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Earlier this year, JetBlue launched a new service that links New York JFK and Paris Charles de Gaulle with its Airbus A321neo aircraft so, as life had conspired to prevent me from trying out the JetBlue service between New York and London when that was first launched (and when Mint fares were amazingly low), I jumped at the chance of booking this route’s promotional (cheap) Business Class fares as soon as they became available.
On this trip I flew in the ‘Mint Studio’ Business Class seat on the outbound leg of my journey while on the return, I flew in the regular Mint Business Class seat. This article focuses on the Mint Studio seat, but a review of the regular seat (which I flew on an overnight flight) will be published soon.
The booking & the cost
I almost never book flights through a 3rd party/OTA, but on this occasion, I didn’t have much choice because the JetBlue website refused to offer me any options.
Whatever I tried, I simply couldn’t get the site to price up a trip originating in Paris and, as I soon found out, this was down to the fact that when JetBlue first released seats on its new JFK-Paris route (which was when I was searching for fares), it wasn’t able to (or willing to) offer fares for travel originating in Paris (click here to read more).
Fortunately, Booking.com was happy to help.
Well… that’s not entirely true. The UK site for Booking.com was happy to help while French Booking.com site was not. The French site couldn’t access the same heavily discounted fares as the UK site, and I have no idea why.
Because I was booking through a 3rd party and not directly with an airline, I didn’t have the option of earning 5 Membership Rewards points/dollar with card_name*. Instead, I put the card_name to good use and earned 3 Ultimate Rewards points/dollar.
*card_name offers cardholders 5 points/dollar on up to $500,000 of spending made directly with airlines or flights booked through Amex Travel and 1 point/dollar thereafter – terms apply.
The booking process was easy to navigate, and I was even able to choose to ‘upgrade’ to the Mint Studio seat for a further £166 within the Booking.com site (I had expected to have to do this on the JetBlue site).
In total, I paid Booking.com £1,044.99 for this trip and that, when converted to USD by Chase, came to $1,239.46.
That’s a pretty fantastic deal for roundtrip Business Class travel between Europe and the East coast.
Paris CDG & check-in
JetBlue operates out of Terminal 2B at Paris Charles de Gaulle and if you have bags that need to be checked or if you haven’t been able to check-in online, you can use the dedicated check-in line (which was empty when I arrived at the airport)…
…or you can use one of the numerous self-help kiosks located all around the terminal building (not just the ones near the JetBlue desks).
The kiosks can be used in English, Spanish or French, and you can access your booking in a variety of ways (scan a boarding pass/passport, use the credit card with which your flight was booked, use your first/last name, use your booking confirmation code or your ticket number).
I wasn’t traveling with checked baggage, so I had used the JetBlue app to check-in online the day before, and because it’s possible to use the app to scan your passport, I was issued a boarding pass straight away and didn’t need to have my passport checked any more than normal at the airport.
Paris CDG security
JetBlue is very clear about the fact that anyone booking its Mint Business Class cabin or its ‘Even More Space’ seats, get access to a priority security line at Paris Charles de Gaulle…
… but either I didn’t find the correct lane, or someone has forgotten to brief the CDG staff.
As far as I can tell, the priority lines (security and immigration) are labelled ‘Accès No. 1″ at Paris CDG, but when I showed my boarding pass to the gatekeeper, I was directed to the regular line.
The gatekeeper showed little interest in scanning my boarding pass to check if I had priority access, and as it was far too early in the morning to get into a protracted debate about whether or not I should be able to use the empty lane behind her, I made do with the regular security line.
On this occasion I got lucky. Not only was the regular line not hugely busy, but the staff working the line were fantastic. People were constantly being moved along and directed to the least crowded scanners and at least two new scanners were opened up as I watched.
At a busier time and on a busier travel day, however, the lack of access to the priority line could cause an issue for anyone arriving late (because they weren’t expecting to have to get in line with the ‘regular folk’).
Post security, Terminal 2B, & the gate area
JetBlue doesn’t offer lounge access on its transatlantic routes (it doesn’t offer access on its domestic routes either) and the only lounge in Terminal 2B (the Extime Lounge) isn’t a member of any of the major lounge networks.
That just leaves JetBlue passengers with the options that the terminal offers, and this is where you need to be a little careful.
Once you pass security, you enter into a part of the terminal that sits between security and immigration, and this is the area where you’ll find most of the terminal’s dining and shopping options.
The dining options aren’t plentiful here, but you’ll find a Starbucks, a sushi bar and a couple of establishments offering European food/snacks and drinks.
Once you pass through immigration, the dining options are cut down to one – a Pret a Manger where you can get hot drinks, sandwiches, and a few salads, but not much more.
