- JetBlue is the newest airline flying between New York and London, catering to both leisure and business travelers.
- Mint business class has been fully upgraded for the long-haul flights with a new cabin and dining experience.
- The flights are, however, not perfectly suited to match the needs of traditional business travelers.
JetBlue is looking to make a splash in the transatlantic market with the start of new flights between New York and London, and it’s off to a great start. First inaugurated in August, the route now sees two flights per day to London’s Heathrow and Gatwick Airports from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Airbus’ A321neoLR, a brand-new fleet type for JetBlue, powers the overseas flights with an onboard experience unlike anything in the airline’s current network. Mint business class features an entirely new look and feel, with 24 seats across a whopping 12 rows that takes up half of the aircraft.
JetBlue has invested heavily in the premium experience with new herringbone-style suites that all offer privacy, exclusivity, and direct aisle access. But whether business travelers will be the ones to fill those seats remain to be seen as there are some key premium features JetBlue has left out of the offering.
Here’s why JetBlue wouldn’t be my first pick if I was a business traveler.
No access to premium airport lounges
A key staple of traveling internationally in a premium cabin is having access to airport lounges before departure. Nearly every full-service US carrier has a network of lounges at its hub airports, except JetBlue.
Airport lounges serve business travelers by providing a quiet, exclusive space to get work done or simply rest before a flight. They offer complimentary WiFi and a selection of drinks and snacks, with the latter enabling travelers to get more sleep on eastbound transatlantic flights being by eating in the lounge and skipping the in-flight meal service.
Terminal 5 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport isn’t entirely deprived of premium lounges, it’s just that none are available for JetBlue’s premium passengers. Aer Lingus’ lounge is not currently open to JetBlue flyers; though, day passes can be purchased for $US50 ($AU66), according to Upgraded Points.
JetBlue is aware that premium lounges are needed for the route and is reviewing options to offer the amenity to passengers in the future. As of now, though, none are available to those that simply buy a business class ticket.
Inconvenient flight times
JetBlue’s flagship route between New York and London’s Heathrow Airport isn’t timed perfectly for business travelers. The late evening departure from New York is scheduled at 10 p.m. and arrives in London the next morning at 10:05 a.m.
The late morning arrival means business travelers can write off an entire half a day in London. When I flew JetBlue to London, for example, I didn’t get to my hotel until around 12:30 p.m., and that was with taking the Heathrow Express and using the e-gates at customs.
British Airways, American Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic Airways, alternatively, all have flights that arrive before 7 a.m., giving business travelers the early bird advantage to tackle early meetings or more time to prepare for afternoon engagements.
JetBlue’s flights to Gatwick Airport are better timed for business travelers, departing New York at 7:50 p.m. and arriving in London at 7:55 a.m.
On the return, the Heathrow flight departs London at 1:55 p.m. and arrives in New York at 6:49 p.m. while the Gatwick flight departs London at 12 p.m. and arrives in New York at 4:48 p.m. Both arrival times conflict with rush hour traffic in New York City and give travelers little time to adjust to being in a new city before it’s time for bed.
A lack of partner airlines on the route
JetBlue is largely flying solo across the Atlantic, despite having a network of partner airlines on both sides of the pond. And in the event something goes wrong, whether it be a delay or cancellation, that could mean passengers are left without a backup option.
American Airlines has British Airways, Delta Air Lines has Virgin Atlantic Airways, and United Airlines has Air Canada, and vice versa, each offering multiple ways of getting between New York and London. JetBlue doesn’t have those same partnerships where travelers can simply be moved to a partner airline in case something goes wrong.
American is a JetBlue partner through the Northeast Alliance but it remains to be seen whether JetBlue will rebook flyers onto American flights if one of its own flights is delayed or canceled.
JetBlue does have the benefit of a second daily flight to London’s other area airport, Gatwick. But there will only be so many seats available to give to disrupted passengers.
Where JetBlue does offer great value for business travelers
The new Mint business class onboard JetBlue’s transatlantic aircraft does offer travelers a wide variety of amenities that surpass what rival carriers are offering. Mint travelers will be able to stay connected throughout the entire journey with high-speed satellite WiFi that’s free of charge in business class.
When it comes to onboard dining, JetBlue has partnered with Delicious Hospitality Group, which operates restaurants in New York City, to cater the business class experience. Flexible dining is available for those that want to focus on work or get straight to sleep.
And the seats themselves are a step up from JetBlue’s initial Mint product with brand-new private suites. All Mint suites have fully closable doors and do not disturb buttons to maximize downtimes.
JetBlue offers what is arguably the most convenient way to fly to London because of the aircraft type it flies on the route. The Airbus A321neoLR is an incredibly nimble and capable aircraft that JetBlue has outfitted with a mere 138 seats.
The result, as I found, was a smoother experience without a lot of the stresses that normally accompany international travel. I felt no different on the London flight than if I was flying JetBlue to, say, Florida.
Not many airlines can offer that type of convenience and it made the flying experience all the more enjoyable. But JetBlue does have some downsides that need to be reconciled in order to be a true friend to business travelers on the route.
Insider paid JetBlue Airways a media rate to fly between London and New York.