Newly minted: Reviewing JetBlue’s brand new business class from London to New York
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Back in April of 2019, JetBlue Airways shared plans to launch its very first intercontinental nonstop service to London from both Boston and New York-JFK.
Despite a steep drop in transatlantic demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, JetBlue took delivery of its first Airbus A321LR earlier this year, and, just last week, finally began those much-anticipated Europe flights.
I joined the inaugural in JetBlue’s “Core” economy cabin, and I was blown away by the service — catered in partnership with New York City-based chain Dig Inn, the food was a particular highlight.
With such an exceptional experience in coach, I had especially high hopes for my return flight to New York, booked in the airline’s latest Mint business-class cabin. It did not disappoint.
While there was only one choice for the inaugural flight, I had my pick of dates for the return. Emily McNutt booked the first flight from London on the day of my arrival in the U.K., so I decided to fly back one day later, assuming that would give me an opportunity to quickly turn around a review while avoiding travelling back to New York with the various inaugural flight dignitaries, whose presence might affect my experience on board.
With an even higher fare for a one-way trip, I opted for a return flight from London (LHR) to New York-JFK for ₤1,240 in total, some $1,760 based on the exchange rate when I purchased the ticket in April. That’s a heck of a deal for a round-trip in business class.
You can also book Mint via JetBlue’s TrueBlue program, but redemption rates are based on the cash fare, and can be extraordinarily high, especially for one-way trips.
JetBlue flights also recently became bookable via the Emirates Skywards program, but when I called to price out an award between New York City and London, the agent explained that JetBlue redemptions are only available for flights within the U.S.
In my particular case, my itinerary was affected by a schedule change, and JetBlue emailed me several times offering a free change to my ticket. However, any time I went to make a change, the airline’s website and app either wouldn’t load my itinerary or presented an error message. I eventually gave up and just kept what I had.
Similarly, I wasn’t able to access my reservation to change my seat, beyond the 12F I had originally selected, and each attempt to check in online generated the error message below.
JetBlue’s new inflight product is indisputably industry-leading — the carrier’s website and app, however, are among the worst I’ve encountered from any travel brand.
While most airlines offer lounge access to travellers in long-haul business class, that isn’t the case with JetBlue. As a result, I wouldn’t arrive at the airport earlier than necessary, unless you have access to Heathrow’s various Priority Pass lounges.
Currently, JetBlue is operating out of Terminal 2, “The Queen’s Terminal.” It’s home to Heathrow’s Star Alliance flights, though a handful of other carriers fly from there, as well.
While there were a few extra hoops to jump through ahead of the London-bound flight, as a U.S. passport holder, I only needed to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of departure in order to fly back home.
Since I was flying within three days of my original test date, I was actually able to use the same result from my Abbott BinaxNow COVID-19 Home Test that I used to travel to London a couple of days before. There wasn’t a line at check-in, and the agent reviewed my test result quickly, handed me a boarding pass and sent me on my way.
Terminal 2 was a bit more crowded than I expected, but there were still plenty of open seats — including some that were distanced from other travellers by large dividing boards.
Without a lounge to check out, I wandered around the terminal as I waited for our gate assignment. I was tempted by a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, but I ultimately decided to save my appetite for the flight.
Most of the stores seemed to be open, and several other restaurants were, too, so you should be able to keep yourself busy for at least a few minutes.
I decided to hit up the duty-free shop, and by the time I was done checking out, JetBlue Flight 20’s gate assignment appeared on the departures board.
While my inbound flight arrived at a gate near the entrance to Terminal 2, JetBlue now appears to be operating out of the satellite area, so be sure to budget extra time to get over there.
The journey to B46 began with a walk through the main departures area, followed by a very long escalator, which connects with a tunnel under the airport ramp.
The moving walkways cut down on travel time a bit, and there was a cart available to shuttle folks back and forth.
