Tried and True in Blue: JetBlue Economy on the A321 From San Diego to JFK
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The Points Guy is introducing a brand new review format that includes numerical scores for each section of the experience. These scores were used to determine the winners at the 2018 TPG Awards, where JetBlue’s economy product on the A321 was named the Best Domestic Economy Class of the year.
[tpg_rating tpg-rating-score="84" ground-experience="8" cabin-seat="22" amens-ife="14" food-bev="20" service="20" pros="Generous legroom, great IFE system with live TV" cons="Poor Wi-Fi quality" /]
Ever since I stepped off the United elite status hamster wheel a few years ago, JetBlue has been my go-to airline for traveling from New York to visit family in San Diego. And I haven't looked back: The generous legroom in economy, the live TV on board and the consistent cleanliness and modern feel of JetBlue aircraft make for a comfortable ride.
I've enjoyed JetBlue Mosaic status for the last year and a half, and while I won't requalify for 2019 (unless I book a few last-minute mileage runs in Mint), it's been great to enjoy benefits like free checked bags, complimentary drinks in economy and waived change and cancellation fees. I enjoyed some of these very perks on a recent economy flight from San Diego (SAN) to New York-JFK.
I booked this one-way flight with cash, paying $183.20 with the Platinum Card® from American Express. This is my default card for airfare, as it earns 5 points per dollar on flights booked with the airline, equal to a 10% return, based on TPG's valuations. This booking earned 916 Amex Membership Rewards points, worth about $18.
If I'd paid with TrueBlue points instead of cash, this flight would have cost about 13,600. JetBlue's award prices are tied to the cash price of tickets, and you'll always get about 1.34 cents per point when you redeem. That's a bit of a bummer for those of us eyeing lie-flat Mint seats: Since those flights usually cost $599 and up one-way, you'd have to shell out 44,700 points or more to book. On the flip side, though, your TrueBlue points can take you far if you use them to book cheap flights.
If you're short on JetBlue points, you could open the JetBlue Plus Card, which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. This card has a $99 annual fee and earns 6x points on JetBlue purchases, plus it gets you 10% of your points back on redemptions and 50% off inflight purchases. It's another strong choice for purchasing JetBlue points, thanks to that stellar earning rate.
[flight_stats ticket-class="econ" review-stat-section="Ground Experience" tpg-rating="8" tpg-rating-max="10" tail="N990JL" age="1" late="29" departure="13" departure-2="09" duration="4" duration-2="46" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" /]
My flight was scheduled to depart at 12:49pm, and I showed up at about 11:30am, since I've never had to wait more than five minutes to get through security in the San Diego airport TSA PreCheck line.
Speaking of which, SAN ranked very highly in TPG's recent report on the best and worst airports of 2018, and that gels with my experience flying through it several times each year. The terminals are clean and spacious, the food and shopping options are strong, and there are always cool art installations to check out.
I arrived at our departure gate, 36, around 11:40am. The seating area was on the crowded side, but it wasn't unbearable, since there was enough room to accommodate passengers. Our A321 was already at the gate — always a reassuring sign.
[flight_stats ticket-class="econ" review-stat-section="Cabin and Seat" tpg-rating="22" tpg-rating-max="25" configuration="3" configuration-2="3" width="18" pitch="33" lavs="3" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" /]
It turns out this A321 was new (as in, launched into service in November 2017), and it certainly looked and felt it.
Not only was the entire plane, including both the Mint and economy cabins, spotless, but the upholstery looked fresh, and there was no wear and tear in sight.
Even the overhead storage bins were near-pristine.
There were seatback touchscreens for all passengers, and controls for volume, channels and more were also built into the armrests.
Legroom was characteristically ample. I'm 5 feet, 7 inches, so not particular tall or short, and look at just how much space there was between the seatback and my knees.
My row mate in the aisle seat and I scored the jackpot and had an empty middle seat, which only made my seat feel more spacious.
The seatback was stocked with all the usual literature, including plane and safety info and menus for the food and drink available for purchase.
The two coach lavatories were kept pretty clean throughout the flight.
I peeked into the one toward the rear of the cabin and used the one at the middle of the cabin during the flight.
[flight_stats ticket-class="econ" review-stat-section="Amenities and IFE" tpg-rating="14" tpg-rating-max="15" screen="10" movies="63" tv-shows="86" live-tv="Yes" tailcam="No" wifi="6.65" wifi-2="0.64" headphones="No" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" /]
There were plenty of TVs and movies to choose from, including new releases like "Ant-Man and the Wasp" and (arguably unseasonably early for November) the classic "A Christmas Story."
The seatback screens also offered SiriusXM, a flight map and info on the JetBlue experience.
Wi-Fi on this flight was pretty poor. Even loading emails was a struggle, and I was never able to successfully load Slack.
There were power ports between the seats. Please appreciate the contortion that was required of me to get a clear shot of the one by my seat.
[flight_stats ticket-class="econ" review-stat-section="Food and Beverage" tpg-rating="20" tpg-rating-max="25" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" comp-meal="0" meals-purchase="Yes" comp-alcohol="No" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" /]
I wasn't particularly hungry on this midday flight, so I didn't order any food. Options included a Mediterranean salad, a turkey-and-pepper-Jack sandwich, cheese and crackers, and a ham-and-cheese croissant, all $12 except for the croissant, which was $10.
While I didn't eat anything besides snacks, I figured I'd take advantage of my Mosaic status to enjoy free alcohol. Once the flight attendant serving me learned I was Mosaic (and therefore wouldn't need to pay for food or drink), she encouraged me to double down on the chenin blanc. At her suggestion, I went with a sparkling wine, which I opened first. The cute little bottle of white wine, meanwhile, is still living in my refrigerator in Brooklyn.
Flight attendants came around with a snack basket stocked with small bags of Cheez-Its, cookies, popped kettle chips and more, and passengers could also grab snacks and soft drinks from a self-service area.
[flight_stats ticket-class="econ" review-stat-section="Service" tpg-rating="20" tpg-rating-max="25" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="0" turndown-service="0" blurb="Service with a smile, for the most part." /]
Though the flight attendants who served my section were friendly, the FA working the front of the cabin was pretty rude. He needed to get by a passenger at the self-service station, and instead of saying "excuse me," he just pointed for her to get out of the way. We'll all survive, but I think using words would have been nice.
JetBlue is a top domestic economy option for a reason: It offers ample legroom, a generous selection of complimentary snacks and great live TV. I appreciated all of these things on my flight from SAN to JFK, and the spotless plane and overall pleasant service made for an enjoyable flight. Even if I don't have Mosaic status next year, I'll continue to fly JetBlue economy (with the occasional splurge on Mint) for most of my domestic travel.