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The current mini-arms race offering premium seats is reminiscent of the fervor around all-business class services between New York and London in the early 2000s. Airlines are hoping the outcome will be different this time.
Today at a media event in New York City, JetBlue formally pulled the wraps off its premium cross-country Mint class of lie-flat business class seats and personal suites. It’s the first move by the airline to separate the classes, and represents a gamble for an airline that’s become known for treating all its passengers with a level of service — better seats, free snacks, free television — that other major airlines don’t deliver.
The Mint service will be sold on flights between New York and Los Angeles and New York and San Francisco starting in June of 2014. Other routes will not be effected for now. Mint consists of twelve business-class seats featuring lie-flat seats and four private suites that offer lie-flat seats with additional space and greater privacy.
The lowest fares for Mint-class seats will begin at $599 each way.
JetBlue is making way for the premium seats by cutting out an inch of space — from 34 inches to 33 — for each row of coach class. Airline representatives state that some of this space will be regained by slimmer seats on these aircraft. Even with the lost inch, though, JetBlue is still a leader in coach-class space: of its U.S. competitors, only Southwest can boast coach seats with a 33-inch pitch.
Coach and Mint passengers on the coast-to-coast flight will have access to JetBlue’s forthcoming “super-fast” Wi-Fi.