Still in mint condition: A review of JetBlue’s Mint business class
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JetBlue introduced Mint, the carrier’s domestic business-class product, five years ago. When Mint was introduced, JetBlue promised to disrupt the transcontinental business-class market. And disrupt it did.
From the outset, the industry-leading hard product (including four suites) became the gold standard for those looking for the most comfort when flying coast-to-coast. Mint’s fresh take on the inflight food and beverage service was immediately well received. And the carrier’s service, with two dedicated and specially trained Mint flight attendants, was leagues ahead of what the competition was offering.
It’s no surprise, then, that TPG himself raved about the Mint experience. At the inaugural TPG Awards in 2018, Mint even won the award for best domestic business class. It’s almost been a year since the awards, so it was time for me to check how Mint’s been holding up on a trip from New York-JFK to Seattle (SEA) with my girlfriend.
Spoiler alert: It’s still in Mint condition.
When Mint was introduced, nowhere was a revolution more sorely needed than in the pricing of transcontinental premium-cabin flights. Throughout Mint’s evolution, JetBlue has priced the business-class cabin quite aggressively, with fares starting at around $499 on Saturdays for one-way travel between the coasts.
Those low fares are still readily available. For this route from New York-JFK to Seattle, there were plenty of dates with one-way flights starting at $469. I booked my ticket for $599 one week before departure using the the Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee. See rates & fees) to earn 5x Membership Rewards points* valued at about $60.
*when booked directly with the airline or Amex Travel
Seattle is one of Mint’s consistently cheap routes, but the same low prices are definitely available on the carrier’s flagship flights from New York-JFK to LAX and San Francisco (SFO) and vice versa. You may need book a little further in advance and be a little flexible, but there are deals to be had.
Speaking of deals, JetBlue often runs limited-time sales for the Mint cabin, so be sure to subscribe to TPG’s daily email newsletter and follow @tpg_alerts for breaking deals.
Not only did JetBlue set a new standard for pricing, but they’ve also expanded the Mint-equipped A321s to routes that had never before seen lie-flat business-class service like Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to LAX and San Francisco. On slower business-travel days (think: Saturdays), JetBlue flies to destinations in the Caribbean using these Mint-equipped aircraft.
Mint is great from a pricing and scale perspective, but there’s no great way to redeem points for it. JetBlue’s TrueBlue loyalty program is revenue-based, meaning that the cost of a ticket in points is directly tied to the ticket’s cost in dollars. Each TrueBlue point is worth about 1 cent toward a Mint ticket and 1.4 cents toward a regular economy ticket. Unless you’re flush with TrueBlue points, it makes sense to book Mint tickets with cash and use your points for economy redemptions.
Lastly, there aren’t any free upgrades to Mint, even for the carrier’s Mosaic elites. If Mint seats are available on the day of your flight, you need to purchase an upgrade at the gate.
Let’s cut to the chase: You shouldn’t fly Mint for the ground experience.
There was a small, special entrance and check-in area for Mint and Mosaic customers at Terminal 5 in New York-JFK, a hidden entrance just next to Door 7 on the departures level of the terminal. Once we were through the hallway, there were two check-in counters and two kiosks reserved for the carrier’s top customers.
There wasn’t much of a line, and we were checked in within minutes. The agent was friendly and confirmed my girlfriend’s special meal request. Before heading to security, I noticed that there was a small Coca-Cola fridge (TBT to the days when JetBlue served Coke). Sadly, the fridge wasn’t filled with Coke but rather with small water bottles. Still, though, a nice gesture that I appreciated after a long car ride to JFK.
Overall, I found that JetBlue did a great job of renovating the check-in area in Terminal 5. Most check-ins were completed using one of the 66 self-check in kiosks, and bags were now self-tagged. There was a large special services area for more personalized help.
Mint customers were entitled to use the expedited security lane, but there wasn’t much of a line on the Thursday afternoon we were traveling. We were airside within minutes and had about 30 minutes before boarding.
JetBlue doesn’t operate lounges at any of its airports, nor does it plan to open any soon. In fact, TPG himself recently spoke with JetBlue’s president and COO, Joanna Geraghty, who explained that the carrier would rather focus on keeping fares low than operate expensive lounges.
Instead of lounging, I roamed around the terminal before parking myself at the gate. I’ve always found Terminal 5 to be one of the nicest at JFK, so I didn’t really mind the missing lounge. Regardless, JetBlue’s main competitors (American, Delta and United) all offer lounge access for those in business class to LAX and SFO, so this is where JetBlue really lags behind the competition.
The gate area was jammed, and there weren’t any power outlets in sight, so I definitely wouldn’t make it a priority to arrive early in advance of a Mint flight.
Boarding began right on time, with Mint and Mosaic customers invited to preboard. As I made my way to the plane, I couldn’t wait to see how Mint had been holding up.
