The transcon champ: Reviewing JetBlue’s new Mint Studio biz
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JetBlue first introduced its revolutionary Mint business class roughly eight years ago.
Since then, the New York-based carrier has disrupted the premium transcon experience with its TPG Awards-winning product, personalized service and competitive pricing.
While the legacy product is still a cut above the rest, JetBlue isn’t resting on its laurels. On Tuesday, June 1, the airline inaugurated its brand-new Mint cabin between New York-JFK and Los Angeles (LAX).
Each seat features direct aisle access, sliding doors and more. JetBlue’s new Mint cabin is split between two types of seats: “suites” and “studios.”
We caught a first look at the cabin back in March, but couldn’t wait to put the new Mint to the test: could JetBlue really reimagine the premium transcon experience once again?
Read on to find out.
For the inaugural, I scored one of the two Mint studios. While I’ll dive into more detail about these extra-spacious pods below, the first thing to note is that you’ll need to fork out some extra cash to sit here.
When booking a flight equipped with the new Mint cabin, you’ll want to take a look at the seats available in Row 1, where you’ll find both Mint studios.
I booked my ticket right as JetBlue announced the details of the inaugural and purchased the studio for an additional $199 on top of the standard Mint fare.
I put the $1,197 ticket — definitely on the higher end of mid-pandemic premium transcon flights — on my Platinum Card® from American Express to take advantage of the card’s 5x bonus on airfare (when booked directly with the airline or via American Express Travel; on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year).
Though you can redeem JetBlue TrueBlue points for a Mint ticket, it’s often priced well below TPG’s valuation of 1.3 cents per point. Personally, I prefer using my TrueBlue points for much cheaper coach tickets.
As a JetBlue Mosaic member, I could’ve redeemed 19,900 points for the Mint studio upset, but at 1 cent per point, I opted to use cash instead.
By using cash, I earned 3x base points, a 3x Mosaic bonus and a 3x direct booking bonus on the fare — note that you don’t earn any TrueBlue points on the studio upsell.
Note that while we might not formally review a true inaugural, this wasn’t a new route, nor were there any invited media guests, special catering or the like — TPG paid for the flight as we do for all reviews.
For now, you’ll find the new Mint flying exclusively between New York-JFK and Los Angeles (LAX) aboard the airline’s new Airbus A321neo, internally referred to as the A321LD. This plane is registered N2105J and is christened “a NEO Mintality.”
It’s easy to find flights operated by this jet — just take a look at the seat map and find the 1-1 Mint configuration.
The new Mint will be available on more routes as the carrier takes delivery of additional A321LDs. It’ll also make its way across the pond aboard the Airbus A321LR, or long-range, when JetBlue’s London flights debut later this year.
After arriving at JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK, I made a beeline for the dedicated Mint and Mosaic entrance.
I tried checking in online the night before but kept receiving an error message. Fortunately, a friendly ground agent helped me roughly ten minutes after I joined the priority queue.
With a boarding pass in hand, it was time to clear TSA Precheck. Every time I’ve traveled through Terminal 5 during the pandemic, the Precheck lane has been closed. Fortunately, it was open on Tuesday, since the terminal was jammed with flyers headed home after the holiday weekend.
JetBlue doesn’t operate any lounges, so you’ll either need to wait at the gate, food court, or my personal favorite, the roof deck across from Gate 28.
Despite the pleasant weather, I made my way to the gate to partake in the pre-departure festivities.
As far as inaugurals go, the gate celebration was a bit more muted than I’d anticipated, especially compared to JetBlue’s recent Airbus A220 inaugural from Boston.
Balloons adorned the boarding lanes, and aside from a handful of aviation enthusiasts and cheery JetBlue employees, the majority of the crowd was clearly there just to get to L.A.
After pre-departure remarks from Sean Fairbanks, director of airport operations for JetBlue at JFK, it was time to grab a La Colombe cold brew and Hu chocolate-covered cashews — free goodies in honor of the inaugural — and make my way onto the plane.
All in all, the ground experience is perhaps the least impressive aspect of flying in Mint. Fortunately, that all changes once you step foot onboard.
While I personally don’t mind skipping the lounge, some flyers will undoubtedly miss spending time in those exclusive spaces, especially during long delays. So long as you’re willing to forgo a premium lounge experience, then JetBlue’s Mint Studio dethrones our current transcon champ, American Airlines Flagship First.
Cabin and Seat
Welcome to the star of the show: the brand-new Mint cabin.
The first thing you’ll notice once you enter the Airbus A321LD is the sleek 16-seat business-class cabin.
All Mint pods are arranged in a 1-1 herringbone configuration.
Rows 2 through 8 each feature two Mint suites, which I will be reviewing in detail on the return trip to New York. This review, however, is focused on the bulkhead Row 1, where you’ll find the two Mint studios.