As far as shopping goes, there is one solitary duty free store once you’re past immigration so anyone needing to do some last minute shopping should do so as soon as they clear security.
The gate areas past immigration are mostly spacious, light, and very red.
The seats are reasonably comfortable…
….and most have good power options with AC (European-style), USB-A and USB-C outlets all easily accessible.
Boarding was called by groups, but once we were called, we were held on the jet bridge for between 7 and 10 minutes. This is something that I really wish airlines would stop doing as it’s happening more and more.
Either the crew and the aircraft is ready to accept passengers onboard (in which case, call boarding) or they’re not (so let passengers stay in the gate area) – this isn’t complicated.
Anyway, that small annoyance aside, boarding was orderly, and the gate agents were friendly and welcoming.
The JetBlue A321neo Mint Cabin
The Airbus A321neo is a narrowbody/single aisle aircraft, and the Mint cabin offers a single seat (with privacy door) on each side of the aisle.
The two seats in row 1 are the Mint Studio seats and offer more personal space than the rest of the seats in the cabin.
Seat 1A (the seat that I was in) has a slight disadvantage over seat 1F in that the overhead compartment above 1A is reserved for the use of the crew.
If you’re booking a Mint Studio seat, this is a very good reason to choose seat 1F.
As far as the Mint Studio seat itself goes, this is what 1A looks like:
Once you’re in the seat, this is what your view is when you look directly ahead.
To the right, is a fixed table area with a small lamp.
And under the lamp is where you’ll find the release mechanism for the suite’s door.
Just above the fixed table is one of two power outlets that you’ll find in the Mint Studio. This one offers a universal power outlet for AC power as well as a USB-A port for charging smaller devices.
Below the area under this power outlet is where the suite’s tray table is stowed…
…while to the right of the power outlet is where you’ll find a small reading light and the controls for the seat.
A little lower down is where the inflight entertainment remote control is housed together with a second (more basic) set of seat controls that are easy to access when the seat is in lie flat mode.
To the left of the seat (if you’re sitting in it), is a narrow padded seating area which has a small leg rest that can be deployed.
And built into the wall next to this extra seating area is a second tray table and a second set of power outlets (AC + USB-C).
My understanding is that this small area has been designed to allow a second person to join the Mint Studio occupant for a meal, for drinks or for a conversation, but after having tested out this little area with no one else in the suite, I think it’s too cramped for comfort.
The concept is nice, but unless the person using the seat/second table is small, they’re going to be uncomfortable, and the suite will feel crowded.
Behind this secondary seating area and under the windows, there’s a wireless charging pad and, next to this, a small storage area.
The storage area will hold a small-ish iPad but not a laptop, and on my flight, the wireless charging pad was so unreliable (it kept on switching off) that I gave up on it.
The primary storage area for the Mint Studio comes in the form of a small closet that’s built into the wall behind the IFE screen.
This closet isn’t very deep, but it will store a 16″ MacBook with relative ease and there will still be room for a few more items.
The last storage area of note is a drawer located under the IFE screen.
The space here is big enough to store most reasonably sized tablets…
…but a 16″ MacBook is a little too big.
For most of the journey, I found the fixed table (to the right of the seat) to be the most convenient place to store my MacBook when I wasn’t working.
This flight was a daytime flight and I needed to work, so I didn’t really get much of a chance to see how good (or bad) the seat is when it’s in lie-flat “bed” mode.
I did, however, make time to put the seat into lie-flat mode to get a picture.
And I lay down on it long enough to confirm that the ottoman offers ample room for a passenger’s feet and that in bed mode, the seat doesn’t feel claustrophobic.
The fact that it doesn’t feel claustrophobic isn’t particularly surprising given the fact that at the time of writing, the Mint Studio’s seat turns into the largest bed offered by any U.S. carrier (based on reclined surface area).
While I cannot reliably comment on how comfortable this large bed will be for a 6-7 hour rest, I suspect that for most people it will be just fine.
Lastly (in this section), I should point out that each seat in the Mint cabin has its own overhead light and, more importantly, its own air vent as well.
Unlike on some transatlantic flights, JetBlue Mint customers are not at the mercy of the cabin crew when it comes to the temperature of their seat area.
Service & dining
Dining is done slightly differently on JetBlue.
The first difference is that where with most major airlines you’ll find the cabin crew walking through the aircraft taking food orders before (or just after) take off, on these JetBlue flights the food orders are all done via the inflight entertainment screen.
A menu was waiting for me at my seat when I boarded…
…and it wasn’t long after boarding had started that announcements were made encouraging passengers to place their meal orders.
