JetBlue is bringing its Mint premium cabin product to Boston in early 2016, ending months (if not years) of speculation on the topic. The Mint service will launch between Boston and San Francisco in March 2016 with up to three daily round trip flights. Seasonal Saturday-only service to Barbados will be added at the same time, taking advantage of reduced transcon flying on the weekend, similar to the winter Caribbean Mint service launching from JFK this November. Los Angeles service will be added in the Fall of 2016 as additional Mint aircraft are delivered.
These two markets out of Boston represent separate competitive scenarios. For San Francisco both United Airlines (8x) and Virgin America (4x) serve the route, each with more frequencies than JetBlue (3x). JetBlue will be the only to offer a regularly scheduled, truly premium cabin service on the route, however. It could be argued that the Virgin America product was such when it initially launched and United has intermittent premium flights this summer, but neither is consistent nor to the level which JetBlue is offering.
For Los Angeles the competition is even more stiff, with American Airlines (4x) and Delta Air Lines (2x) also plying the route, along with Virgin America (3x) and United (2x) to go with JetBlue’s thrice-daily service. While there are more frequencies overall to San Francisco there is broader competition to Los Angeles with fares to the Bay area generally higher up front than fares to the south. In both cases, however, the typical one-way premium cabin fare is above JetBlue’s $599 Mint intro price, though the company has not confirmed that will be the price from Boston; it is currently the low water mark in the JFK markets.
Read More: JetBlue Ups the Mint Game
Today’s news comes on the heels of the carrier announcing last week increases in Mint frequencies to/from JFK as United Airlines pulled out of that market, shifting its premium transcon capacity to Newark. At that time the company suggested travelers “stay tuned” for this sort of news. It did not take long to get the details ironed out and secure the conversion of the pending A321 aircraft deliveries to the Mint configuration to allow the increase of service. Of course, converting these deliveries to Mint means fewer total seats flying as they come online which may affect the overall ASM growth for the company. And keeping that a bit lower should please analysts who like to see less capacity and higher fares.
Read More: Food and Wine Upgrades in the JetBlue Mint Cabin
The (multi-)million dollar question with this move is whether there is truly a premium product demand for Boston, one which can support the higher fares necessary to sustain the operation. Historically the truly premium domestic service has been reserved for the New York City market. And even some experiments there, such as Delta’s efforts to expand premium offerings to Seattle, have fallen short of expectations. JetBlue does have a cost advantage versus the legacy carriers but with fewer frequencies than the legacies to both destinations that may not be enough to attract the business travelers who often seek schedule flexibility just as much as they seek comfort.
Also as part of the announcement, JetBlue will add Nashville to its route map with service from both Boston and Ft. Lauderdale. Further frequencies from Boston will also be added, with a peak summer 2016 schedule set near 140 daily departures.
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