Demand for JetBlue Airways new Mint premium product is “where we want to be” less than a week ahead of its launch, says director of product development Jamie Perry.
The product will make its debut on the first of 11 dedicated Airbus A321 aircraft (registration N923JB) between New York JFK International and Los Angeles International airports on 15 June, joining American Airlines and United Airlines offering dedicated premium products in the market.
“We’re very happy,” says Perry onboard the inaugural aircraft during a simulation on the ground at JFK on 10 June. “We think we have a very competitive product and service.”
The A321s are configured with 16 Mint – called an “experience” and not a product by Perry – 41 even more space and 102 economy seats. They will fly exclusively between JFK and both Los Angeles and San Francisco, with service to the northern California city beginning on 26 October.
Mint will compete in a crowded market of premium offerings.
American debuted its new premium three-class A321 transcontinental aircraft on the JFK-Los Angeles route in January, United has been offering its premium service (PS) on a dedicated fleet of Boeing 757-200s since 2004 and Virgin America’s product is designed to appeal to transcontinental passengers. Delta Air Lines will roll out its new fleet of dedicated 757-200s on 1 July.
Asked why JetBlue decided to add a premium experience to its all-economy ethos, Perry says that the airline found that it was losing loyal customers on transcontinental routes due to a lack of wi-fi and a premium option. Its wi-fi service Fly-fi and Mint are an effort to retain those customers.
“We want to win those customers back,” he says.
JetBlue also hopes to win over cost conscious customers who are willing to pay for a reasonably priced premium product. It has priced Mint as low as $599 one-way, which is at least $1,000 cheaper than its competitors on the JFK-Los Angeles and JFK-San Francisco routes.
“We also think there are other customers out there that are not brand loyal” or bound by corporate travel contracts that would pay for a premium product, says Perry.
Early returns are promising.
Mint seats are sold out for about the first month of service and JetBlue expects a boost from word-of-mouth reviews once service begins, says Perry.
“Time will tell,” he cautions on whether the product will be a success.
Goldman Sachs upgraded JetBlue to neutral from sell in April, citing additional “incremental demand” from strategic initiatives including Mint for the move.
Any future expansion of Mint will be dictated by how it performs in transcontinental markets, says Perry.
Mint service includes a welcome RefreshMint drink, a his or hers amenity kit designed by Birchbox and a lunch service designed like a tasting menu with a cold soup to begin then your choice of three out of five hot and cold entrées. Each seat has personal audio video on demand (AVOD) and two power outlets.
The economy cabin features updated seats personal AVOD and outlets accessible from each seat.
JetBlue plans to add five A321s configured with Mint in 2014 and six more aircraft in 2015.