The Experientialist® headed to New York JFK (and beyond) from London Heathrow in contemporary comfort with transatlantic challenger airline JetBlue, experiencing their premium ‘Mint’ cabin’s new suites and star-studded service for the first time. And we have to say that we were rather impressed…
It’s no secret that we at OutThere are ‘AV-geeks’. And we have long said that the journey can be as fabulous as the destination. But faithful to the longstanding, gold-card-gilded adoration we have for our airline loyalty programme, we stubbornly fly our transatlantic journeys with bull-headed purpose and unwavering dedication. And like many others in the same boat (well, flight), we’ve spent hours complaining about it.
With a side-eye of veiled curiosity, we’ve watched intently as JetBlue strategically moved into European airspace. This challenger brand has taken on a very competitive landscape (there are currently some 36 daily flights between London and New York City) with aplomb, witty marketing, precocious pricing and an impressive premium product: JetBlue Mint. We can’t deny that we hadn’t been tempted.
But what nudged us over the line was the airline’s announcement that it had joined the IGLTA, (the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association). Sure, other US airlines are long-term members too, but it’s only fair to want to support an inclusive company that supports us back. And since the association’s annual convention was in Puerto Rico this year (coincidentally, a major JetBlue hub), it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take Mint for a ride.
JetBlue Mint’s whole raison d’être is to offer a refreshing and modern take on premium-class travel. Alongside transatlantic (flying from London Heathrow, Gatwick and soon Edinburgh – but also Paris, Amsterdam and soon Dublin; to New York JFK and Boston Logan), it is also available on select US coast-to-coast, Caribbean and Latin American routes.
On the pond-hopping routes, JetBlue Mint occupies the front part of a fleet of shiny Airbus A321Neo long-range aircraft, each with 24 fully-enclosed Mint Suites with all-aisle access. Targeting luxury and business travellers, they offer contemporary and elevated aesthetics, amenities and service, in addition to the planes themselves promising 20% less fuel burn and up to 50% less engine noise for flyers, flight paths, airports and their neighbours.
Appropriately, we flew from London Heathrow Terminal 2 (affectionately known as The Queens’ Terminal). There is no lounge access with JetBlue Mint, which came as a surprise to us seasoned travellers who value some champagne-fueled downtime before the flight. We’re told that their research showed that passengers prefer a cost benefit rather than a lounge facility and instead, they focus their attention on full-board inflight service. However, Platinum Amex cardholders and Priority Pass members can use the Plaza Premium lounge. From Gatwick, JetBlue flies from the North Terminal, where there are a number of lounges available for club cardholders and for single purchase.
Which brings us to price/value… The airline’s pricing strategy for JetBlue Mint is allegedly based on delivering below-competition business-class travel. Hitting Google to research fares on a random long weekend (Thursday to Monday) in April 2024, this is what we found:
London Heathrow to New York JFK fares
Delta / Virgin Atlantic (6 daily)
British Airways (1 daily)
American Airlines / British Airways (12 daily)
JetBlue (1 daily)
JetBlue (2 daily)
*Fares accurate at the time of our search. Demand-based fares can change depending on date, when booked, availability, taxes and add-ons. Different search dates can mean that a different airline will have the cheapest fare.
Plugging other date variations in both March and April, the fare array remains consistent and deeply competitive among the airlines. So, despite the public perception of JetBlue’s challenger pricing, fares are pretty much in line with rival airlines, although JetBlue maintains that on their weekly price-checker, they come out ‘cheapest 90% of the time’. However, it’s not just about price, but about value. And this is where JetBlue Mint comes into its own.
The narrow-body cabin 1-1 configuration immediately creates a more premium and intimate ambience. A sleek, clean-lined aesthetic – in signature grey and with mood lighting – sets the tone for inflight indulgence. There are two ‘ultra-premium’ seats in the cabin, seats 1A and 1F, each called a Mint Studio™, that boast the largest flatbeds and TV screens on a U.S. airline… size matters here, it’s a staggering 22″! These studios also have an extra seat and table, making it an urban work-live apartment in the sky. The other suites offer a 17″ inflight entertainment system, in-suite power points (and wireless charging decks) and a customizable space, allowing travellers to fly their way. There are plenty of clever storage nooks to stow belongings (including a well-placed hook for the signature Master and Dynamic noise-cancelling headphones) and most importantly somewhere for our laptop and mobile devices, something we still struggle with on other airlines. JetBlue Mint takes the adage of ‘personal space’ to a different level.
The cocoon-like seat, that transforms into a fully flat bed is one of the most comfortable we’ve experienced on the route, featuring American mattress and bedding brand (and one of the very first ‘bed in a box’ makers) Tuft & Needle’s T&N Adaptive® Foam cushions, a memory foam pillow and a duvet and slippers as standard.