The second way in which JetBlue’s meal service differs from most (all?) other transatlantic carriers, is that it offers “small plates” rather than a more traditional meal.
The ordering system is straightforward, and now that I have had a chance to try it out, I wish more airlines would offer this option. It seems efficient.
Drinks, on JetBlue Mint, are still handled the traditional way – menus are provided and a crew member comes around to take your order.
On this flight, and when boarding had mostly finished, pre-departure beverages were served in the Mint cabin with a choice of juice or crémant.
The drinks were served in plastic cups (not very premium), and the servings were in no danger of being generous.
A few minutes later, hot towels were offered.
Throughout the boarding process and while preparations for departure were being made, the flight attendants were all exceptionally friendly and seemed happy to help where they could (despite being very obviously busy).
There was no sign of any sulking, pouting, or unnecessary attitude, the flight attendants had smiles for everyone, and all of that made for a nice atmosphere onboard (legacy US crews should take note).
After take-off and after we had levelled out, a ‘welcome pastry’ was served with a second drink.
This time, the drink came in a stemless wine glass and was a decent pour (much better!)
Breakfast was served approximately 45 minutes into the flight and, for me, consisted of the following:
- Salted yoghurt with pumpkin seed granola & raisins.
- Smoked salmon with crème fraîche, picked red onions, capers and a half bagel crostini.
- A frittata with baby spinach, goat cheese and a herb & parmigiano salad.
- A sausage (my choice of side).
The sausage was very good, the frittata was a little boring, the yoghurt was nice, and once I constructed the salmon and its accompaniments into an open sandwich, that was pretty good too (it was a good portion of smoked salmon).
Once again, the service was carried out with a smile and it seemed pretty obvious that the crew were invested in doing a good job and keeping passengers happy.
Overall, the food served for breakfast was good and a step above quite a few of the breakfasts that I’ve had on American Airlines, United Airlines, and BA.
The nicest surprise, however, was the discovery that JetBlue has an espresso maker aboard its A321neos.
Without a question, this was the best coffee I’ve had on a transatlantic flight for a long, long time. Admittedly the competition isn’t exactly tough, but that’s still an accomplishment.
Between breakfast and the second meal of the flight (a pre arrival snack) I didn’t have anything else to eat (there’s an area on board where you can help yourself to snacks), but I made sure that I made time to try the non-alcoholic version of the airline’s signature cocktail – Mint (under one) Condition.
This is a combination of seltzer, ginger, lime, cucumber, and Mint and was possibly one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve had in the air.
It may even be better than the mint and lemon drink that Qatar Airways serves… and that’s high praise indeed!
Around 90 minutes before we landed at JFK, the “light bites” meal was served.
For my two options I chose the carrot soup and the croque monsieur and while both were just about fine, both needed to be hotter and the croque monsieur would probably have looked more appetizing had it been served on a more appropriate piece of tableware.
This was definitely the lesser (in quality) of the two meals on this flight.
The inflight amenities
A very good pair of slippers are provided for passengers in the Mint cabin, but the amenity kit offered on this flight was an Economy Class amenity kit that was… unimpressive.
The kit contained all the usual staples (eye mask, toothbrush, toothpaste, and ear plugs), but anyone hoping for toiletries would have been disappointed as none are provided.
Every now and again, something seems to go wrong with the provisioning for JetBlue’s transatlantic flights as even though the airline offers a more premium amenity kit (it’s shown on the Mint website), I didn’t get one on this flight or on the return, and I’ve read a few other reports of Mint passengers on transatlantic routes being given these Economy Class pouches as well.
As with most airlines, the bedding that JetBlue offers comes wrapped in a bag that’s waiting for you at your seat when you board.
But unlike a lot of the bedding bags that you see, this one comes with instructions.
The pillow that’s provided is ok but nothing special. The blanket on the other hand, is both large and versatile (as the images on the bag show).
I can’t claim to have tried out all the different ways in which the blanket can be used, but I can say that it was warm, comfortable, and large enough to cover a good-size person with relative ease.
If I was being really fussy, I’d say that the blanket could have been a little heavier/thicker, but the truth is that I don’t really need much more out of an airline blanket than what this one already offers.
Wi-Fi & entertainment
The Mint Studio suites feature 22-inch Thales AVANT seatback screens which are 5″ larger than the screens at the regular Mint seats.
The screens can be pulled out from their storage area and angled towards the seat. For those moments when you want to watch a movie or show while reclined or lying down, the screen can be tilted to reduce glare and to give a better viewing angle.
