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Earlier this month, TPG Editorial Intern Nick Ellis traveled to Las Vegas and got a chance to fly home on JetBlue’s new Airbus A321 during a red-eye flight back to New York (JFK). Read on for his impressions.
I recently returned from an incredible trip to Sin City with Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig and TPG Associate Editor Emily McNutt, where we attended Vegas Uncork’d, an event which offered special perks to Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders. In an effort to diversify our review opportunities, the three of us took three different flights and stayed at three different hotels — so keep an eye out for some new Las Vegas hotel reviews over the next few weeks! I chose to fly home from Las Vegas (LAS) to New York (JFK) on JetBlue’s new Airbus A321. Read on to see how it went.
I booked this flight using an Amex Platinum Card as part of an Air + Hotel package through American Express Travel, paying full price for my round-trip JetBlue flight at $533.41 and a discounted rate of $739.29 (excluding a $35.84 daily resort fee) at the Palazzo Las Vegas, as part of the package. The grand total, including the round-trip flight and four nights at The Palazzo was $1,272.70. Had I not taken advantage of the bundled flight and hotel reservation, the hotel alone would have cost me a total of $1,070.72, excluding the mandatory resort fee.
Arrival and Check-In
After experiencing a complicated airport pickup process upon arrival in Las Vegas, the drop-off process was a relative breeze. My Uber driver was able to drop us off at the curb at Terminal 3, where my JetBlue flight would be departing from.
As this was a red-eye flight back to New York, the lines at the check-in counter were practically nonexistent. I was asked to gate check my ‘oversized carry-on’ bag at JFK, so I figured I would drop off my bag at the baggage drop this time around since there were so few people in line. If I’d had the JetBlue Plus Card, I could have avoided the $25 checked bag fee altogether, but I ended up paying for the checked bag with my Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card and will get the fee reimbursed as part of the card’s $300 annual travel credit.
After dropping off my bag, I made my way over to the security line, which seemed unreasonably long considering how few people were actually in the airport. Since TPG Associate Editor Emily McNutt recently gained Gold Status on Virgin America through a status match, I followed her to the first-class security line, which was very short — it frankly didn’t appear as if anyone was checking to make sure everyone in line was truly supposed to be there. The first-class security line took just a few minutes and soon we were on our way to the Centurion Lounge in Terminal 3.
I was eager to get to the lounge, as this was my first experience in a Centurion Lounge. Since TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig is an American Express Platinum cardholder, he was allowed to bring two guests into the lounge, which worked perfectly for our group of three. We took the underground tram from the E to D concourse and headed straight for the Centurion Lounge.
Upon entering, I noticed that it seemed to be more crowded than I would’ve expected for a Sunday evening, but we easily found a table that had outlets for charging our phones and laptops. The lounge itself felt plenty spacious, with tables to work at and eat on as well as large leather chairs for relaxing before your flight.
I sampled several of the food options, including a chicken cacciatore dish and a salad I put together at the self-serve salad bar. The servers were attentive and came around often to remove plates as well as to replenish the food at the counter. There was also a fully stocked bar that had an impressive craft cocktail list.
Boarding began just a few minutes late for my 9:50pm departure. The gate agents first called for passengers needing special assistance to board, followed by Mosaic members. I got to board fairly early since I was seated in row 25 and they boarded the aircraft from back to front. Boarding was completed a few minutes behind schedule and we pushed back from the gate just around 10:00pm.
The 3-3 arrangement on this Airbus A321 allows for 18-inch-wide seats, with 33 inches of pitch in regular economy seats, and anywhere from 37-41 inches of pitch in the Even More Space seats. I found my economy seat to be really roomy for me at 5’10”, however, it would have been nice to have several extra inches to stretch out during the long flight home. The seat itself is a “slimline” design but I found it to be comfortable and appreciated that the headrest came with adjustable side cushions, making sleeping a bit more cozy.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a “Snooze Kit” lying on my seat, 25D, that contained an eye mask as well as a set of ear plugs. This was a nice touch that is fairly uncommon for domestic flights and I found the mask to be helpful in allowing me to sleep, even with numerous bright screens around me.
Something I hadn’t seen before was the style of jump seat used in this aircraft. It was located in row 22, an exit row, just a few rows up from my seat, and had plastic casing that went all the way to the floor, which could potentially impede the legroom of the person sitting behind it in row 23. The cabin was also fitted with cool blue lighting that I found to be very relaxing for a nighttime flight.
I was very excited to learn that this flight was going to be operated by JetBlue’s new A321 because it comes equipped with the carrier’s latest in-flight entertainment. I thoroughly enjoyed the 10.1″ entertainment screen found in the seat-back in front of me. It offered 100+ channels of live TV delivered through DirecTV, several feature films, SiriusXM radio, a map channel and finally an app called “The JetBlue Experience” that provided access to on-screen magazines and other special features.
JetBlue offers live TV provided by DirecTV, and I was eager to try out this feature that so many speak so highly of. Since this flight departed so late, there wasn’t a ton of content that appealed to me, so I settled on reruns of CBS’ Blue Bloods. I was able to get through about an episode and a half before sleeping (albeit not that well) for the rest of the flight.
One major annoyance was the placement of a remote control toward the back of the arm rest, almost exactly where my elbows were resting. Throughout the flight I woke up because I had accidentally turned the brightness up all the way on my screen, and had accidentally changed the channel or volume of my neighbor’s screen, which made for some awkward interactions.
Since this flight was at night and I slept almost the whole time, I didn’t have any food. The crew did make its way through the cabin several times, offering mini water bottles (of which I took a few) and unlimited snacks, which is a welcome change from other domestic airlines. The crew were all very polite and attentive, happy to help passengers with any request.
I’d say that my first experience with JetBlue was a success. The comfortable and spacious seats, extensive in-flight entertainment options and pleasant crew made this a very good flight — despite it being a dreaded domestic red-eye trip — and I’m already looking forward to my next flight.
Have you flown on JetBlue’s new A321 yet? Tell us about it below.