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Despite stalled growth in China, Brazil and Russia, a wave of newly middle-class travelers from the BRICs and beyond will start visiting international destinations in the coming decades — dwarfing the numbers we’ve seen thus far.
JetBlue’s Mint business class should prove to be very popular, and there are enough improvements in the rest of the plane to ensure that the airline’s existing customer base won’t get alienated. Still, it remains to be seen how long JetBlue will keep Mint at its current price points, and whether the service will be an economic success.
JetBlue modestly debuts its Mint business class service on June 15 with a 9:30 a.m. flight on a new A321 from JFK to Los Angeles, and so begins a new era in the airline’s existence and a delicate balancing act as the carrier tries hard not to alienate the passengers toward the back of the plane.
The service, currently selling for $599 to $999 one way, starts with just one daily flight and is expected to ramp up to seven by the end of the 2014. JFK to San Francisco service will debut in late October, and will increase to five by the end of the year, JetBlue says.
It should be a great ride. Skift tried out Mint service at JFK June 10, although the A321 remained parked at the gate. The configuration is 14 double suites and four singles with privacy doors, and fully lie-flat seats that max out at 6 feet 8 inches. JetBlue states the lie-flat seats are the longest in the U.S. domestic business class market.
The seats, JetBlue states, reshape themselves around the contours of the passenger’s body, are up to 22.3 inches wide, and offer 3-minute massages, and a “wake me up for service” button so the passenger won’t keep sleeping through meal service.
That meal service includes selections such as watermelon salad and cheese & chive biscuit sandwich that are staples of or curated from NYC restaurant Saxon + Parole. And, don’t forget the pre-departure honey-infused lime aide with — what else? — fresh mint, vodka optional.
To view the Mint-class seating, in-flight entertainment set-up, and revamped coach service, view the gallery above.
With Mint service, JetBlue is trying to forge a middle ground between low cost carriers such as Spirit and legacy airlines such as United and Delta. JetBlue has long attracted what the lingo refers to as unmanaged business travelers, and now it is finally trying to make some additional money based on that demand.
But, as JetBlue takes delivery of 11 A321s by the end of 2015, it will be offering Mint seats on them and will be revamping its Even More Legroom and coach seats and in-flight entertainment in the process.
The word you never hear JetBlue staff uttering is “coach.” Instead, they call coach seats “core seating.”
The message, of course, is that the back of the plane remains core to JetBlue’s value proposition, and that the airline is not neglecting that customer base that got the airline this far.
But, on the A321s the seat pitch for coach seats gets reduced an inch to 33 inches, as does the premium Even More Legroom, which sees its seat pitch reduced an inch to 37 inches.
JetBlue says passengers won’t feel any reduced legroom in the Even More Legroom seats or the core seats because the seats are slimmer.
While it is true that slimmer seats would give back some of the reduced distance between seats, some travelers may find the slimmer seats not as comfortable than thicker seats with more cushion.
Still, the 33 inches of pitch on JetBlue’s flights is still more ample than the pitch on many of JetBlue’s competitors.
Coach passengers will also be happy to find that on the A321s, the seat-back screens get enlarged to 10 inches, up from the current 8 inches, and they’ll get 100 channels of DirecTV, 10 SirisXM radio channels, and eight movie channels.
JetBlue has also introduced on the A321s a Marketplace positioned between the Mint and Even More Legroom sections that are filled with snacks and soft drinks, and available to all passengers for free.
JetBlue’s existing fleet of A320s and Embraer 190s are also slated to get the revamped Even More Legroom and core seating by the end of 2015, as well.
The legroom on the core seats, with one inch less of seat pitch than the current setup, feel roomy so it is doubtful that there would be much of a backlash from JetBlue’s coach customers.