As the Pfizer, Moderna and additional coronavirus vaccines continue their global rollout, most in the travel industry see a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel and a slow return to travel normalcy.
But personally, I expect a few of the pandemic induced changes to stick around, including the desire for more privacy in travel, whether that means resorts with freestanding cabin or villa lodging, home rentals, whole property takeovers, private guided trips, or more separated in-flight options.
While it may not have been undertaken because of the pandemic, JetBlue’s complete redesign of its longer haul Mint business class cabin is the first such major launch since the COVID crisis and looks positioned to be extremely popular going forward. Until a much higher percentage of the population is vaccinated, expert opinions as to the safety of air travel remain mixed in the short term, and I am not recommending Mint as a panacea, but rather something to keep in mind for future trips, hopefully just a few months down the road – besides, it won’t be here until June.
JetBlue has long managed to do what other airlines have not been able to, which is to position itself as both a value carrier and one that has above average service, with many fans preferring it over the big three legacy carriers. I’ve only flown the airline a handful of times because of my fixation on points, status and the benefits that come with frequenting one or two airlines and alliances, but when I have flown it, I have always been impressed. I also have a friend who was a very high-level Delta frequent flier who told me he switched from First to Mint for transcontinental flights because he thought it was appreciably better.
The first iteration of Mint appeared in 2014 as a strategy to disrupt the commercial aviation market with a fresh take on premium travel at an “un-premium” price. “Mint was an idea to make premium travel across the U.S. less stuffy and more affordable, and its performance has exceeded even our most optimistic expectations of going beyond New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco,” said Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue president and chief operating officer. “Mint’s thoughtful design has resonated with customers as we successfully grew it to more than 30 routes. We put our heart into this redesign of Mint and were inspired by our original vision of offering customers an exceptional experience at a lower fare – which is what JetBlue is all about.”
The big change in Mint’s first complete redesign is “every seat a suite,” with 24 fully encircled (walls but not all the way to the ceiling) private suites with a sliding door for each passenger. Inside is a spacious, efficient configuration with Thompson Aero Seating’s VantageSOLO seat, the first used by any carrier. The revolutionary single aisle seating solution with a herringbone layout designed specifically for narrow-body aircraft was further customized for JetBlue, plus a custom-designed seat cushion by Tuft & Needle, the very popular home bedding brand. Every seat is layered with the company’s proprietary adaptive foam and a breathable cover to create a cool, comfortable sleep experience. Additional Tuft & Needle sleep amenities include a convertible blanket with a built-in foot pocket, memory foam lined pillow with pillowcase, and snooze kit with a matching eye mask and earplugs. Each suite has a tilting 17-inch Thales AVANT screen, easy-to-reach in-seat power, wireless charging, an integrated phone ledge, laptop, shoe and handbag stowage, even mood lighting.
The new cabin also features two “Mint Studios” in the first row on each aircraft. JetBlue claims these have the most space of any premium option from any U.S. carrier. The all-new Mint Studio has a 22-inch screen and ample room for working or relaxing, but really excels at work, with an extra side table for added productivity or working through meals, and a guest seat that can accommodate an additional Mint customer during flight (once at cruising altitude), perfect for teams of co-workers traveling together. It’s also great for couples. When reclined, the seating turns into what JetBlue says is the largest lie-flat bed of any U.S. carrier – big enough to “starfish.”
The new Mint will launch on JetBlue’s new Boston and New York to London flights later this year, and a 16-seat version will also begin this June on a limited number of New York-Los Angeles flights.