Hello Flight-Reporters and welcome to a new series of pandemic-era flight reviews. After being grounded for almost 10 months in 2020, I've slowly-but-surely been getting back to more regular flying again. After moving the family back to the U.S. at the beginning of the year, we had a few uneventful domestic flights in the spring–which I may post at a later time–and now it was time to fly back across the pond to spend the summer with family in Southwestern France.
This review is a bit out of the ordinary for me as it's not with a oneworld alliance carrier (gasp!) and was my first ever time testing out JetBlue's "Mint" Business class product. I'd been wanting to try Mint for the longest times, but it just never worked out, especially when I was living in Washington, DC as there just weren't any Mint services from the DC area. Now living in San Diego, there are more opportunities to fly JetBlue and the fact that American AAdvantage members can now earn miles flying B6-metal as part of the new AA-B6 alliance, gave me even more reason to try them out to catch a previously-booked transatlantic flight from NYC.
Though our transatlantic Iberia flight was leaving from JFK, JetBlue had some really good Mint cabin fares to Newark EWR–a 40% savings over SAN-JFK flights for the same date. Flying in to EWR was not a problem as we had intended to spend one night in order to break up the trip to make it easier on our 2-year-old son.
Welcome aboard my first ever Flight-Report on JetBlue!
Flight reviews in this series:
As mentioned above, JetBlue fly Mint-equipped A321s to both EWR and JFK from SAN. With EWR being a newer route for JetBlue, and in competition with more-established United and Alaska, prices to EWR were on sale at a significant discount over the super-premium JFK route at about $400 one-way per person vs. $700 one-way–a fantastic price for transcon lie-flat Business class!
Though JetBlue recently introduced an amazing new all-Suites Business class product for select A321neo and A321LR services in the New York ⬌ London/LAX markets, our flight to Newark would be operated with a standard Mint cabin. The layout in the traditional Mint cabin is a staggered-altering 1-1/2-2 configuration vs 1-1 on the newer aircraft. This was actually preferable for us as we were flying as a family with a small child.
The morning of the flight, we arrived at the airport a good 2 hours before departure as we had quite a few bags to check since we were going away for 2 months.
JetBlue operate from the older Terminal 1 at San Diego, which has a decidedly sixties/mid-century look.
Note the "June Gloom"–a morning marine layer cloudiness typical in southern California that usually occurs in late spring and early summer and generally burns off by mid-morning.
I was glad we'd arrived early as there was quite a crowd at the JetBlue ticket counters due to a delayed flight to JFK.
Even the Mint (Business class) check-in was slow–we waited in the queue for about 30 minutes.
I was glad that we were on the Newark flight as it turned out the JFK flight was running several hours late. Once we did get to the check-in counter, the agent was very friendly and efficient.
By the time we got through security, boarding was just about to begin. Domestic travel within the US had been experiencing a boom in demand since the mass vaccination rollout earlier in the year resulting in crowded domestic terminals.
Despite the crowds, boarding was well-organised and went smoothly, beginning with the Mint cabin. Now that my son is 2-years old and can walk long distances with ease, I no longer ask to pre-board as we don't have to deal with packing up and checking a stroller at the gate.
The world has definitely learned about HEPA filters since the beginning of the pandemic.
Great first impression–the Mint cabin is arguably the most luxurious on transcontinental business class–at least on narrow-body flights.
I was lucky to grab one of the solo "suite" seats, which is very spacious and private with a closing door!
Good quality bedding, menus, and amenity kits were set on each seat in the Mint cabin.
The bedding made a nice booster seat for my son as he explored all of the shiny buttons around his seat 😁
The amenity kit is nature and wellness focused.
Let's have a look at the food & beverage menu, which is signed by the cabin crew–a lovely touch.
JetBlue Mint catering features a unique "small plates" tapas-style service, with some tasty looking options. I would later find that the small plates aren't actually small at all.
Also a very decent wine and alcoholic beverage selection for a domestic US flight.
The single "Mint Suites" are SPACIOUS–there is a huge amount of room ahead of you as well as on both sides of the seat
And there are power sources galore…they're everywhere!
No need to pick and choose which electronic device to charge first–charge them all, at the same time!
There also tons of well-designed storage spaces.
The seat controls are also conveniently located where you can't accidentally bump into them and inadvertently change seat positions. This happens to me a lot when controls are too close to the elbows or thighs.
The in-flight entertainment is very good with tons of Live TV channels, a good selection of movies, TV shows, and music. The only thing I didn't care for was the lack of options in languages other than English and the interface itself was a bit clunky. Other than that, all of these options along with the free Wi-Fi make for a top notch entertainment experience. It's easy to see that JetBlue make an effort to offer more than the legacy carriers.
Despite a mostly full flight, boarding was completed early and doors were closed 5 minutes before scheduled departure time.
The moving map looks kind of old school and it's interesting that it uses OpenStreetMap data instead of more traditional map programmes.
We pushed back under sunny blue skies–the morning June Gloom had mostly burned away.
Though SAN can get pretty busy with only one runway, operations usually run smoothly thanks to the fantastic stable weather we have year-round in San Diego.
Taxi time was short as we'd missed the busier early morning period.
The kid was asleep before we were even off the ground 😴
And we're off for a 5-hour cross-country flight.
The newer Terminal 2
The marine layer was still clinging to the coast.