The screen can be controlled by touch, by a passenger’s phone…
…or by the IFE remote control that deploys from the sidewall of the seat.
One side on the remote will work the IFE screen while the other side can be used as a games controller.
For those who board without headphones, JetBlue offers excellent noise-canceling headphones made by Master & Dynamic…
…and for those who haven’t got their own entertainment, the airline offers on-demand access to movies, TV shows, music, and games.
Wi-Fi on JetBlue is free of charge for the whole aircraft, and the system makes it relatively easy to get connected.
It’s worth noting, however, that if you’re logging on with an Apple device, you may face an issue (Android users should be fine).
My iPhone refused to connect to the inflight Wi-Fi until I temporarily disconnected ‘Private Relay’ (Settings>Your Name>iCloud>Private Relay). With private relay switched off, the wi-fi worked as expected.
The price of ‘free internet’ is that you have to watch an advert before you can finish logging in, but compared to what the likes of AA, UA and BA charge, that’s a small price to pay.
Annoyingly, however, the quality of the internet connection was poor.
I had been looking forward to seeing what JetBlue’s inflight internet was like because I had heard and read good things about it. On this flight, however, the connection dropped far too many times and there were occasions on which the download speeds were woefully slow (simple pages taking minutes to load).
This is tough. In some ways I like this JetBlue product and in some ways I don’t.
- If JetBlue is going to offer access to priority security, it needs to (a) make sure that is says so very clearly on the boarding pass (my digital pass just showed that I had access to TSA PreCheck which is not very useful on a flight out of Paris) and (b) make sure that the airports it is using are briefing their staff properly.
- The lack of lounge access is an issue. Not having access to a lounge on a domestic flight is one thing, but the lack of lounge access on an international flight where you’re expected to turn up to the airport hours before departure makes the start of the journey feel a lot less relaxed and a lot less ‘premium’.
- The secondary seating area in the Mint Studio suite is nice to have because it gives a feeling of space, but as a place to sit it’s pointless. The main occupant of the studio doesn’t need a second place to sit, there’s not enough room in the studio for a second person unless they’re a small child, and the distance between the secondary seat and its tray table is so narrow that no adult would be comfortable sitting there to eat or to do some work.
- Giving Business Class passengers Economy Class amenity kits looks and is cheap.
- The part-working wireless charging pad was irritating and the poor internet connectivity was annoying. Hopefully both are just issues with the aircraft I was flying on and not an example of how things are on most other flights.
- The JetBlue app is very easy to work with and I loved the simplicity with which it can be used to scan a passport and the simplicity with which I was checked in.
- All the staff that I interacted with from the moment I was in the gate area to the moment I walked out of JFK were great. There wasn’t a single member of staff, flight crew or cabin crew that wasn’t welcoming. They were a credit to the airline.
- Even though it’s in a herringbone layout (which I don’t like), the Mint Studio seat is comfortable and there’s a good feeling of space around the seat.
- I (mostly) like the way the Mint Studio has been designed:
- I like how long the bed is when the seat is in lie-flat mode.
- I like that area for a passenger’s feet isn’t small (when the seat is in lie-flat mode).
- I like that it’s easy to keep your devices close to you if you need to and space to put them away if you don’t.
- The small plates breakfast was surprisingly nice. It was a little odd having a single sausage presented to me on a plate all on its own, but it and the rest of the breakfast was better than a lot of things I’ve been served for breakfast by the legacy carriers.
- The signature non-alcoholic cocktail was fantastic. I could have easily consumed a whole pitcher.
- The power options in the Mint Studio are impressive. With two universal AC power outlets, a USB-A outlet, and a USB-C outlet, I think this may be the best power-equipped suite that I’ve flown in.
- The fact that JetBlue offers real espresso coffee onboard is fantastic. It’s worth remembering that American Airlines gave up serving espresso in its 777-300ER transatlantic cabin a few years ago because…well…who knows why? And yet here we have JetBlue serving a very nice espresso on a single aisle A321 in ‘lowly’ Business Class.
Overall, I would have to conclude by saying this:
Yes, I would choose to fly transatlantic Business Class with JetBlue again because there are quite few things about the product and the service that I liked. The one caveat to that is that the fare that I was offered would have to be materially lower than the fares offered by the oneworld airlines.
The fact is that by choosing JetBlue over one of the oneworld airlines, I am giving up lounge access, guaranteed access to all priority security lines, elite status credits, a more spacious aircraft, and the protection that my oneworld status gives me when something goes wrong.
All these things have value to me, so even though there was a lot about this JetBlue experience that I appreciated, there was not enough to tempt me to move away from the comfort that my oneworld status gives me without a financial incentive.