Cabin and Seat
This is where the fun really started. I was the first Mint passenger to board and immediately marveled at the simple yet cool cabin.
There are 16 Mint seats spread across five rows on the carrier’s A321s. Each row alternates between a 2-2 and 1-1 configuration. Needless to say, I chose a suite, or “throne” seat, 4A.
All seats reclined to a fully flat bed measuring 80 inches long. The leather-upholstered seats were pretty comfortable for napping and sleeping, but I still prefer cloth seats. After three years of shuttling passengers across the country, the seat still didn’t have much wear and tear.
I took advantage of the time before other passengers boarded to explore the couple seats in rows 1, 3 and 5. The couple seats measured the same 22.3 inches wide as the throne seats, I found them to be much more claustrophobic and noticeably lacking any real storage space.
Furthermore, the shared armrests were narrow, so you’ll definitely want to make sure that you’re seated next to someone you know. There was a small privacy partition between the two seats, but not deep enough to create a true feeling of personal space.
Another downside to the couple seats was the narrow footwells.
Unless you’re traveling with someone you really want to sit next to, you should select one of the suites in rows 2 and 4. The highlight of these seats was the sliding door that closed to create a private cocoon.
Although the door was only 42 inches high, I immediately felt like I’d stepped into a private office or bedroom once it was closed. The icing on the cake was that JetBlue doesn’t charge any extra to assign these suites.
Aside from the closing door, the suites had plenty of storage space. There was a small cubby large enough for loose items on one side. There was also a small table with a recessed cupholder.
On the other side was a 16-inch-wide and 33-inch-long exposed counter perfect for laptops or other larger items.
There was even dedicated shoe storage underneath this counter. Still, I wished there were more-enclosed storage, as my loose items easily moved around during turbulence.
With size-11 feet, I didn’t find the footwell to be too cramped at 15 inches wide and 11.5 inches tall. I definitely wouldn’t feel the same way if my feet were any bigger.
The intuitive seat controls were on the aisle-facing side of the seat. There were a few preset modes like bed and relax, and there were more buttons that allowed you to further customize the cushion firmness and legrest extension. There was a massage mode, as well, which was more of a gimmick than a real feature.
The stylish 18.5-inch-wide and 12-inch-deep tray table folded down from the enclosed storage area. It swiveled but that didn’t make it any easier to get out the seat during the meal service.
JetBlue also nailed the basics, as each seat had an individual air nozzle and the overhead bins were plenty large for standard-sized rollaboards.
The seat-to-bathroom ratio was 16-to-1, with one dedicated standard-sized bathroom for Mint at the front of the plane. There was another bathroom right behind Row 5, but it was shared with economy. At least there was unfettered access to the pantry when you used the bathroom behind Row 5.
Amenities and IFE
JetBlue nailed the amenities component, but the inflight entertainment on these planes really fell short of my expectations.
There was a Mint-branded pillow and blanket waiting on my seat. Each passenger was given only one pillow and blanket, but I found them plenty comfortable for a quick nap.
The Hayward amenity kit was well-stocked, and I actually liked the bag’s denim-like look and feel. I also appreciated that JetBlue curated a truly modern amenity kit. Instead of cheap, disposable socks, there were Basic/Outfitters low-cut socks. There was also an electronics cleaning cloth, which was useful when my phone got so dirty from my greasy hands (I may have had one too many bags of Terra Blue Chips).
Though each couples seat only had one (conveniently placed) outlet and USB port, the suites had three (!) outlets and USB ports each. I often travel with quite a few devices, so JetBlue deserves major kudos for keeping all my gadgets at 100% throughout the flight.
As with all JetBlue flights, free gate-to-gate Wi-Fi was on offer. The service only cut out for about 10 minutes of the entire flight, and speeds were strong enough to keep me connected with friends, family and work back home.
The IFE was the one aspect of the Mint experience that was definitely showing its age. Even though the IFE screens were plenty large at 15.4 inches, they were most definitely not high-definition. In fact, my TV kept flickering throughout the flight.
Furthermore, the user experience was really outdated. The touchscreen only responded half the time, and the navigation menus were complex and unintuitive.
Since the touchscreen was so buggy, I used the remote connected to my seat. The remote had definitely seen better days, as some buttons were peeling off.
The provided Grado SR80e Prestige Series Headphones headphones weren’t great. I’d’ve much preferred the Bang & Olufsen headphones that American Airlines provides to its business-class passengers (even if American collects them way too early before landing).
The one redeeming feature to the IFE was the actual content. There was plenty to watch: 65 movies with 25 new releases such as “Rocketman” and “The Aftermath and Us,” 15 TV shows including full seasons of “Game of Thrones,” “Killing Eve” and “The Office,” 93 channels of live DirecTV and a full subscription to SiriusXM.
