Aviation News

June 11, 2014

PREVIEW: JetBlue Introduces Mint

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Written by: Douglas Wint
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The New York-Kennedy (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) market is highly competitive, and for several years, carriers have been upgrading hard and soft products to attract premium passengers. Last October, JetBlue announced it would upgrade its onboard premium service with the introduction of Mint. By offering Mint as well as core, its regular cabin offering, JetBlue is set to distinguish itself from the industry standard of labeling premium classes as “first” or “business.” Prior to the launch of Mint service on June 15, JetBlue gave NYCAviation a peek of the Mint cabin on its new Airbus A321 (N923JB – “It’s Mint To Be”).

JetBlue's Mint seats were designed by Thompson Aero and are laid out in an alternating 2-2, 1-1 configuration. (Photo by the author)

JetBlue’s Mint seats were designed by Thompson Aero and are laid out in an alternating 2-2, 1-1 configuration.
(Photo by the author)

Upon arriving at JetBlue’s Terminal 5, we met Anders Lindstrom, PR Manager for JetBlue, and were escorted to Gate 21 where we were to board the airplane. It was a pleasant surprise to discover we would be exiting the jetway directly onto the ramp before boarding the aircraft via air stairs. This afforded the opportunity for close ups of the exterior of this gleaming new airplane.

Once onboard, the unique configuration of the cabin is in full view. JetBlue partnered with Thompson Aero Seating to design the 16 seats laid out in an alternating pattern of 2-2 or 1-1. The single private suites in the 1-1 configuration have a closing door, a feature exclusive to JetBlue among U.S. carriers. Those private seats feature fully lie-flat beds that extend up to 6’8” and up to 22.3 inches wide (the double seats are 20.7 inches wide) that makes it the longest and widest on average among the domestic business class market. In lieu of the use of traditional cushions for these seats, air tubes are present within, allowing the occupant to adjust the firmness to his liking. These seats feel very comfortable with ample leg and foot space. A few inches between the seat and the wall, and the fact the there were access to three separate windows in seat 5F, adds to the spacious feeling that is difficult to miss.

A massage function, floor light, dual 110-volt power outlets and a USB port are available at every seat on the airplane. The control panel for the seat features is easy to operate, and a simple button labeled “Take Off/Land” brings the seat back to its upright setting from any position. The massage was effective and subtle, likely due to its probable lengthy use during the long flights. Another addition to all Mint-equipped A321s is the self-serve marketplace, with free snacks and drinks for all passengers. Located between Mint and core sections, it a unique service option that should appeal to any JetBlue traveler.

A bevy of seat controls is complemented by a 15" display offering DirecTV and movies. (Photo by the author)

A bevy of seat controls is complemented by a 15″ display offering DirecTV and movies. (Photo by the author)

A 15-inch flat screen with live DirecTV, movies and SiriusXM programming complements the other premium perks. For now, the screen is controlled by the use of a remote; touch control will be coming in the near future. What will certainly appeal to all aviation enthusiasts is live air traffic control audio availability. It will not be available immediately and only on Mint-equipped A321s, and there are plans to expand the service fleet-wide.

Once seated, a preflight drink was offered – a honey-infused lime cocktail – which was a refreshing addition and a great way to commence a transcontinental flight (though the flight actually did not happen). A warm towel was given to all guests following service of our preflight drink, and this would happen again before our Mint experience was complete. JetBlue has partnered with New York City-based Birchbox to offer his-and-hers amenity kits (for the purpose of this event, everyone received both). Items include lotion, shaving cream, lip balm, hand cream and a moisturizer, and it’s presented in an attractive pouch and box that will surely lead recipients to conduct a search of Birchbox’s other products on their own.

The menu available to Mint passengers is inspired by NYC eateries. (Photo by the author)

The menu available to Mint passengers is inspired by NYC eateries. (Photo by the author)

Immediately following delivery of the amenity kits, we were provided with the menu with selections from New York restaurant Saxon + Parole. We were given three choices from the set of five entrees. It was difficult selecting just one among these choices but I finally decided on the shrimp and mascarpone grits, Long Island duck and pistachio galantine, and the Black Angus burger. However, before receiving the entree, we were given a small serving of chilled corn soup w/ avocado, cilantro, and chives in a chili oil. This was amazingly delicious, and it seemed small only because I wanted more! This was coupled with a selection of a soft drink, wine, or a cocktail of your choice.

After our stellar cabin crew removed the leftovers, the selected entrees were served. The Black Angus was juicy and seasoned with a bacon relish that aided as a perfect compliment. The shrimp and mascarpone grits were also delightful and flavorful, and not too sharp in taste. While not terribly underwhelming, the duck was not as enjoyable as I would have hoped. The brioche was not as fluffy and sweet as I’ve known it to be; however, the gelatin was a great add-on that allows this small detractor to be overlooked.

Not straying from the appearance of a real flight, attendants asked if we would be joining them for dessert. After providing the obvious answer, we were treated to a bowl of fresh fruit salad and creamy coffee ice cream from Blue Marble, both of which were a nice end to a stream of superb food selections. I also had a timely cup of coffee (Dunkin’ Donuts) to go along with my dessert.

At about this time, some two and half hours following the start of our experience, trays were removed and it was announced that the demonstration had come to an end. This was an ideal moment to speak with JetBlue representatives for more details about Mint. According to Réal Hamilton-Romeo, Manager of Corporate Communications, JetBlue may roll out Mint service across other long distance markets next year depending on the success of JFK to LAX and San Francisco flights which begin in October 2014). As of now, there are no plans to expand service to new markets with these A321’s, as those coming online will strictly be used for LAX and SFO flights to and from JFK.

Mint may be a gamble for JetBlue; it represents a dramatic shift from the norm for the traditionally egalitarian airline. Travelers in the core experience — the aft section of the airplane — will share the fuselage with premium passengers of Mint-equipped aircraft – a new modification of the JetBlue platform. Having virtually experienced the service for myself, I can testify that it will be a difficult for any carrier to compete against and I predict success for JetBlue that hopefully will result in its expansion, in time.

More photos from our preview:

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Doug Wint is an aviation enthusiast and writer. You can follow him on Twitter.



About the Author

Douglas Wint
Doug Wint is an aviation enthusiast based in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.




 
 

 

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