JetBlue officially unveiled it’s new Mint Suites today, and they suck, and I hate them. Everyone seems to be breathlessly regurgitating JetBlue’s talking points, even writers who I normally trust to take a more critical eye toward this kind of stuff. I guess I should put a picture in here or something, in case you still haven’t seen these new seats (sorry, “suites” because they have a door the width of an airplane safety card).
What do you want to hear first? My ranting about innocuous things about this seat that drive me absolutely fucking crazy, or some actual reasons why these seats are crappy? Let’s start with the second one. These seats are crappy, because they represent the worst of herringbone seats and staggered forward facing seats. The chief benefit of a herringbone seat is that you don’t have to put your feet under the seat in front of you — you have miles and miles of glorious, unrestricted legroom. Of course, that comes with the trade-off of having no shoulder room and constantly banging your elbows on the sides of the seat every time you reach for something. Here’s what that looks like on Air New Zealand (although it’s basically the same on every instance of this seat).
The upside of staggered forward facing seats (such as JetBlue’s current Mint seat) is that you have a lot of shoulder room, but your feet are confined to a small cubby. For some reason JetBlue decided to go with a configuration that has the same lack of shoulder room as a herringbone seat while still requiring your feet to go in a small cubby. (I know JetBlue didn’t design this seat, but they’re the launch customer for it, so they’re getting my ire. The world isn’t fair, I guess.)
What do you get in exchange for the small cubby? Well, you get some extra shoulder room… FOR YOUR FUCKING LEGS.
Okay, to be fair, you also get a table, except it’s in a location that there’s no way you’ll be able to reach from your seat. Look at the guy in the picture — not only is he mad that he has no shoulder room, but he also has to use his embarrassingly long arm to reach the table, and he usually tries to keep that arm hidden under a loose jacket since it’s so embarrassing and long. And JetBlue is making him use it to reach the inconveniently placed table.
Another huge downside of herringbone seats is that they face inward. I was happy that the industry seemed to be phasing this out, but I guess they’re back. I’ve never actually flown a standard herringbone business class seat, since I absolutely hate not being able to look out the window. I also don’t love having my head’s default position being “make eye contact with every person as soon as they leave the lavatory and try not to give them ‘I know you just took a shit’ eyes.” But wait! you say. Mint Suites have doors!
If there’s one “innovation” in premium seating that I wish I could unilaterally cancel, it would be these fucking doors. It’s one thing in Emirates first class (or similar), where the door actually does somewhat enclose you in the suite. However, the vast majority of doors, especially in business class, do almost nothing in the way of privacy. They’re heavy, they get stuck, and they’re so janky that JetBlue is actually touting “doors that actually close all the way” as a feature of this seat. Not to mention the fact that your head sits well above the door, so you’re still going to greet every post-shit passenger with an inadvertent glance.
Was the fact that most business class seats have 14 inches of open space in between the dividers along the aisle really a problem that so desperately needed to be solved? A well-designed seat (British Airways 787 first class comes to mind) will provide all the privacy you could ask for without resorting to a door. But the clamoring for doors is so endless that when British Airways introduced their new business class seat-with-door, the blogosphere chatter was about how business class was now superior to first BECAUSE OF THE DOOR. Sure the seat is narrower, the TV is smaller, the food and service are worse, there’s less storage, and the cabin has 75 people in it as opposed to 8, but… DOOR DOOR DOOR DOOR DOOR.
What about the Mint Studio? Okay, I’ll give you that one — it does look pretty cool. And I buy the claim that it has the most space of any US airline seat.
There’s still the issue of the seat facing away from the window to contend with (as well as the fact that that buddy seat is going to be way tighter in reality than it looks in these idealized photos), but I like the excessive shoulder room. Of course, they’re finally going to start charging extra for these seats, and without knowing the premium, it’s hard to truly evaluate it. The Etihad Residence isn’t worth $20,000 to you and I when we can redeem miles for Etihad Apartments, even though the Residence has three rooms and a butler. If the Mint Studio is competitively priced, I could get on board with it, but if it’s more expensive than other premium transcon/transatlantic seats, then it’s going to be hard to justify the premium just for the cool factor of your buddy being able to put half an ass on that little bench while you both eat.
However, I could perhaps have absorbed all of the above without being so moved as to write a blog post on a defunct blog that no one reads anymore, if it weren’t for JetBlue’s shameless pandering to millennials slathered all over the place. Seriously, I haven’t seen an airline try this hard to win over “emerging affluents” since Joon put flight attendants in white Keds and… well to be honest, I can’t remember what else they did, but it was pretty cringeworthy.
First, let’s talk about the trim. I’ve seen it repeated in at least four articles that the dividers are upholstered with flannel, and the seats are vegan leather. Flannel is by definition a woven fabric. You know what else is a woven fabric? MOST FABRIC. But JetBlue thinks that millennials don’t want to fly on OK Boomer planes with simple old cloth, they want FLANNEL. Millennials want to feel like Ron Swanson is sitting there with them, hands rough hewn and covered in sawdust, mustache gloriously plush. But of course, Millennials aspire to be robust woodworking types despite being a more sensitive breed, so you need to couple the flannel with vegan leather. AKA PLASTIC. The seats are made with a plastic-based coating and the dividers have cloth on them, and you’d think JetBlue reinvented the concept of commercial aviation the way people are waxing rhapsodic about the fit and finish here.
Also, the seat was made in conjunction with Tuft & Needle (sorry, just reading those words on a screen will pollute your social media feeds with Tuft & Needle ads for the rest of time). If you aren’t familiar, Tuft & Needle is a marketing company that spends billions of dollars on advertising foam blocks that are shit out by one of four foam factories in the US that shit out blocks of foam for the 175-odd bed-in-a-box companies currently trying to get you to buy those same blocks of foam. American Airlines got there first with their Casper bedding, but JetBlue apparently needed to get in on the “we sell foam” game too.
Luxury bedding tie-ins are nothing new, and they’re always stupid. SAS has advertised their partnership with Hästens for years, although aside from the pattern on the pillow and the logo tag, you aren’t going to confuse SAS’s bedding with handmade Swedish $25,000 horsehair beds. At least Hästens is an ultra-luxury brand, though. Tuft & Needle is just a brand that people will recognize from Instagram, which I guess is the point here. After all, JetBlue has done this before, back when they distributed Grado headphones to Mint passengers. Grado was all the rage on Instagram a few years ago, and they make amazing open-back studio reference headphones. OPEN BACK, meaning they don’t seal out any noise. The exact opposite of what you’d want in a noisy environment like an airplane. At least they abandoned that and switched to Master & Dynamic, which is an upscale headphone brand I’m familiar with… from Instagram.
I had planned to take advantage of the 100,000 point offer on the JetBlue card, but honestly after seeing these seats, I’m not so sure. There’s no way I could justify flying in one of the Mint Suites when better options are available from United, American, and Delta (and they’re often priced competitively with JetBlue). I’ll be forever grateful to JetBlue for upending the premium transcon market and bringing fares down permanently, but I can’t fathom how people are looking at these seats as a step forward. While I guess I wouldn’t turn down the Studio, with no indication of how much it would cost (or if it will even be bookable with miles), I’m not sure I want to rack up a bunch of JetBlue miles at this point (especially since their service from San Francisco is very limited).
The one good thing about the seats, however, is that they annoyed me enough to write a blog post, and in these pandemic-riddled times, it’s good to focus on the things that really matter. LIKE FLANNEL.