I noticed that 1F, a Mint Studio, was available to book, so I stopped to ask a gate agent if they could change my seat. Unfortunately the same $300 (about £218) upgrade charge applies even if a Studio is available at the airport, so I decided to stick with 12F.
After a roughly five minute delay, JetBlue Mosaic and Mint passengers were invited to board N4022J, our roughly 4-month-old Airbus A321LR.
Cabin and seat
JetBlue’s A321LR is similar to the airline’s Mint-equipped regional A321neo, though the former has a considerably longer business-class cabin, and sports the new Airbus Airspace interior, including a very cool ceiling design throughout the plane.
Mint suites are arranged in a 1-1 configuration, with two studios in the first row, followed by 11 rows of suites. I chose 12F, located in the last row of Mint, hoping that would give me the best shot of seeing how the crew handles such a long business cabin.
There’s a bulkhead wall just behind, so 12F ended up being the most private, as well.
With the seat fully reclined and the door slid shut, I barely noticed when people passed by — it felt almost as private as my flight in Qatar’s Qsuite.
The suite was very thoughtfully designed. The seat itself has an integrated Tuft & Needle mattress, so it was very comfortable, both as a seat and a bed. I really appreciated all of the clever storage areas as well, starting with a smartphone spot right below a universal outlet and USB-C charging port.
There’s also a Qi wireless charging pad over by the window — if you have a newer phone, there’s a good chance you can simply set it down there to charge. There’s a small storage compartment just to the side of the charging pad, too.
I really love the slide-out drawer below the television, but unfortunately, my 16-inch MacBook Pro was a hair too long to fit inside. My MacBook Air managed just fine on my recent JFK-LAX flight, though.
While it wasn’t quite ideal, the only compartment that fit a laptop this large was underneath the ottoman. It ended up being just fine under there, but you might feel more comfortable keeping larger electronics in your luggage, instead.
Fortunately, the tray table was plenty large enough for my big laptop, and didn’t have any trouble with the weight.
There was a second universal outlet above the side table, and this one came with a nifty cord organizer.
I was very impressed by how quickly the USB-C port charged my iPhone — it’s a huge improvement over the trickle you’ll get on most other planes.
The A321LR also sports Airbus’ latest overhead bins, with enough room to accommodate extra bags. Not that overhead storage would otherwise be an issue on this low-density plane.
The seat controls were especially intuitive, making it possible to control the lighting and make granular adjustments to the seat.
JetBlue’s latest Mint suite includes an integrated “do not disturb” function as well, so you can let the crew know whether or not you want to be interrupted for meals and drinks.
The green light indicates that you’re good to go, while tapping the “do not disturb” button will change the colour to blue.
There’s a second small seat adjustment panel that’s more accessible in lie-flat mode, along with a wired TV control.
I found the seat to be exceptionally comfortable in bed mode — it really did feel like I was sleeping on an (especially narrow) mattress.
I’m of average height, at 5′ 9″, and the bed was more than long enough to accommodate me. Taller passengers will likely find the studio to be a worthwhile upgrade, though.
I kept my door closed for much of the flight, but it’s easy to control — simply lift the release below the lamp to close the door and slide it open to come in and out.
12F has the added benefit of being directly across from the crew rest in 12A, where the pilots come for their rest periods throughout the flight. A dedicated curtain above adds even more privacy.
Each suite also has a dedicated air vent above, making it possible to adjust the temperature a bit during your flight.
While some travellers have expressed concern about the comfort of crossing the Atlantic on a single-aisle jet, the cabin felt spacious enough to me. Some of the design elements really made a positive impact, too, including the various Airspace ceiling fixtures from the galley all the way to the back of coach.
This Mint cabin has two lavatories up front as well — with a maximum of just 24 passengers in Mint, plus the crew, you shouldn’t have to wait long to use the loo.
Amenities and inflight entertainment
A highlight of any premium-cabin flight: amenity time!
