JetBlue Mint available for flights to Aruba

JetBlue Mint available for flights to Aruba

Courtesy of: In transit

JetBlue — which last summer introduced private suites, the longest beds in the United States domestic market and a tapas-style menu as part of its new Mint business-class cabin — plans to announce on Monday that it will expand its Mint service to the Caribbean.

Beginning in November, Mint will be available on routes between John F. Kennedy International Airport and Aruba and Barbados, making JetBlue the only American carrier with lie-flat seating to operate regularly scheduled service to the Caribbean. (Currently, Mint is offered only on transcontinental flights between Kennedy International Airport and Los Angeles and San Francisco.)

Aruba and Barbados were chosen as the next Mint destinations mainly because they are traveler favorites. JetBlue has been tracking demand to the two islands through not only its own passenger surveys, but also data from the Department of Transportation.

“We know those are two markets that have high-end leisure premium demand,” said Marty St. George, executive vice president of commercial and planning for JetBlue.

It was also a matter of practicality. Mint is designed to be a nearly five-hour experience, which is why it’s offered on only JetBlue’s longer routes. At least for now. “The minimum service can eventually morph,”Mr. St. George said.

Another obvious choice for Mint would be flights from Boston to Los Angeles or San Francisco. And while JetBlue is exploring a number of places to expand Mint, it’s not yet ready to share any details. “We’ve talked about it internally,” said Mr. St. George. “We’re not making an announcement at this point.”

Mint was a major departure for JetBlue, both from a logistical and a brand standpoint. Its customers had long thought of it as an egalitarian airline. A separate cabin for the privileged few — replete with lie-flat seats, dozens of channels, beauty and grooming products and a seemingly endless parade of appealing food — was a risky departure. Moreover, JetBlue’s flight crew was not experienced when it came to business-class service.

“They never had an oven to work with,” Mr. St. Georgesaid. “They were never mixing drinks.”

So far, the gamble has paid off. Mint’s performance, he said, “has been way, way, way above expectations.”

More than half of Mint travelers are existing JetBlue customers, a number of whom wanted to fly JetBlue but stopped taking the transcontinental flights because there was no premium-class service. Mint, Mr. St. George said, lured a lot of those customers back.

Mint has also attracted executives from small and medium-size businesses and, much to the airline’s surprise, even some elite fliers from carriers such as Delta Air Lines and American Airlines who defected to JetBlue. “These are the customers we never expected to get,” said Mr. St. George.

As with the transcontinental Mint service, prices to and from New York and Aruba or Barbados will begin at $599 each way for off-peak flights. “There are certain days where there’s infinite demand for the Caribbean,” Mr. St. George said, “so prices will be higher those days.”

Round-trip Mint service to each Caribbean destination will be offered once every Saturday on JetBlue’s Airbus A321 between Nov. 7 and April 30, 2016. During the holiday season, service will be more frequent, with Mint available once daily between Dec. 19 and Jan. 4, 2016.

The seating and service on Mint Caribbean flights will essentially be the same as that on the transcontinental flights. There will be a tapas-style menu by Saxon &Parole, the East Village restaurant; organic desserts by Blue Marble Ice Cream of Brooklyn; sweets from Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery; and amenity kits from Birchbox. JetBlue, however, is in the process of dreaming up some twists for those indulging in island getaways. On northbound flights, for example, there may be Caribbean-inspired meals — perhaps even a cocktail with rum.