The marketing wit continues onboard, with everything designed and copywritten to an inch of their lives to ensure informality and conversation. From printed menus that allow cabin crew to write their name in, screen interstitials that say things like ‘Hey, what’s up?’ and environmentally conscious amenity kits from Tuft and Needle and Wanderfuel that reminded us that we had reached ‘Snoozing Altitude’ – complete with all the usual bits we use (and often don’t, but this time with less guilt). Our plane was called ‘John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt’ and while not yet affected onto actual aircraft, JetBlue had recently released news of a whole set of fun, bright-coloured and eye-catching new livery. The cabin crew are refreshingly pleasant and cheerful too.
We were particularly impressed by the innovative technology onboard, with unfussy controls, accessible mostly by touch-screen. There’s free and superfast satellite Wi-Fi for the entire journey (they call it Fly-Fi®). Then, there’s an incredible choice of movies, TV and games, including inclusive entertainment selections, from LGBTQ+ choices for Pride Month to those that celebrate different cultural events like Latin Heritage Month, Black History Month, etc, not to mention an exclusive streaming partnership with US provider Peacock.
Inflight dining was also available via touchscreen and whether we pre-ordered a special meal, wanted a quick bite or went full-service, we could choose from a selection of buffet items to customize our own small-plates tray, paired to a curated soundtrack too! JetBlue Mint dining sees a culinary partnership with the innovative Delicious Hospitality Group, bringing Manhattan dining hotspots Pasquale Jones, Charlie Bird and Legacy Records to new heights. They’re also committed to supporting small gastro-businesses, with coffee from the Brooklyn Roasting Company, Tutto Calabria Chili Oil, Natalie’s Juice and Maldon Salt, among others. And on the return leg, which leaves after 8:30pm, there’s a special Shut-Eye Service® featuring a specially curated Savor & Sleep™ evening meal, allowing flyers to drift off to sleep quicker after take-off.
When it comes to libations, we could ‘Sip back and relax.’ Yes you guessed, it is a JetBlue Mint coined slogan, not one of ours! There’s also an international artisanal wine list, put together by Parcelle and cocktails are shaken on board, inspired by New York speciality cocktail lounge, Ada’s Place.
On landing in New York, JetBlue arrives and departs from JFK Terminal 5. As we were connecting onwards, we had to clear immigration, pick up our bag from the carousel and head upstairs to departures to re-check the bag on to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The rigmarole is a quirk of American transits, but unlike other US legacy airlines, JetBlue does not yet have a baggage recheck immediately on exit.
Terminal 5 is a relatively quiet and airy terminal as it currently only services JetBlue. The terminal itself also seeks to drive diversity in its retail offering, creating strong partnerships with minority, service-disabled, veteran and women-owned businesses as well as local business enterprises, aligned to JetBlue’s own vision on inclusion.
Like its UK counterpart, there’s no lounge for JetBlue passengers at Terminal 5 (and at the time of press, no third-party lounges either), although it’s a relatively new and comfortable terminal all around. As we had a long transit, we took the opportunity to relax at the TWA Hotel, just an elevator ride up from arrivals. Here, we were transported back to the jet age, to Eero Saarinen’s 1960s TWA Flight Centre, now a luxury hotel. Fellow AV-geeks may like to know that their bar, the Connie Cocktail Lounge, situated in an old Lockheed Constellation aircraft only opens at 4:30pm (so plan that in for the return journey), but the hotel is a sanctuary of aviation history and a lovely place to spend a few hours. Its rooftop deck and heated pool overlooking the runway are available to use at a cost from £20/$25 per person in the Winter/Spring, rising to £41/$50 in the Summer/Autumn.
At OutThere, we’re all about travel that transcends the ordinary. JetBlue Mint by way of service and inflight offering exceeded our expectations in that respect, and unlike other airlines we’ve travelled on of late where we’ve sometimes felt nickled-and-dimed, there is an unstinting spirit of generosity on board.
For those who love to fly and even those who don’t, JetBlue’s premium class service across the Atlantic (and beyond) epitomises the essence of contemporary, curated luxury in the air, which we have to applaud. Where there is room for improvement is on the ground, where it is currently incomparable to other carriers with respect to lounge service and ease of connectivity, but it seems with improvements afoot at JFK Terminal 5, some change will soon come there and perhaps new partnerships at Terminal 2 in the future will improve things on the European side.
The challenge will be in tearing passengers away from their preferred legacy airline. But having asked around, it seems to be a task that JetBlue Mint is excelling at. The product is significantly better… for now, even if the prices are only on par. What we do like is that JetBlue Mint is challenging the status quo in an era where luxury passengers are less interested in how much brands cost, but more concerned about how brands make them feel. We’re persuaded that JetBlue’s positive and forward-looking policies around service, environment and diversity will give OutThere travellers something they’ll want to buy into and be part of. See you onboard, then? We’ll be in 1A!