Mint will be sold as a distinct product from the traditional economy offering, and upgrade via mileage or points will not be an option. Potential passengers will now be presented with the usual “lowest” and “refundable” economy fares, with two new choices, “Mint lowest” and “Mint refundable.” The Mint lowest prices will start out initially at $599 one-way after a three-day $499 special, which represents a one-third to one-half discount over the competition.
The decision to offer a premium cabin was made 5-7 years ago, says Barger, but work actually began two years ago. “We found that on the transcontinental markets—specifically into LAX [Los Angeles International Airport] and San Francisco International—there were really two reasons passengers were [not] booking our company. They told us: 'You don't have a premium offering, and by the way, I'll pay [for that], and you don't have WiFi,' so we had a choice to make,” he explains.
The Mint cabin, along with the long-awaited Ka-band WiFi connectivity, should put JetBlue back on the map for frequent transcontinental passengers, but it will take some time to take effect. Service with the premium A321 product is scheduled to start in June 2014 from New York John F. Kennedy International Airport to LAX, but the new Mint-cabin-equipped aircraft will not make its way to San Francisco until fourth-quarter 2014, when JetBlue has taken delivery of enough A321s to make constant service possible.
In New York, JetBlue will not attempt to compete with the legacy carriers for corporate contract passengers—some of the most frequent business-class passengers on the transcontinental routes. “We're not going to try to out-corporate those guys in a place like New York because that's not our business,” says Barger. “There are places, like Boston, where we're very relevant to the corporate customer, because of our flight schedule offering.” However, JetBlue does not currently have any plans to expand Mint service to include the Boston market; it will focus on getting the initial routes solidified first.
JetBlue is targeting the “high-end leisure traveler” and “small business owner.” Barger adds that these types of customers typically pay full fare for a premium-cabin experience, which should allow the airline to see higher returns from a premium offering than their competitors.