Sadly, the live map was looping and didn’t feature any customizable views. I thought I’d initially found an AvGeek easter egg in audio Channel 1024, the air-traffic-control station, but it’d been disabled for this flight.
JetBlue definitely lags behind the competition on the IFE front. I hope that the carrier quickly refreshes the IFE on these planes with the brand-new system found on the new A321neo aircraft.
Food and Beverage
Dine on Demand
JetBlue is definitely in a league of its own with its unique food-and-beverage program in Mint. For one, the menu is curated by Saxon+Parole, a New York City restaurant focused on high-quality meat, seafood and produce.
Instead of offering a choice of main courses, JetBlue serves a tapas-style menu, where you choose three of five small dishes. I prefer this concept, as I’m able to sample a little bit of everything for my main meal.
On my flight, all passengers were offered the same welcome taste of green aioli with taro chips. I found this a nice way to begin my meal (and a welcome departure from the mixed nuts I’m used to getting on the Big 3.)
I chose the watermelon-and-feta salad, corn-and-kidney bean salad and grilled cod. The salads were served cold, and the fish was warmed up.
The watermelon salad was such a refreshing start to the meal. The accompanying pumpkin seeds and shichimi togarashi added spice and bold flavor.
Even though the avocado on the corn salad tasted old, I really liked the tahini-yogurt dressing, which helped transform the salad into something I’d expect to be served at a Mediterranean restaurant.
Finally, the grilled cod was absolutely delicious. The side of Indian spicy lentils perfectly complemented the flaky white fish.
For dessert, there was a choice of fresh fruit or Blue Marble ice cream. Naturally, I chose both. On most airlines, fresh fruit plates consist of an assortment of melons and oranges. On JetBlue, I was served kiwi, oranges and pomegranate seeds. My taste buds really liked the unique assortment.
The three scoops of rose shortbread and vanilla bean ice cream were divine and really whetted my appetite for Salt and Straw when I landed.
Although I tend to stick to white wine when eating fish, the flight attendant recommended the Turley Juvenile zinfandel, which turned out to be great. It was definitely robust, and had vibrant berry tones.
The sparkling wine on offer was Roederer Estate brut, while the chardonnay was Leo Steen 2018 and the pinot noir was Bethel Heights Estate 2016.
Although I didn’t partake in hot beverages, I certainly give JetBlue credit for offering cappuccino and espressos from Brooklyn Roasting Company and five different tea varietals from teapigs.
There wasn’t a second meal service. Instead I was given a to-go Milk Bar cookie, exactly what I needed after three scoops of ice cream. The signature JetBlue snacks were also on offer throughout the flight.
There’ve been some recent service cuts to Mint’s food-and-beverage program. While the impressive selection of beers and ciders hasn’t changed, JetBlue swapped Grey Goose vodka and Bulleit bourbon whiskey for Tito’s and Jack Daniels, respectively. Furthermore, JetBlue used to offer whole fruit (apples, bananas and oranges) in the Mint snack basket, but those are now gone, too. Finally, the Milk Bar cookie is no longer presented in a decorative box.
These service cuts are definitely minor, and I was glad that the rest of the service hadn’t changed. In fact, the food and drinks were excellent. If I were to nitpick, I would’ve preferred a more substantial cloth napkin (JetBlue uses regular paper napkins) and a choice of bread (read: pretzel bread.)
In my experience, service in Mint is leagues ahead of the legacy carriers. This flight was no exception. It doesn’t hurt that the flight attendants were specifically trained in Mint service, either.
Although the entire plane boarded through Door 1L, the two dedicated Mint flight attendants gracefully introduced themselves to each passenger and offered predeparture beverages of choice. I chose the signature honey-infused limeade, which was a refreshing cocktail of vodka, lime, mint and club soda.
Service through the meal was incredibly professional. Flight attendants addressed me by last name and apologized for interrupting me as they brought my next course or asked if I wanted a beverage refill.
The pace of the service was also excellent — the meal service was finished 75 minutes after takeoff. Flight attendants didn’t slack off after the meal service, either. They kept everyone’s drinks refilled and passed through the cabin every 10 minutes to ensure everyone was doing well.
They were fast to respond to the call button, arriving at my seat in 37 seconds
I also appreciated that JetBlue added a “Do Not Disturb” button to the Mint seats. When it was engaged, flight attendants gave us complete privacy and let us rest undisturbed.
Mint is an excellent domestic business-class product. While the ground experience definitely leaves a lot to be desired, the flight itself steals the show. The suites are comfortable and incredibly private, the food and drinks are great, and the service is second to none. The IFE could definitely use an update, but at least there’s free Wi-Fi and plenty of power to keep your devices charged.
Mint is still the same great product that’s been flying around for the past five years.
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All photos by the author.
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