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American, United and Virgin Match JetBlue Mint Transcon Fares

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In June 2014, JetBlue revolutionized the transcontinental premium-class market by launching JetBlue Mint. Not only does JetBlue Mint provide an exceptional product, but it’s also priced well below the competition — just $599 one-way or $1,198 round-trip. TPG himself was one of the early adopters of JetBlue Mint and has preferred it ever since.

Once JetBlue Mint caught on with premium travelers, the legacy carriers realized that they weren’t able to get away with charging their typical $3,600-$4,400 business-class fares on these transcontinental routes. While JetBlue’s competitors dropped their round-trip prices to match its $1,200 fares, other carriers still charged much higher rates for one-way tickets. Just this weekend, we noticed that — seemingly for the first time — American, United and Virgin are now offering transcontinental business-class flights for as little as $549 one-way.

Now that you can choose many different business-class products for under $600 one-way, let’s take a look at your options.

American Airlines

American A321T Three Class Comparison
American Airlines business class on the specially-configured Airbus A321T.

American Airlines runs 6-11 daily transcontinental flights between New York’s JFK and Los Angeles (LAX) and between 3-6 daily flights from JFK to San Francisco (SFO). For most dates from August 30-September 30 and December 12-June 24, there’s at least one flight available for $599 one-way — except for May on the JFK-LAX route.

All flights are on the specially configured Airbus A321T, which features 20 lie-flat business-class seats in a 2-2 configuration. Each seat offers an amenity kit, Bose headphones, a 15.4-inch personal entertainment screen, connectivity ports and power outlets. If you need to take a nap, each seat reclines into a 75- to 78-inch bed — long enough for almost anybody.

JetBlue

JetBlue might offer some lucrative challenges again in 2016.
JetBlue’s Mint seats are top-notch on these transcontinental routes.

You can find $549 one-way fares most days from September 2-May 2 on at least one of JetBlue’s 4-6 daily flights between New York’s JFK and San Francisco (SFO). On its 7-10 daily flights between JFK and Los Angeles (LAX), JetBlue is currently offering $599 one-way fares nearly every day from August 31-May 2 on at least one flight.

JetBlue flies A321s on both of these routes, arranged in a unique 2-2 / 1-1 format that makes rows 2 and 4 particularly spacious. Each seat lies flat into a 80-inch-long bed — long enough even for TPG himself — and features excellent food, an impressive amenity kit, 15-inch personal in-flight entertainment screen and free Wi-Fi.

United Airlines

United’s Business p.s. (Premium Service) cabin onboard the 757-200

United offers 9-14 daily flights between Newark (EWR) and Los Angeles (LAX) and 10-16 daily flights between EWR and San Francisco (SFO). United has dropped its fares to $599-$629 one-way on both routes from August 30 all the way through June 21, 2017.

United flies both the p.s. (Premium Service)-configured 757-200 and — as a recent addition — an internationally configured 777-200ER on these routes. The 757-200 has 28 seats in a 2-2 arrangement, while the 777-200ER has either 40 seats in a staggered 2-4-2 arrangement or 50 seats in a 2-2-2 arrangement (depending on the version). Both aircraft have 76-inch lie-flat business-class seats, including in-flight entertainment and in-seat power outlets.

Virgin America

Virgin America's first-class cabin features recliner seats.
Virgin America’s first-class cabin features recliner seats.

The cheapest one-way fares popping up this weekend are on Virgin America’s first class. Virgin has 7-8 daily transcontinental flights between New York’s JFK or Newark (EWR) and San Francisco (SFO). You can find $549 one-way fares most days from August 30-November 16, November 30-December 15 and January 5-June 24. Virgin America also flies from JFK/EWR to LAX, but only certain Saturday flights — primarily from January 7 to June 24 — are priced at $549 one-way.

Both routes are served by Virgin America’s A320 aircraft, with just 8 first-class seats arranged in a 2-2 format. While the style and service on board Virgin are excellent, note that you’ll be settling for a recliner seat on this option — while JetBlue, American and United all have lie-flat seats.

Bottom Line

We’re happy to see competition drive down prices on these historically expensive transcontinental fares. JetBlue Mint has certainly raised the bar with its superior product and cheaper fares, and now finally other carriers are matching JetBlue’s one-way fares with somewhat similar products.

Now that fares are similar and mileage earnings on legacy carriers are nearly identical, your choice for a one-way transcontinental flight will depend more on your preferred New York airport, existing elite status and schedule. However, JetBlue still remains the gold standard for these transcontinental routes.

What’s your preferred business-class transcontinental product?

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