5 Things I Loved About My SFO-JFK JetBlue Mintxperience

As I mentioned in my last post, my airline loyalties lie with Delta. However, monogamy in air travel has never really been my thing. A great deal on Air Canada? Sure, I could go to Budapest (and I am, in March). Fly Etihad direct from JFK to Abu Dhabi? I see no reason why not. But my long-term mistress has always been JetBlue. Or at least, it had been, but the story of the souring of our affair is a different blog post for a different day. 

My day job frequently brings me to the West Coast (hello fast track to Medallion Status), and current transcon products from the major carriers have a ludicrous price tag (even though I bill my clients for travel, I have a conscience). However, before a recent trip out to San Francisco, I did a "let's see what happens" search for Mint availability, and found a seat for the lowest possible fare. I'm no idiot. I jumped on the ticket and marked my calendar.

(Important disclaimer: Many will say I AM an idiot for paying for first class airfare. I don't really care about those people. I valued this experience, and travel is about doing want YOU want to do, and I wanted this.)

My Mint experience, or as I have taken to calling it, my Mintxperience, was kicked off by an email from JetBlue 24hrs before departure, telling me they had automatically checked me in. Of course, I didn't discover this until I opened the app and quizzically searched for the check-in option that didn't exist.

In-flight, my experience was marked by a few notable highlights:

1. The flight attendants leave you a welcome note.

  Well hello to you too Marareth and Angela!

Well hello to you too Marareth and Angela!

Flight attendants, and the entire flight crew, make or break a flight experience. Not just as it relates to getting me somewhere safely (and soundly, of course), but their smiles make me smile, their enthusiasm makes me excited, and their love for their job makes me love flying even more. That's part of the reason I love to fly Delta and JetBlue so much: even when I have a problem with the product, the in-flight service makes me forget there was ever an issue, just like world-class service should.

So, after boarding at SFO and finding my seat, I was more than excited to discover this welcome note from Margareth and Angela, the two angels who would be bringing me to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. When Margareth first came over to take my pre-flight drink order, I felt like I already knew her (unfortunate for her, great for me)! Pictured above is the card, along with my sleep mask and blanket.

2. The headphones are world class.

At my office, we have an open floor plan that means we all hear anything and everything someone does, from an elongated sigh to a sneeze. Our relationship with in-office music ebbs and flows, and we go from periods of having an "in-office DJ" (the person who gets on Airplay the fastest), to complete silence with personal "spheres of sound" (headphones). 

One of the more trying times was when one of my partners bought headphones from Grado Labs, based in Brooklyn. Certainly, they're structurally sound, visually-appealing in a modern minimalist way, and produce high-quality audio, but they also leak sound...like, a lot. Our office quickly went from the best of times to the worst of times, and after a few months, he was finally convinced to abandon these headphones.

However, just when I thought I was done with them, they pull me back in. JetBlue partners with Grado to provide headphones for the Mintxperience, and now I know why: they're great. I did not want to give them up when I deplaned. If you fly Mint, grab these, stow them in your carry-on, and feel great about your completely harmless heist.

3. How about this menu?!

  Decisions, decisions.

Decisions, decisions.

A lot has been written about the quality of the food the Mintxperience offers, and I'll fall right in line with the rest of the travel-world and agree...it's some of the best in the sky. Just take a look at the menu:

The pear appetizer was the lowlight of the meal for me, but great because it meant things could only go up from there. As a dish, it was a bit oversaturated and way too tart of a way to start a meal.

  Brunch time! From left to right: turkey chili, frittata, kale cobb.

Brunch time! From left to right: turkey chili, frittata, kale cobb.

The entrees were hard to decide between for me (but less so for the guy in front of me, who had three chilis), and I settled on (as they're pictured below) the chili, frittata, and kale cobb. In terms of deliciousness, I'd actually rank them in the reverse order as they're pictured here. If you can believe it, the kale cobb rocked my socks off (though not actually, I keep my socks on for flights).

Dessert was acceptable, but only worth exactly as much space as I'm giving it right now.

4. The RefreshMint - JetBlue's signature cocktail and the perfect send-off.

After settling in, Margareth came by my "studio apartment" to give me the Mintxperience play-by-play. At the close of her lovingly delivered monologue, she offered me the RefreshMint, JetBlue's signature cocktail, created exclusively for the Mint cabin. While it was a 7AM flight I was hoping to work on, I was told I couldn't pass this up, a cocktail with honey-infused limeade, fresh mint and vodka. Worth it for sure!

5. Complete privacy.

The trick for the perfect Mint experience lies not just in flying Mint, but in cabin seat selection. JetBlue has converted an A321 for the Mintxperience, with 5 rows of Mint class. The key? If you're flying alone (or love your privacy), snag a seat in rows 2 or 4. Once the privacy screen is closed, you all but have created your own personal suite on the plane. For what I paid for the ticket, the experience far surpassed that of a studio apartment in NYC, which this was just as big as!

Of course, there are always areas for improvement, and one thing I would love to see JetBlue do a better job of is optimize storage space. As I recall, there were about five unique storage locations ensuite, but most were small and non-functional, e.g. they could hold a cell phone or a pen, but not much more. The largest option could contain books or an iPad, but struggled to fit my 13" MacBook Air. Further, its location made for an uncomfortable reach to remove items from. A minor inconvenience for sure, but my observation.

Was it worth it?

If you're someone who regularly flies the NYC-SFO/LAX route and values comfort and service, then Mint, if you can afford it, is for you. I haven't flown Delta One yet (YET), but until then, Mint is the right product, on the right route, at the right price.