There is good news and potentially bad news about JetBlue’s pandemic-delayed trans-Atlantic service from Boston to London.
First the good news: When the Boston-to-London route debuts later this year, JetBlue’s popular Mint class, the airline’s version of business class, is expanding and getting an extensive makeover. Since its debut in 2014, Mint has consisted of 16 seats at the front of the plane. Four of those seats are referred to as suites. Those coveted suites are individual seats with a low door. Naturally these solo seats always get booked first.
The remainder of the front cabin has two side-by-side seats that are ideal for people traveling together. Otherwise you’re sitting next to a stranger. That means asking to scoot by to use the lavatory if you’re in the window seat.
On the new Boston-to-London route, the Mint section grows to 24 seats, and all of them are single-seat suites with lie-flat seats and sliding doors (two larger seats are called studios). To answer the question before you ask, JetBlue executives said it’s too early for pricing. They also have yet to release designs for the main cabin of the new A321LR narrow body aircrafts they’ll be flying.
“When you think about the Mint suites that are currently flying, those literally sell out in minutes,” said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer of the airline. “Clearly people are looking for more privacy, or they enjoy having room to spread out.”
Before dispensing more posh details about the airline’s business class upgrade, it’s time to get the potentially bad news out of the way. According to Geraghty, when JetBlue launches trans-Atlantic service later this year, it will either debut out of New York or Boston, but not both. That’s different from the original plan, which was to launch service out of both cities simultaneously this year. She said the final decision will be announced soon.
“We’re getting three aircraft this year, which means we’ll launch one city out of the United States,” she said. “We have not decided whether that’s Boston or JFK. If it comes to Boston this year, it will be JFK next year, and if it comes to JFK this year, it will be Boston next year.”
Both airports are major hubs for the airline. The addition of service to London was announced two years ago with a promise of lower prices to undercut competitors such as British Airways and American Airlines.
JetBlue has been faced with the challenge of finding slots at London airports for its planes. While Heathrow is the goal, open slots there are rare, and also expensive. Air New Zealand sold its two slots at the airport for $27 million last March, just before COVID-19 hit. That means JetBlue has also been looking for slots at Gatwick and Stansted as options.
“The pandemic has been awful on so many levels, but it’s also provided certain opportunities,” Geraghty said. “In the case of London, it is providing us with a pathway into at least one, if not more, London airports. It’s been a unique opportunity for us in the midst of this pandemic to take advantage of changes to the industry.”
While we wait to hear which airport the flights will originate from, and where in England they’ll land, we can still dream of what it will be like once the route, and post-COVID travel, begins.
Speaking of dreaming, the seats in the suites were created in collaboration with mattress maker Tuft & Needle. JetBlue is the first airline to try this concept, and it means the seat, when converted to a bed, doubles as a memory foam mattress.
“One of the things that put a smile on my face was to see people’s reactions when they tried the seat,” said Mariya Stoyanova, director of product development for the airline. “We designed the suites from the ground up, around the customer’s needs. There’s storage space, places for multiple devices. We really watched customers to see what they were looking for, and then moved ahead from there.”
Now that we know what JetBlue’s new Mint cabin will look like, only one question remains: When will we have a chance to see it in person?
Christopher Muther can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther and Instagram @chris_muther.