Last year JetBlue did something pretty bold for an established low cost carrier by introducing a new premium cabin product between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco. The new product is called Mint Class, and consists of 16 fully flat seats per Airbus A321 operating in the market.
They really shook up the market quite a bit, not only by offering a really competitive product, but also by undercutting the competition with their pricing.
There has been a lot of speculation about JetBlue expanding their Mint Class product on other routes, given that it has apparently performed well. Up until now, speculation has been that Mint Class would be expanded on more transcon flights, especially flights out of Boston.
Well, what’s not surprising is that Mint Class is officially expanding. What is surprising is the market in which it’s expanding — starting in November 2015, JetBlue will offer Mint Class between New York and the Caribbean.
Via The New York Times:
Beginning in November, Mint will be available on routes between John F. Kennedy International Airport and Aruba and Barbados, making JetBlue the onlyAmerican carrier with lie-flat seating to operate regularly scheduled service to the Caribbean.
Aruba and Barbados were chosen as the next Mint destinations mainly because they are traveler favorites. JetBlue has been tracking demand to the two islandsthrough not only its own passenger surveys, but alsodata 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.
On the surface this is innovative on the part of JetBlue. Presumably they’ll not only be shaking up the market in terms of their reasonable premium cabin pricing, but they’ll also be shaking up the market by offering the only fully flat bed between New York and the Caribbean.
Unfortunately the further down in the article I got, the less exciting the new offering seemed. The Caribbean Mint Class service will initially be once weekly — Saturdays only — though it will operate daily over the peak holiday season:
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.
There’s less premium transcon demand on Saturdays, so clearly they’re just using one of the idle transcon A321s for the service. That being said, long term I wouldn’t be surprised if the service is expanded, assuming the route performs well.
I think it’s sort of hard to gauge demand for a product with just once weekly service, though. Most “premium” customers aren’t going to travel somewhere for exactly a week, and if they truly have money to spend, chances are they’ll book an airline where they can get first class in both directions, rather than fly Mint Class in one direction and economy in the other (of course if they were smart they’d book JetBlue in one direction and another airline in the other direction, but that’s more thought than most people put into the travel planning process).
What do you think of this move by JetBlue — do you think they actually want to expand Mint Class service to the Caribbean long term, or is this simply a route on which to put idle A321s on off peak days?