New York-based airline, JetBlue, has revealed the next generation of its Mint business class, which has been upgraded to mark its entry into the transatlantic market. Transatlantic routes are highly lucrative in normal times, and as vaccines look set to overcome the Covid-19 health crisis, these routes will hopefully soon return to strong profitability. The market is served by several high-quality business class offers, but JetBlue’s new Mint cabins, combined with “unpremium” fare pricing, could give rivals a new cause for concern.
The first-generation Mint cabin for transcontinental US routes gained a lot of attention at its launch in 2014 (details here), with the mixed 2-2 and 1-1 layout of the Vantage seat from Thompson Aero Seating enabling four of the 16 lie-flat seats on its Airbus A321neos to be fitted with doors. The seats in question are sometimes referred to as ‘throne’ seats, given their large side surfaces, but adding doors to create semi-private suites added a new level of exclusivity.
For 2021, and with routes from New York and Boston to London due to commence this summer, served by its new A321LRs, JetBlue has developed the Mint Studio, again based on a Thompson seating platform, but this time the VantageSOLO, for which the airline is launch customer. The inward-facing herringbone configuration of the VantageSOLO platform has been developed specifically for the single-aisle market, in a design partnership with Factorydesign.
Unlike the original Mint cabin, the all-new transatlantic Mint offers privacy in each of the 24 individual suites, with direct aisle access and sliding privacy doors. Comfort features include a tilting 17in Thales AVANT seatback IFE display, wireless charging outlets, an integrated phone ledge for multitasking, in-seat power, and stowage space for items such as laptops, shoes and handbags. A smaller 16-seat layout will debut on a limited number of JetBlue’s A321neo flights between New York and Los Angeles in 2021.
For flyers looking for something a little extra, the two Mint Studios in the first row oblige. When JetBlue approached Acumen Design Associates for the A321neo cabin design in 2016, it had already selected the VantageSOLO seat platform, but wanted the customisation work to reflect customer feedback from the current Mint product. Acumen, a London-based design studio, says that as part of the seat redesign process, its team identified an opportunity to reimagine the front row area, which is often used solely for additional cabin storage – useful but not necessarily an attractive or efficient use of cabin space. A notable feature of the VantageSOLO platform is that it enables two larger front-row seats to be fitted in the space. This option was taken in order to create the Mint Studios, which offer greater living space and luxury, a little extra exclusivity and an ancillary revenue opportunity.
The Mint Studios are spacious, offering what JetBlue claims is “the most space in a premium experience from any US airline” (based on personal square footage per passenger seat) and “the largest lie-flat bed of any US carrier” (based on total reclined bed surface area). The latter is enabled as when the seat transitions into bed-mode, the ottoman (a small sofa exclusive to the studios) drops, extending the bed surface.
“By reclaiming the unused space at the front row, Mint Studio offers customers an enhanced flying experience – one which will quickly become the gold standard for narrow-body business class,” said Daniel Clucas, senior designer at Acumen.
Collaborating under AVIC Cabin Systems (ACS), AIM Altitude worked with Thompson Aero Seating to seamlessly integrate the premium front-row monuments with the Mint Studios.
Guests also enjoy an upgrade to a 22in tilting IFE monitor, and the ottoman and additional side table mean that studio guests can invite an additional Mint customer to share the space and perhaps to dine together, once cruising altitude is reached.
JetBlue is an airline with an individual character, from its marketing (campaigns include “bringing humanity back to air travel”), to its unorthodox approach to being essentially a low-cost carrier – affordable carrier seems more apt. That sense of individuality is carried through to the 2021 Mint experience, with Acumen working with JetBlue, Thompson and suppliers to customise the seats and cabin to match the airline’s style.
The teams worked to bring a sense of New York’s urban style to the skies, with the cabin designed to evoke a residential feel through the use of subtle mood-lighting programmes and soft finishes. A soft, textured suede is wrapped around the seat (Tapisuede Flannel), with a vegan leather (Ultraleather Promessa Av) selected for the seats and headrests, as well a denim-style carpet. Other urban touches include stylised concrete lampshades and woodgrain table patterns. The inner walls of each Mint Suite feature a contemporary pattern inspired by JetBlue’s brand language, while the patterned door shrouds on the suites incorporate a bold, pressure-formed Mint leaf pattern.
“Mint was an idea to make premium travel across the US less stuffy and more affordable, and its performance has exceeded even our most optimistic expectations of going beyond New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco,” said Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s president and chief operating officer. “It’s remarkable how Mint’s thoughtful design has resonated with customers as we successfully grew it to more than 30 routes. We put our heart into this redesign of Mint and were inspired by our original vision of offering customers an exceptional experience at a lower fare – which is what JetBlue is all about.”
JetBlue promises that its Mint transatlantic fares will cost “a fraction” of what other airlines charge for premium seats. With potentially huge pent-up demand for transatlantic travel, and Covid-19 vaccination programmes continuing apace, JetBlue’s upgraded Mint could be a powerful engine in its recovery.