JetBlue offers the same amenities that Mint flyers get on domestic flights. My Wanderfuel kit included dietary supplements, immune support chews, a deodorant wipe, lip mask and recovery cream. I also got an eye mask, ear plugs, a dental kit and disposable socks.
All Mint passengers also get slippers, which you’ll find in the shoe storage bin to the side of the seat.
The airline has extra items available upon request as well, including a lint remover, chapstick, hand sanitiser, lotion and a stain remover pen. JetBlue-branded versions are on the way, but these off-the-shelf versions are available from a flight attendant for now.
I completely missed the memo here, but JetBlue offers pyjamas to passengers travelling in one of the two Mint Studios. I wasn’t eligible, since I was in a regular suite, but they brought some by for me to check out anyway. Very cool!
Mint Studios have giant 22-inch screens, with 17-inch panels installed in each of the regular suites. It’s still quite large, especially once you slide out the screen and move the seat forward a bit.
JetBlue also offers Master & Dynamic headphones. They do a decent job of blocking out ambient sound, but they don’t have noise-cancelling functionality, unfortunately. Flight attendants also come by to collect them before landing (so you don’t “accidentally” take your pair home), so I’d recommend bringing your own noise-cancelling headphones if you’re hoping to have the very best inflight entertainment experience.
My seat “recognized” me on the flight out, but that wasn’t the case on this return. Apparently, the passenger manifest wasn’t syncing correctly with the inflight entertainment system.
Still, I had access to JetBlue’s huge array of on-demand content — including 181 movies and 111 TV shows — plus five channels of live TV: CNN, BBC, CNBC, Sport24 and Sky News.
The airline had a larger selection of new releases than I’ve seen on other carriers recently, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find something that you haven’t seen.
The picture was sharp, too — my only complaint is that there wasn’t an option to skip ahead during the advertisements.
I ended up having to watch two commercials before each piece of content, including one for Marriott Bonvoy and another for JetBlue’s credit cards.
The interactive moving map was sharp and responsive, and there’s an option to have it play in a picture-in-picture window.
I also really appreciated being able to adjust the brightness without leaving a program — just tap the button and slide the control.
As with the rest of JetBlue’s fleet, the A321LRs are equipped with free Wi-Fi. On this route, the antenna switches over between two providers.
Eutelsat, above, offered decent performance over the U.K. After we passed over Ireland, the plane switched over to ViaSat-2, a speedier satellite with service over the Atlantic.
I found the ViaSat satellite to be more reliable — fortunately, that’s the one we were connected to for all but the very beginning of the flight.
Food and beverage
Last year, JetBlue upgraded its Mint meals with new catering designed by New York City-based Delicious Hospitality Group (DHG). The current menu includes dishes from one of DHG’s most popular restaurants, Pasquale Jones.
Immediately after boarding, I was offered my choice of sparkling wine, juice or a combination of the two. The flight attendant also presented the menu, along with a wine and cocktail card.
I was especially excited to try JetBlue’s cocktails, given that they’re mixed to order and poured at your seat.
There was also a water bottle waiting for me in the side compartment.
Dustin came by with a cocktail and “tasting trio” about 25 minutes after takeoff. While I was in the last row, there were only seven other passengers in Mint, so there might be a longer wait on full flights.
I ordered an Old Fashioned with Bulleit Bourbon instead of Jack Daniel’s, and Dustin was happy to make the swap. The drink was fantastic, as was the tasting trio, with marinated artichokes, cashews and olives.
Lunch arrived another 25 minutes after that. Typically, passengers can choose three of five dishes, but I asked to sample them all, given that the cabin had been catered for a full flight.
You won’t see it mentioned on the menu, but all of JetBlue’s transatlantic meals are catered by Do & Co, largely considered to be the world’s best inflight caterer. It’s a big deal, and explains why the meals are as delicious as they are.
The chicken Milanese, at the bottom right, was my favourite. It wasn’t especially crispy, but the flavour was fantastic and the meat wasn’t dry at all. The roasted carrots were outstanding as well, and the pasta was also delicious (and very hearty), but I’m not sure the shape quite matched cavatelli, which was listed on the menu.