SAN Airport and its single runway, Coronado Beach, the Coronado Bridge, downtown San Diego and Balboa Park all easily visible
Once we levelled out, we were able to put the kid's seat in full flat position and he has a nice long nap.
Cabin crew came through shortly after takeoff and closed the doors on the solo seats. Not only is the seat spacious, it's very private!
Though closed suites have become more popular in long-haul Business class in recent years, they are still a rare novelty and JetBlue, flying mostly domestic US sectors, were well ahead of their time when they introduced Mint back in 2014!
As we headed further inland into the desert, the marine layer could still be seen hugging the coast in the distance.
While waiting for the lunch service to begin, I checked out the in-flight entertainment options again.
As mentioned earlier, the interface is surprisingly antiquated and the moving map isn't particularly "pretty" or detailed, but those are very minor things to me. The screens are of a decent size and there is a ton of content and features–"bells & whistles" that you don't often see all on the same aircraft like XM satellite radio, Live TV, FREE high-speed Wi-Fi, and tons of films, series, and music.
I settled on Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon
As a Disney nerd with Southeast Asian roots, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.
Beautiful desert views
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
View of the Mint cabin in flight.
In-flight service began about a half-hour into the flight with drinks–orders had been taken on the ground, along with meal selections.
I had the Crémant de Bourgogne, which was decent. Certainly better than the basic sparkling wines served by Legacy carriers on domestic flights, but not a real champagne of course.
Pre-lunch drinks were served with roasted almonds.
I will say that the lunch service took quite a bit longer than what I'm used to on other US carriers. I don't mind waiting at all, especially as the quality of the meal turned out to be well above the competition and it obviously took more care and time to plate and put together for a full cabin.
I appreciated that the flight attendants came through the cabin to offer refills as we waited for the meals.
Luckily I always have emergency snack rations for the little one if he gets hungry–he was happy to munch on cookies in the meantime.
And all good things are worth the wait! I was very impressed with the quality, generous portion sizes, and presentation.
JetBlue call these small plates, but there is nothing small about them!
Warm tomato tart
Goat cheese, basil
Salami, provolone, roasted tomatoes, olives
Tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, rosemary breadcrumbs
Everything was delicious. Even the salt and its container were fancy!
My son was impressed as well and exclaimed "Oh, joli !" (pretty) when presented with his meal.
It was obviously way too much food for him, though. Unfortunately, was no option to pre-order a child-meal in Mint.
We were over the Midwest towards the end of the meal service, which gives an idea of how long it took.
Dessert arrived more than halfway through the flight–it was also delicious and creative.
Roasted rhubarb, olive oil, cake crumble
Another crémant to enjoy with dessert, Cheers!
For the rest of the flight I had just enough time to watch one more movie.
Before we knew it, we were already making our descent.
Towards the end of the flight, the lead flight attendant came through and thanked each passenger in the Mint cabin for flying JetBlue and handed a card. It was a hand-written thank you card signed by the Mint crew and was even addressed to our family by name–wow, super impressed by this level of personal touch!
The garden-y part of the "Garden State"
I'd specifically selected seats on the left side of the aircraft for views of Manhattan on landing and I was not disappointed!
Gorgeous views of the city in the beautiful evening light.
We landed almost an hour before scheduled arrival time! NY area flights tend to have padded block times for long taxi times and volume delays so when there are no delays…you land super early!
Unsurprisingly, we had to wait for our gate due to our very early arrival, but it was a relatively short wait luckily.
And there was some nice scenery to enjoy.
I was impressed to see how large the JetBlue operation actually was at Newark considering they have a major hub just down the road at JFK.
Final view of the lovely Mint cabin on disembarking.
While our luggage, all with green Priority Mint tags, came our quickly on the regular carousel, the stroller and car seat took an eternity to be delivered. We enquired at the JetBlue baggage service office adjacent to the baggage carousel and were told that oversized items come out last. Having worked in ground operations management in the past, I understand the reasoning but it makes for some inconsistencies in the passenger experience when travelling in Mint class.
Luckily, the terminal was mostly empty and my son could run around a bit after a long flight as we waited for the oversized items to come up.
Once the car seat and stroller bags finally came up, we made our way to the AirTrain to get to the rental car centre and then head to our hotel for the night before our transatlantic flight the next day.
JetBlue Mint did not disappoint! From the beautiful and spacious cabin, to the super friendly and attentive cabin crew, to the top notch catering and free Wi-Fi, this was easily the best domestic US premium cabin flight in many years of regularly flying First and Business class within the US. I took away one small point for the IFE rating because of the older system and lack of options in languages other than English. With the free Wi-Fi, had there been a more modern IFE interface, it would have been a perfect 10 for Entertainment. The food was fantastic--definitely the best meal I'd every had on a domestic flight. Real Champagne would have brought the Meal rating to a perfect 10, though there was a perfectly good Crémant de Bourgogne.
The only thing missing with Mint is lounge access, though we have Priority Pass. There are no lounges at SAN Terminal 1 anyway, so it's a moot point for SAN departures, but it would make sense for JetBlue to open lounges in larger and premium stations and hubs like JFK, BOS, LAX, LHR.
The new American-Alaska-JetBlue partnership is a big positive for customers, who now have a greater choice of airlines and products to choose from, while earning mileage and status with their programme of choice. I will definitely continue taking advantage of the ability to fly both Alaska and JetBlue while earning AAdvantage miles.