On June 15th JetBlue proudly launched Mint, their attack on premium class seating. When JetBlue announced over a year ago that they would be entering into the premium seating market, I eagerly awaited what they would roll out. I have been a fan of JetBlue because of their low fares out my home base Boston, the best on-board US domestic product and generally proper treatment of pax (minus points for the young girl forced to urinate in her seat recently). To date, JetBlue have focuses mainly on serving the more price concise flying public with an economy and the “even more space” offering, which will get you slightly more leg room for an additional cost. The Mint product will mark their first effort to capture business class revenue, that previously had gone to the larger carriers.
Mint will be offered on JetBlue’s newest aircraft the A321 and only on the JFK- LAX route followed by JFK-SFO in October. JetBlue has commented that if the product does well it will offer Mint from BOS as well. On-board, Mint includes 16 lie-flat first class seats including 4 private suits, which will be the widest and the longest seats available within the US domestic market. The seats are designed by Thompson Aero Seating in Northern Ireland. I contacted JetBlue to see how much more the suites would be. They replied that the suites are the same price. So if you book early enough, the suite is yours for no extra charge. I have a feeling that will change if demand is high enough.
Furthermore, all Mint customers will be able to enjoy up to 100 channels of DirecTV on new 15″ flat screen TV’s. You also get access to a self-serve snack bar, complimentary WiFi (subject to change I’m sure), five different meal options served tapas style from NYC based restaurant Saxon + Parole and a grooming products from Birchbox. Initially, tickets are starting at $599 one way. While at the airport the Mint product grants you access to the “Even More Speed” security line and the option to board first along with the Mosaic members. Unfortunately the Mint product does not grant you access to any lounges at JFK or LAX. When you have reached your destination, supposedly Mint customers bags will be the first bags to the carousel.
From an outside perspective, Mint looks like a winner. They were leaking passengers to their majors because they didn’t have the posh premium offering that United and American had. With Mint, JetBlue can fill a gap in the premium/business class market and go after the passenger who is willing to pay a premium over coach, but not ready to shell out for a ticket that can be 8 times the price of economy. Some experts estimate the transcon route is worth $5 million a day industry wide and JetBlue is now poised to grab their share.
Based on pricing, JetBlue is staggeringly low compared with other carriers. I did a random search for business class seats for July 15, 2014 from JFK-LAX and JetBlue, true to their word came in cheapest at $599 and the next closest was United at $999. Both were direct flights but JetBlue left very early at 6:59am. Clearly there is a definite savings to the customer. I like how JetBlue is rolling out the product for a limited amount of flights. It’s always a gamble trying something new that required a significant investment. Limiting the offering to one or two routes and only on their newest, most efficient A321’s is a smart move. This limits their risk exposure should the product fail. It also enables them the best chance of succeeding by offering Mint on the most fought after transcon JFK-LAX route. If the precedent for Mints success can be set on the transcon routes, adding it to other routes will be less painful.
As I have yet to experience the Mint product, my conclusion is solely based on research and gut intuition. Based on the pictures and reviews of aviation geeks who have flown on the initial flights, Mint looks like it is set up for success. With updated seats that are filled with air that can massage you mid fight to fresh food that is brought in from an upscale New York restaurant, JetBlue is definitely going for the “cool” angle. Their service is growing up before our eyes, maturing by offering enlarged flat screens and complimentary WiFi. My personal feeling is Mint will succeed based on the price and style of service. It is tough to deny there is significant value at $599 one way. You get to fast track security, great on-board amenities and comfortable seats with upscale service. If anything this is increasing competition in the premium seating space and will hopefully lower prices from other carriers. Who doesn’t like more luxury for less?