I selected studio 1A, while Zach Honig was across the aisle in 1F.
The first thing I noticed when settling into my studio was the sheer amount of personal space. While the suites could feel claustrophobic to some, there’s ample room to move around in the studio.
In fact, there’s even a buddy seat that can be used during the flight to share a drink with a friend or host a quick catch-up with a colleague.
JetBlue didn’t forget the details — there’s even a second fasten seatbelt sign above the buddy seat.
Another example of this remarkable attention to detail: the studio’s walls are decorated in a very faint Mint-themed pattern.
You’ll find a second side table, measuring 18 inches wide by 10 inches long, for your guest. It’s also a great space for an iPad or laptop while eating on the larger main tray table that measures 17 inches wide and 13 inches long.
The side table is also quite spacious, with plenty of room for loose items, like a pair of headphones or a book.
In addition to offering additional space, the studio boasts ample storage areas. There’s a closet next to the seat-back monitor with a coat hook and mesh shoe bag.
It’s also where you’ll find the amenity kit and playing cards waiting for you during boarding.
Right above the buddy seat is another storage compartment with room for a water bottle and headphones.
There’s also a second audio jack here for your traveling companion.
You’ll find the third, and final, storage compartment underneath the TV.
It’s large enough to fit a 13-inch MacBook Pro, but wasn’t deep enough for a charging block.
Back to the seat itself.
JetBlue’s Mint pods are a customized version of the Thompson VantageSolo seat. Measuring 21 inches wide, there’s plenty of room to move around.
Another nifty feature is the built-in Tuft & Needle mattress cushion. Unlike JetBlue’s legacy Mint product which features an inflatable seat that often deflates, the new Mint is supremely comfortable for a transcon or transatlantic jaunt.
The seat’s built-in controls are at elbow level. They’re easy to use and responsive to touch.
It took only seconds to turn to the studio into a bed.
Once in lie-flat mode, the bed measures just over 82 inches long, making it the largest lie-flat bed on any U.S. carrier.
The buddy seat lowers and becomes part of the bed when converting into lie-flat made.
Though I tried the new Mint during a daytime flight to L.A., I managed to sneak in a brief nap — I look forward to putting the bed to the test on a longer hop to London later this year.
Zach Honig was sitting across from me and found the foot cubby to be a bit awkward. I didn’t have a similar issue, though I am a side sleeper, so I personally prefer more space around the knees than the feet.
From a product perspective, the studio feels closer to international first class than it does to biz. Despite its spaciousness, it’s not perfect though.
The doors don’t close completely — there’s a small gap — and they’re not too high, raising just 44 inches from the carpet.
Additionally, since they’re located in the bulkhead and face the aisle, you’ll be staring at the galley throughout the flight.
This might not be bothersome for a daytime flight, but could prove distracting on short red-eye jaunts when sleep is the utmost priority.
There’s one standard-sized lavatory for Mint passengers at the front of the cabin, as well as one shared with coach flyers next to the snack bar behind row 8.
So, would I splurge on the studio again? That’ll depend on the flight time and the cost. For $199, I definitely appreciated all the extra space, especially the buddy seat and the second tray table.
I’ll reserve my final decision until I try the standard suite on the return flight home. Stay tuned!
Amenities and IFE
There’s plenty to keep you occupied on JetBlue flights, even if you’re seated in the back. The Mint studio, however, takes things to the next level.
You’ll find two power outlets in the studio, one of which features a USB-A port and another with a 15-Watt USB-C port, capable of charging the latest devices at high speeds.
There’s even a Qi-wireless charger just below the two windows, though you’ll need to precisely align your phone to get it to charge.
Waiting in the closet during boarding was a Wanderfuel-branded amenity kit with plenty of high-quality, trendy essentials, like a sample of Ursa Major recovery cream and a Busy Beauty active deodorant wipe.
There’s also a snooze kit available on request, which includes an eye mask, earplugs, toothbrush and toothpaste.
Additionally, each studio is stocked with a pack of Mint-branded playing cards, in a nod to the early days of aviation when airlines handed these out as inflight entertainment.
Every Mint studio and suite comes with a Tuft & Needle pillow and blanket. While comfortable, the studio bedding is one area where JetBlue could invest a bit more. Perhaps the carrier could add an additional pillow or day blanket to further differentiate the product.
The Mint studio features the largest TV across JetBlue’s fleet. At 22 inches, it’s massive and noticeably better quality than the legacy Mint IFE system.
The TV swivels toward the seat, and it can be tilted downwards for easy viewing while in bed. Plus, it can be used during taxi, takeoff and landing without needing to be locked into its original position.
