Having lost out in the bidding war for Virgin America, which would have given JetBlue a much stronger West Coast network, it appears that JetBlue decided to just build it the old fashioned way.
Today the airline announced new flights that will bring its inexpensive, lie-flat business class service — Mint — to new markets.
The big three airlines already offer lie-flat business class from LAX and SFO to New York. Delta tried for a while at providing lie-flat seats between Seattle and New York but downgraded.
JetBlue already offers Mint on the same SFO/LAX-New York routes, and had announced plans to add service from the West Coast to Boston, and from the East Coast to Barbados and St. Lucia. The new plan is the most comprehensive lie-flat route network of any U.S. carrier.
Current Mint Routes:
New Mint Routes:
- JFK-St. Lucia
- JFK-St. Maarten
This will make it much easier to travel in lie-flat business class across the country. I couldn’t care less about lie-flat on a trip to the Caribbean, but crossing time zones is a pain. You generally need to sacrifice a day on a plane or tolerate a late night/early morning. On the other hand, I wasn’t willing to add four hours to my schedule to make a connection in SFO or LAX. With options to/from more cities on the West Coast, JetBlue could have a strong competitive advantage.
There is one flaw in the plan, however. Lie-flat seats aren’t enough to build a network. Sure, JetBlue starts to look like my best option to fly from Seattle to either Boston or New York, but what if I want to go somewhere else? There are only four non-stop routes from Seattle. Five from SFO. A whopping 11 from Long Beach, it’s West Coast “hub.”
I complained about connecting in SFO or LAX to reach New York. Skipping that hassle and enjoying a lie-flat seat from Seattle or San Diego would be great, but I would face the same problem if I needed to connect after reaching the East Coast. The airline is still incredibly reliant on East Coast traffic, so unless the majority of your travel is to New York and Boston, I don’t see a compelling reason to switch.