My backup dishes were also entirely edible. The salad was fresh, albeit not especially exciting. The shrimp were very flavorful but overcooked. The crispy rice also reminded me a bit too much of maggots — once the thought crossed my mind, it was impossible to unsee “them” in my bowl.
I love that JetBlue includes sea salt flakes and chilli oil with each meal, too. I used both on various dishes and it was really fun to see how they impacted the flavour.
After bringing my meal, Dustin insisted that I try the margarita as well. It was easily the best margarita I’ve ever had on a plane.
Finally, he came by with a martini — another home run.
Forty minutes after the mean arrived, Susan arrived with another round of drinks, including coffee and tea.
Dustin followed immediately with dessert, also served from the trolley. Given the length of the cabin, I definitely think it makes sense to serve at least some of the dishes from a cart.
I tried both the vanilla gelato and the cheese plate. The ice cream was delicious, but the cheese plate was a bit … uninspired. The darker cracker was soggy, and the cheeses weren’t especially memorable. I really enjoyed my tea, though.
Roughly an hour before landing, the crew came through with hot towels and to take our order for the arrival meal. I also ordered an iced coffee, which I enjoyed very much.
Flyers are instructed to choose two of three dishes, but, again, I asked to try them all. I didn’t enjoy this meal quite as much, beyond the pretzel roll, which was hot, fresh and fantastic.
Otherwise, the panzanella salad was the strongest dish this time around, thanks to the super-flavourful roasted tomatoes. The Italian clam soup was a runner-up, but I found it to be a bit bland. The panini, meanwhile, was just far too soggy to enjoy — I barely took a bite.
Before landing, Susan came by with a tray of chocolates. A sweet ending to a phenomenal flight!
One of the reasons I grabbed the last row of the cabin was so I’d be able to better understand the service flow and have an idea of what to expect throughout Mint — not just in the very back. With less than half of the suites occupied on this flight, I imagine the experience was a bit different than it would have been on a completely full plane.
I had also picked this flight hoping the JetBlue team on the inaugural would be spending at least one full day in London, but there were several folks from product development on the plane — there was simply no way for me to travel “under the radar” on this flight.
While it was never specifically mentioned, it seemed clear that the crew was aware I was on board to work on a review.
This was the first time these flight attendants worked the leg from London to New York, but they’ve spent a considerable amount of time training for this particular service, including working a transcon demo flight within the U.S.
Additionally, this flight had the same handpicked crew that worked the inaugural from JFK two days earlier — Dustin, Susan and Vanessa in the Mint cabin clearly represented the best and brightest at JetBlue.
All that’s to say that the crew was absolutely flawless — OK, aside from misspelling my name on the thank you note. Ha! Still, it was easily one of the best groups of flight attendants I’ve ever interacted with.
That should be the case across any of JetBlue’s London flights, given that the airline’s transatlantic crews have received extra training and are now operating U.K. flights exclusively — it just remains to be seen whether or not they’re all this good.
Without a doubt, this was one of the best flights of my life. The crew was absolutely incredible, the food was restaurant-quality and the plane was comfortable, high-tech and brand-new. Really, there’s not much not to like.
That said, there are two areas where I think JetBlue needs to improve.
First, if the airline wants to compete on the ground as well as in the air, JetBlue really needs to offer a lounge experience of some sort. In London, that shouldn’t be terribly difficult, even if it just means giving customers access to a partner lounge.
On the second front, the airline’s IT experience is aggressively awful. The app is largely web-based, so it takes a long time to accomplish even the simplest of tasks, such as booking a flight or changing your seat. Sadly, JetBlue’s website isn’t much better — more often than not, I ended up with an error, or on a page that would only refresh each time I clicked to move along.
JetBlue really hit it out of the park with this new London service, and as the carrier prepares to expand elsewhere in Europe, it’s essential it invests in other components of the experience, as well.
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