Friday, August 1, 2014

JetBlue's new "Mint" service

Last updated Feb 2017
 
When JetBlue announced their new lie-flet First Class "Mint" service, I was lucky enough to snag a seat at the special introductory fare of $499 (one way). I've updated this page over the ensuing months to keep the review current. 

PROS: 
  • Best transcon seat hands-down
  • Half the price of any competitor
  • Free, fast Wifi and live TV
  • Best food

CONS: 
  • No lounge (unless you have Priority Pass and use Virgin's)
  • JetBlue's rewards program has limited redemption options

➡️ checking in on Mint 6 months after launch (March 2015)
➡️ checking in on Mint 18 months after launch (March 2016)
➡️ JetBlue announces a major expansion of their Mint Network

conclusion 

if you're paying for your own ticket and/or don't have the miles to upgrade yourself to first class on a United/American/Delta, this is unquestionably the best way between NYC and LAX or SFO in style and comfort. 

 

background

First, a quick primer: for years Delta, American, and United have flown special planes on the NYC-Los Angeles and the NYC-San Francisco routes. (Delta also flies their fancy planes on the NYC-Seattle route). They're configured like international planes and feature lie-flat first/business class and fancy food and drink like you'd find if you were flying to Paris or Tokyo. The flights are priced accordingly – usually in the ballpark of $3500 round trip. The airlines have also exempted these flights from their elite complimentary upgrades programs, so even if you're an super-duper-platinum, you pay for that upgrade with either miles or dollars.

The big 3 carriers recently finished retrofitting these special planes to have the latest and greatest interiors. Not long after that was done, JetBlue made a surprise announcement that no one believed – not only were they adding first class, they were adding a first class with closing door suites! They were leapfrogging the big three AND undercutting their prices by over half. It wasn't an april fools press release (seriously watch this movie of the DOOR on my domestic first class suite!):

video

The service started in late June to LAX and begins in October to SFO.

boarding

While the "Mint experience" is equal and often superior to that of the big 3, the lack of a pre-departure lounge is definitely a weak spot. I was in LA during a massive construction project near the airport and I'd left the requested 3 hours for my trip to the airport and, of course, it only took 20 minutes. So I had a lot of time to kill. American and United give free lounge access to people in their premium transcon First Class, but with JetBlue you don't have the option at all. 

When we boarded, the staff were very good about enforcing the boarding order. While I'm well aware "we're all getting on the same plane" and that we'll "all land at the same time", it's irritating when people are rewarded for not following the rules. Two people got sent out of line for it "not being their turn yet". GOOD.

Once aboard I found my suite and settled in. The blanket and pillow were really high quality, the headphones not so much (UPDATE: JetBlue changed their headphone vendor to Grado and they're awesome!). I was quickly greeted by name and offered a pre-departure lemon Mint cocktail with or without vodka in it. It was tasty. The crew were friendly to the point of gushiness. They seemed genuinely excited about making sure we had a first-rate experience. They showed me the features of my suite (gotta love the "do not disturb" button!) and explained the menu.

The pilot then invited everyone on board to "take a big whiff of that new plane smell" and we were off.
Boarding area wasn't too chaotic...

old headphones (they've since updated to Grado), eyeshade + earplugs pouch, and a welcome card

Note the TWO power outlets by my bag - each also has a USB power jack

Water bottle spot + reading lamp

Entertainment controls


not really sure what i'm supposed to put in this cubby…





Welcome cocktail


in-flight service

We took off late but the captain assured us we could make up some time. Food began not long after reaching cruising altitude. A restaurant near my house in NYC designed the menu. It's a "pick three out of these five" tapas setup. 

It's definitely the most innovative food I've ever eaten on an American carrier. 
  • Corn/lobster was tasty: right balance of soft/crunchy/spicy/sweet/savory. the lobster got overwhelmed by the strong flavors though. 
  • Cod in fennel tomato was nicely cooked and very rich. 
  • The stuffed gnocchi was my favorite. It was lightly browned (I love that) and the truffles, leeks, butter, and fontina all worked perfectly together. 
  • Dessert was light and perfect – fruit and mint-chip ice cream.
    UPDATE 5/2017:
    JetBlue announced that Mint flights will feature ice cream from local shops in their departure cities: Blue Marble (NYC), Coolhaus (LA), Double Rainbow (SF), The Frieze (Ft. Lauderdale), Toscanini's (Boston)

It was a little odd to have those 3 trays all at once and all of them best eaten with a spoon. That aside, I'd rather have this than ANY of the wellllll done meat entrees or high school lunch pasta that normally gets served by United, American, Delta, or even Virgin on their first class JFK-LAX runs.

More updated menus and pictures over on FlyerTalk.
TIP: People who aren't keen on their innovative menu can call 24+ hours before the flight and request their "Plane Eats" menu, which features a more midwestern, picky-eater kind of menu (burgers, mac and cheese, etc). 
Brooklyn summer ale and the carrot ginger soup
Menu (click to enlarge)



Redeye flights have an abbreviated "prix fixe" menu (sorry for the bad picture quality, everyone on the plane went to sleep so i had to take the pics with my seat light!)
Feb 2017 Redye Menu

Feb 2017 Redye Menu

Deviled Egg (Feb 2017 Redeye)

Feb 2017 "pre fixe" Redeye menu

 

 

Sleep / Entertainment

The screens were larger and nicer than the normal JetBlue ones, but it's basically the same programming. The plane had Ka-band Wi-Fi (FAST) and it was FREE. There was an option to pay for faster Wi-Fi but it seemed plenty fast to me. 

They handed out an amenity kit from Birchbox after dinner.  It was cute but like most amenity kits, I didn't really need anything out of it. The laundry bar stain remover was the most interesting thing in there. As of our November 2016 flight, the amenity kits are now being done by Hopper.

The seat has a built-in massager and Airbus finally found someone to make metal seat controls rather than those terrible membrane ones that look broken after 2 months of use. The sleeping position has a LOT of your legs underneath the seat in front of you, but it didn't prevent me from sleeping on my side. The foot area light was a nice touch. 

I slept until right before landing and the FA had kindly saved me a cookie box to take home with me since I'd missed him handing it out. I packed up my bags and headed out. If they can keep the fares this low, I'll definitely be back!

Check out my friends' reviews here, and here (we were all on separate flights). 

Great blanket and entertainment
New amenity kit (Nov 2016)

Old Birchbox amenity kit

I'm 6'1 / 185cm and my head doesn't touch the lavatory ceiling!

Bed position: a LOT of your legs are underneath the TV

Pre-landing brownies and shortbread




No comments:

Post a Comment