JetBlue’s latest inflight entertainment system is one of the most advanced in the skies. It’s loaded with 145 movies and 89 TV shows, as well as over 100 live DirecTV channels. With on-demand play-and-pause functionality, you’ll never miss that important scene.
The IFE system can also wirelessly pair with your phone to be used as a remote control.
You can also use the seat’s built-in remote or navigate using your fingers.
Though you’re welcome to bring your own headphones, JetBlue provides a pair of above-average Master and Dynamic noise-isolating ones for your use during flight.
For staying connected, JetBlue’s A321LD is equipped with the carrier’s latest Fly-Fi technology. The plane connects to the ViaSat-2 satellite, providing some of the best inflight speeds you’ll find.
Though we hit quite a few areas of spotty coverage, download speeds measured nearly 50 Mbps, though uploads were significantly slower, rarely crossing more than one Mbps. Casually browsing the internet generally worked, but some apps couldn’t reliably connect, like Slack and Outlook.
It’s possible that JetBlue will work to improve the connectivity, but for now, it was spotty at best. As always, JetBlue’s Wi-Fi is free for all passengers, not just those seated in Mint.
One other oft-ignored amenity is the lighting. In the studio, you’ll find an overhead light, as well as a reading light at shoulder level.
Thera are also two accent lamps in the studio, both equipped with mood lighting and customizable brightness.
Food and Beverage
Dine on Demand
In November 2020, JetBlue unveiled a refreshed Mint “soft product” that included a new culinary partnership with New York-based Delicious Hospitality Group (DHG), new bedding, amenity kits and more.
That refresh shines in the new Mint. To coincide with the lie-flat launch, JetBlue transitioned to serving food from Pasquale Jones. Previously, JetBlue served picks from Charlie Bird, another DHG restaurant.
Menus were waiting at the seat during boarding, and flight attendants came through the aisles once we crossed 10,000 feet to take our orders.
Business-class flyers can select three out of five dishes, and as a vegetarian, I selected the three cold dishes — a wedge salad, a chilled tomato soup and braised leeks.
All food was served covered on a single tray along with the vanilla gelato dessert.
Everything was a noticeable cut above the other U.S. carriers, especially during the pandemic when the others have significantly scaled back their catering. My recent experience on Mint flights has been that the food is the best in the domestic skies, and Tuesday’s trip was no exception.
The braised leeks and tomato soup were entirely restaurant quality, and if I closed my eyes, it’d be as if I was sitting in Pasquale Jones in Lower Manhattan. In addition to the delectable food, the presentation couldn’t have been better.
According to my aisle-mate and colleague, his shrimp and pork entrees were also excellent, though I can’t vouch for those myself.
Cocktails, created by DHG’s Ada’s Place, were poured at your seat. As always, I selected the signature Mint Condition, one of my favorite drinks in the air. This cucumber, lime and vodka drink is a refreshing way to begin any journey.
Fives wines, picked by the sommeliers at Parcelle, were available as well, but I stuck to soft drinks and cocktails for the daytime hop to L.A.
JetBlue’s A321LD features a walk-up self-serve pantry with soft drinks and snacks, but it’s currently closed for added safety due to the pandemic.
One thing that JetBlue definitely didn’t need to improve is the Mint service.
The carrier has a special training program for its flight attendants who work in the pointy end of the plane — and it shows.
The crew is consistently among the best in the sky, and much friendlier and more personable, on average, than the crew at legacy U.S. airlines.
I was addressed by name the entire flight, and my cup was never empty for more than a few minutes.
Additionally, JetBlue has added some first-class touches to its food and beverage service, like cocktails that are shaken and poured at your seat.
The one downside to flying on the inaugural was that it took a while to complete the meal service, likely because the crew needed to familiarize themselves with the new galley layout and service flow. The crew was hustling, but it’ll take some time to iron out the kinks.
Despite the slower than normal meal service, I was still impressed with the service (and appreciated that the timing of the meal ultimately coincided with lunchtime back home.)
I even received a handwritten card thanking me for flying in the Mint studio — a memorable way to end the inaugural flight.
JetBlue’s new Mint studio is easily the best in the biz — there’s no better product flying the domestic skies.
With ample room, plenty of storage, high-tech entertainment and thoughtful amenities, the Mint studio easily trumps the competition.
If you’re flying between the coasts, you can’t beat the Mint studio. Of course, it doesn’t come cheap, and it might not be worth the upsell for a red-eye or quick eastbound transcon hop.
Though Mint studio is hands down the best domestic product, it’ll face some stiff competition when it begins crossing the Atlantic Ocean later this summer. Will it trump the current incumbent, Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Suite? Stay tuned to find out.
All photos by Zach Griff/The Points Guy. All screenshots courtesy of JetBlue.
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