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US carrier JetBlue Airways is to expand its MINT business offering into additional transcontinental markets from next year in a move that many believe has been partly driven by the planned merger of Alaska Airlines and Virgin America. The premium experience will debut on a further seven transcontinental routes over the course of 2017 and 2018 which will bring the lie-flat seat offering to four new cities.
JetBlue confirms it will take delivery of ten additional Airbus A321s in 2017 and nine of these will be configured in its MINT arrangement to be introduced on routes to Las Vegas, San Diego and Seattle from New York; to San Diego and Seattle from Boston and to Los Angeles and San Francisco from Fort Lauderdale.
All these markets are currently served by other US carriers, but not all have a premium offering as JetBlue chases after high-yield business clientele on these city pairs. Its largest rival in these seven markets is the combined Alaska Airlines and Virgin America which together serve six of the routes, while Delta Air Lines and American Airlines also operate on four and three of these routes, respectively. United Airlines and ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines also serve just one of these city pairs each.
JetBlue says it is seizing an opportunity to introduce competition in east and west coast markets where customers are faced with a decreasing number of choices and where other carriers sell dated business class options at a high cost.
“Our plan has long called for strategic growth of Mint on these valuable transcontinental routes, and now is the right time for us to capture this opportunity to bring much needed competition where customers are facing dwindling choices,” said Robin Hayes, president and chief executive officer, JetBlue.
Since launching in 2014, Mint has become a popular way for celebrities, technology executives, creatives, and entrepreneurs to travel across the country with a highly personalised service with lie-flat seating. “Mint helped traditional business class travellers realize there is a better way,” added Hayes.
JetBlue has already expanded Mint routes based on its early popularity on the initial routes between New York-Los Angeles and New York-San Francisco. It recently launched service from Boston, and is growing both seasonal and year-round Mint service in the Caribbean, with flights to Barbados, Aruba, St Lucia and St Maarten.
A new Boston – Los Angeles operation will be introduced from October 2016, while a MINT offering will be introduced with weekly links from Boston to Aruba and New York to St Lucia and St Maarten from November 5, 2016. The Caribbean routes will increase to a daily MINT offering from December 23, 2016 to January 2, 2017 to cater for higher holiday period premium demand.
JetBlue says there is strong demand for premium travel in each of the seven new transcontinental markets it will introduce and flights will start from the first quarter of 2017 with launches continuing through into 2018. A full schedule and launch timetable is expected to be revealed in the coming months.