I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy my share of premium cabins over the years. My status with American Airlines gets me a seat up front on about half of my domestic trips, and between points and special fares I’ve been able to fly in the first class cabins of Emirates, Etihad, American, Asiana and Korean Air, as well as business class on many of the same.
That’s all to say that I was excited to try out JetBlue’s Mint class on a recent trip from New York to San Diego. The product has consistently received rave reviews across the travel community, and features a fully flat bed in every one of the 16 seats. But while I was excited to give it a shot, I was not that excited. It’s still a domestic product, on a single aisle plane, after all. How good could it actually be, I thought.
At every stage in my experience, my expectations were mightily exceeded.
First, let’s explain the product. After all, you might be thinking, isn’t JetBlue a low cost all-economy carrier? Not so much any more. JetBlue entered the market almost twenty years ago offering an all-economy, “more civilized” product out of JFK with the largest legroom in economy, tons of snacks, and live TV at every seat. Back in college I flew them frequently out Oakland and Long Beach (a quaint, half-attempt at an airport).
But, in 2014, JetBlue began installing a new premium product at the front end of its A321 aircraft flying to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The product was meant to be better than any other domestic first class at a cheaper price point of only $599 each way. Mint has been so successful since then, that JetBlue has expanded service dramatically, launching the product on most of its longest routes, including New York to San Diego, which I tried out this week.
The Mint cabin features five rows of lie-flat seats alternating between two per row and one per row, meaning that four of the seats (rows 2 and 4) are “throne” style seats, all by themselves, with the added benefit of a sliding door. These four seats sell at the same price as any other Mint seat, so if you book early enough you can snag a dramatically better seat.
Given that Mint is the premium cabin for an un-premium carrier, you might expect the product to be bare-bones. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Pulling up at JFK’s Terminal 5, I found signs directing a special location for checking in to the Mint cabin.
And, low and behold, Mint has its own check in area. Not just a counter next to all the others for “elites” with lines as long as any other (ahem, American), but yes, I dedicated check-in area.
I was checked in and through security in no time (thank you, PreCheck!), and spent the extra hour I had before boarding enjoying the AirSpace Lounge (entry courtesy of American Express Business Platinum).
In no time, I was at the gate, ready to get on the beautiful plane that would take us to sunny San Diego!
From the moment you step into the Mint cabin, you know something’s different. The mood is set with deep blue lighting and there’s something just civilized about the layout. Let me be clear: there is no other domestic business class cabin like this. The only competition, maybe, is American’s first class cabin on its 3-cabin A321s flying between New York and LAX/SFO, but that’s questionable, and that product is three times as expensive.
My seat, 4F, was the second “throne” seat on the right side of the aircraft. I stepped back to my seat and was very happy with what I saw, both in terms of the hard product, and the amenities waiting for me.
At my seat was large, comfortable duvet, an amenity kit and even a hand-signed note welcoming me on board!
The amenity kit was very well-socked for a five hour domestic flight, including a toothbrush, lip balm, socks and even gloves!
Within minutes of settling in, the flight attendant working my part of the cabin – Shayla – came over to introduce herself and show me all the features of my seat. One thing about Mint was immediately clear: while the hard product of this cabin is comfortable, what sets Mint apart from anything else in the US is the attentive service of its flight attendants, who are specially trained to work Mint. Shayla walked me through everything that “she loves” about Mint, all the features of my seat, and told me that I would need to store my bag in the overhead bins for take-off, “but, don’t worry, I’ll come to you when we hit 10,000 feet and get you whatever you need!”
Oh. Stop. It.
The seat controls, to the left of the seat, are easy to master, and even include a massage function.
Also to the side of the seat is a closable storage area – perfect for keeping a laptop, tablet or Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones :). There was also a bottle of water waiting for me.
Space is plenty. I stretched out and was already in love.
Shayla offered me a pre-departure drink, and strongly recommended JetBlue’s signature RefreshMint – vodka, honey-infused lemonade, sparkling water and mint. I complied.
At this point, there was nothing I could do but document my sheer excitement.
We left the gate on time and – surprisingly for JFK – were first in line for take off. We were in the air only 5 minutes after we left the gate!
Take off was incredibly smooth, and between my comfortable, massive seat and noise-cancelling headphones, it was very easy to forget that I was on an airplane, hurtling through the air at 500 miles per hour!
Sure enough, at 10,000 feet Shayla came by to check on me and offered to grab anything I needed from the overhead bins. She also unlocked the door function on my seat, so I could close it and enjoy a fully-enclosed suite!
A few minutes later, Jon – the second flight attendant, just as impressive as Shayla – came by to take my drink and dinner order.
Rather than offering choices between two or three entrees, Mint has a tapas approach to meals. Five options are listed on the menu, and you can choose to have up to three. I made my selections and Jon recommended I accompany the starter with a glass of their Spanish sparkling wine. I complied.
The starter, cartelized onion dip with plantain chips was delicious and a fun way to get the meal started! The brut was crisp and dry; no Dom Perginon, but an excellent domestic sparkling option.
At this point service slowed to a crawl. I wasn’t upset, given our early 5 PM departure time. But if we had left later, or were on a shorter, east-bound flight, I might have been annoyed.
About an hour and a half after take-off, dinner was served. I selected the Lentil Salad, Roasted Cauliflower, and Pan-Seared SeaBass. Each plate was delicious, fresh and interesting. Notice the mint-shaped plates even! Jon brought a glass of their full-body Zinfandel to go with my meal, saying he strongly recommended the pairing. Could I say no?
At this point, I was very full, but, low and behold, a few minutes later dessert showed up at my suite. I took a picture and a taste, but that was all I could muster.
At this point, we were almost halfway across the country. I reclined my seat to enjoy JetBlue’s live television. Unfortunately, the live tv wasn’t working, and would work for the entire flight. But, no worries! I still had plenty of things to do to occupy my time because JetBlue offers free internet!
I got some work done then reclined my chair to bed mode to lie down and enjoy a movie. To be honest, the seat is not the most comfortable to sleep on – too firm for my taste. In that respect, I think that American’s lie-flat business seats on its transcontinental A321s is better. But this was no deal breaker, at all.
Before I knew it, we were already preparing for landing in San Diego, a whopping half-hour early! Shayla came through the cabin to thank us for flying JetBlue Mint, and gave each passenger a fresh box of cookies. Soon enough, we were on the ground, and it was time to say goodbye to my newfound favorite product.
JetBlue Mint is leaps and bounds better than any other domestic air product out there. It’s certainly not cheap ($599 one-way) but is well worth every penny. If you have the cash, or some spare points, I definitely recommend it over the other options out there. My hope is that Mint’s success continues to put pressure on the Legacy Carriers (American, United and Delta) to improve their transcontinental service, expand it beyond LAX and SFO, and decrease the price to compete with JetBlue!