n.b. – This story first appeared in the APEX Editors blog on 30 September 2013
Call it a major announce-Mint. JetBlue took the next step in launching its premium cabin transcon service today, introducing “Mint” as the product name and overall branding strategy for its new product, first revealed earlier this year.
The new product is being launched not as a replacement for the airline’s incredibly successful single-cabin product but as an augmentation to it, targeting specific markets (LAX/SFO – JFK) where the carrier sees premium customers who otherwise fly JetBlue choosing other airlines.
Details on the seats have been known for a couple months now but information about the inflight experience is now being revealed, offering insight into how JetBlue intends to compete with the legacy carriers while also trying not to alienate its core customers.
Introductory pricing for Mint was announced at $499 each way for the initial four days of service (limited by JetBlue’s published schedule). Those seats sold out in under 15 minutes. The regular price point is set starting at $599 each way, roughly a third of the asking price from others in the market.
There is much more to the offering than just the low price. For starters, there is no mention of the new product being a separate cabin on board, despite the fact that it will be separated from the core seats. The carrier is similarly avoiding words such as “elite,” “priority” or “tiers.” Marty St. George, senior VP: marketing & strategy, describes the approach, “We call it the ‘Mint Experience’ because it is not just ‘I’m stuck in this little cabin.’ We want to make it an experience which is accessible to everybody.”
The new seats – 6’ 8” flat beds, some with sliding doors to create a private suite – will be special but that’s not the only way JetBlue is hoping to differentiate. As CEO David Barger shared during the unveiling, “It is not a class of service or a cabin; it is the whole experience.” And with the soft product – the Mint offering – JetBlue will be quite different from the competition.
Inflight dining will be presented in a tapas-style approach, with five hot and cold options available for passengers to choose from. Focusing on its New York City roots, JetBlue chose to partner with a “hidden gem” local restaurant to help develop the menu. Saxon + Parole is run by Michelin-starred Chef Brad Farmerie and has worked with JetBlue and Flying Food Group to create a set of dishes which are an extension of the restaurant’s signature dishes as well as new offerings specifically for JetBlue.
The focus of the menu is on “comfort with a twist,” providing high-quality food which is familiar to passengers but with just a bit more oompf in flavor or combinations. Selections will rotate on a seasonal basis, keeping things fresh throughout the year. Snacks will be available throughout the flight and passengers will be given sweets at the end of the flight which will be something special, “not just a chocolate chip cookie.”
All Mint passengers will also receive an amenity kit that is being produced in partnership with BirchBox. The kit will typically have five items inside, two focused on the inflight experience (e.g. lip balm, hand lotion, etc.) and three others more focused on post-flight activities. Similar to the menu the amenity kits are expected to rotate on a regular basis, introducing Mint passengers to a variety of products. There will be two versions of the kit, one for male passengers and the other for females, though JetBlue executives were quick to point out that the passenger can choose which they want should they wish to give it as a gift rather than use it themselves on-board.
And, in addition to all of that, JetBlue will also be competing on price with the new product. Mint will not be an upgrade available to TrueBlue Mosaic members as part of the published benefits of the program but JetBlue hopes that its pricing strategy will make it competitive in the market such that passengers willing to pay just a bit more will see a significant improvement in their inflight experience.
There are more features – wine list and blanket/pillow offering are the two most significant – of Mint which are not yet announced. Still, as each component of the offering is shared it becomes readily apparent that JetBlue is looking to shake up the market – both in service and price – with this premium cabin offering, just like they did in 1999 when they launched service.
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