With half of the aircraft space devoted to the Mint business class cabin it is clear that JetBlue wants to win over the premium travel market to London. And while loads are light as service ramps up (and COVID continues to impact international travel rules), the on-board offering represents well versus the competition.
For an added bit of fun, the company designates the first row on board as the “Mint Studio” rather than a regular Mint suite seat. It includes a bit of extra space, as well as a couple extra amenities to entice travelers to pay the extra fee for those seats.
Thanks to very reasonable pricing when bookings for the route opened, I caught a westbound ride in the Mint Studio after traveling to London in core/economy to see if it is worth the hype (and extra expense).
The Mint Suite Seat
JetBlue is the launch customer for the Thompson Vantage Solo seat, a new offering with fully flat beds and direct aisle access for all passengers on a single-aisle plane. It also includes doors for each seat to provide a bit of additional privacy, though the low seat walls still mean anyone walking by can see in to the space.
The angle of the seats leaves a triangle of otherwise unused space at the front of the cabin. And rather than dedicate that to storage or some other use, the company decided to add extra room to row one and call it the Mint Studio.
The extra space offers a tiny seat for a second passenger to squeeze in during flight, perhaps to join the Studio customer for a meal. There’s a second seatbelt and second tray table to facilitate this. On my flight, however, the seatbelt was not active and the crew indicated the additional seat is out of service for unspecified reasons. I briefly sat on the side bench and would guess it is fine for a short period to chat, but not great for a longer dwell.
You’ll want to be close with your dining guest, as two people in the space will likely be rubbing knees when seated side by side. Also, the food trays are larger than the side table, making dining there a challenge.
When the Studio converts to a bed the extra space becomes part of the flat surface area. The company uses this extra surface area to bolster the claim of offering the most sleeping area in business class across the Pond. How, exactly, a passenger would contort to use that space remains unclear to me. But it helps with the marketing.
All of which is to say that the extra physical space is nice. Really anything to feel a little less cramped on a plane should be welcomed. But I see it more as a general spaciousness concept rather than the bed or guest dining bits used to sell the space.
Also of note: the bin over seat 1A is not available for passenger use. There is still plenty of overhead bin space in the Mint cabin, but this is an unfortunate quirk for the people paying a surcharge to sit there.
In addition to the extra space on board, the Mint Studio gets two extra amenities. The small throw pillow on the side bench is cute and perhaps useful to someone looking for extra support when sleeping.
Passengers in the Studio also receive pajamas for the flight.
Points scored for including pockets, but also no button for the napkin when dining. That the napkin doesn’t have the button hole makes that less an issue for the PJs and more an issue for the dining situation.
There’s also a bit of mint branding on the sleeve cuff, though it is set to be read by the person wearing the shirt, so that’s a little strange.
The little things
There are a ton of little touches that, alone, don’t really seem to matter. But, combined together, the overall value they bring adds to the comfort and experience on board.
These include the textured fabric sidewall lining from Tapis and the storage bins everywhere in the Suite seat.
Even the Mint lozenge/logo shape on the tray table (though not on the plates anymore) showed up.
Dining in JetBlue Mint from London
Much like in economy class on the outbound half of the trip the food for the London to New York segment was top notch. Dishes were designed in partnership with Pasquale Jones and offer a range of choices for travelers, served tapas-style.
Passengers pick three of five dishes for the main meal and two of three for the second service.
In theory passengers also select one of the two dessert options, but the flights are catered for all 24 seats right now, even with loads much lower. That meant no problems getting both the vanilla gelato and the cheese plate to help send me into nap time.
With only six passengers on my flight the meal service went plenty quick. Also, it was the westbound service where a quick meal is less of the goal. Staffing the cabin with three flight attendants for 24 seats helps keep things moving smoothly on that front as well.
As tasty as the food is, I’d typically skip it on the eastbound flight to get more sleep. Especially with the 10p departure from JFK, eating in the terminal (or before arriving at the airport) would be my default plan.
Westbound, with limited dining options open at Heathrow and no lounge access (more on that below), the meals matter a bit more.
Sleeping in the Suite Seats
I managed to break my seat during the flight. As I laid it out to flat bed mode I managed to trip a circuit breaker, rendering all of the electronics out of service. The good news is that the crew used the in-flight wifi service to get support from tech ops and return it to service while we were in the sky. But that also meant I took my nap in one of the regular Mint suites rather than the Studio.
And it was completely fine.
I fit well in the space, both head-to-toe and sideways. I’m also not the largest passenger and I could imagine that if other, similarly designed products feel cramped to you then this will, too.
My fellow Studio rider expressed concern about galley noise filtering into the first row on the redeye. I’d like to think the crew will handle that well, but only time will tell.
Ground services limited
Historically JetBlue comes up short on premium ground services. That continues with the new London operations.
A priority check-in line is available at the terminal but that’s where the benefits end. No priority security access. No lounge access.
I got by just fine, passing an hour or so at Yo! Sushi before heading out to the gate. But for many travelers, and especially on Transatlantic routes, the trip begins well before the plane takes off.
JetBlue doesn’t have many options at Heathrow currently, with most lounges closed anyways. But some sort of nod to the premium pre-flight experience would be nice. Even Air France managed to issue vouchers for business class passengers to buy a snack in the post-hurricane St. Maarten terminal while awaiting a lounge rebuild there.
Fit and finish challenges
One challenge of introducing a brand new product is making sure it will stand up to the rigor of passenger use. My trip was one of the first ten for this aircraft, and it was already showing some signs of trouble.
The side table in my Studio, for example, was damaged. Extending it for use was very difficult and and it did not sit level once out. Similarly, my Suite door had trouble closing and door at 2A didn’t work at all.
The (very large, very responsive, very nice) IFE screens swing out for use in the Suites. And they’re supposed to recess back into the seat when not in use. Several of them in the Mint cabin appeared to not fully return to their storage location.
None of these alone are reason for panic. But ongoing maintenance issues in the cabin are annoying enough that travelers will begin to notice them, especially when they’re part of the value add marketing pitch for the product (e.g. sliding doors to the suite).
Hopefully those can be addressed quickly and the future deliveries are more reliable.
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