new Mint service? Please share your experiences and expectations with a comment!