By Taylor Rains
Onboard JetBlue’s Inaugural Flight from New York to London
After years of planning and preparation, JetBlue has officially started service to London Heathrow Airport. On Wednesday, the airline took off from New York-JFK with its brand-new Airbus A321LR jet, named after former JetBlue chairman Joel Peterson. The long-awaited route has been a top priority for JetBlue, and the transatlantic expansion will build its network and connectivity between Europe and the Americas.
AirlineGeeks was onboard the maiden flight.
JetBlue’s inaugural flight took off from New York-JFK’s Terminal 5 on Wednesday night. While I had my reservation linked to my JetBlue app, I was not able to check-in online, so I made my way to the ticket counter when I arrived at the airport. The check-in desks for London are located at the far end of the terminal near the TAP Air Portugal and Aer Lingus’ counters. Here, I showed my travel documents to the agents, received my boarding pass and headed to TSA Pre-Check.
JetBlue does have self-service kiosks available for passengers, but I was not able to use them for my flight to London. This is likely due to the fact that passengers must present Covid-related travel documents to fly to England, so hopefully, the self-service kiosks and online check-in will be available once entry restrictions are loosened.
Once I cleared security, I headed to gate 15 where inaugural festivities were in full swing. JetBlue pulled out all the stops for the event, complete with refreshments, stilt performers, beefeaters and London-themed decorations.
At the gate, we heard from JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes, former chairman Joel Peterson and representatives from Airbus and Pratt and Whitney. Hayes said that when the company envisioned flying to London, it wanted to offer low fares without sacrificing the customer experience.
He explained, “Over the years, with our partners at Airbus and seat manufacturers Thompson, we knew the product would be good to go. And it is an incredible product. But the thing that makes the product the most incredible of all is our amazing inflight crew members who are there to deliver the service to all of our customers. And so, we are so excited tonight because this is the next frontier for JetBlue.”
After the speakers, Joel Peterson cut the ribbon and officially launched the route. We then boarded the flight in the regular JetBlue boarding order, with Mosaic and Mint first, followed by passengers in economy.
JetBlue has selected the Airbus A321LR aircraft to run the route to London and ordered a total of 26. Two have already been delivered and a third will be delivered next week.
The jet has been specially designed with the customer in mind, focusing on inflight entertainment, comfort and its reimagined Mint cabin. Mint is located at the front of the plane with 24 seats in 12 rows. Each seat is a “suite” complete with a lay-flat bed and a large seatback screen. Although I would have loved to experience Mint, I was seated in economy for this trip.
When I boarded, I was greeted with friendly smiles from the inflight crew. The team was excellent from takeoff to touchdown and it’s evident they care about their job and passengers.
I was assigned seat 30A, which is in JetBlue’s ‘Core’ cabin. Row 30 is the second-to-last row in economy, though the crew rest aisle sits behind seats A-C. The A321LR is JetBlue’s first aircraft that offers crew rest, which was located in row 31 and separated with a privacy curtain.
JetBlue is known for its roomy seats, and the A321LR lived up to expectations. I had a generous 32-inches of legroom, as well as an adjustable headrest. However, the slim seat could use a little more padding, I could feel the soreness in my back towards the end of the flight.
The seat also offered adequate recline, power outlets, a USB port and a large tray table large enough to fit a drink and laptop. I was happy that the power outlets were located in front of the passengers because they are easier to access.
Moreover, the overhead bin space was large enough to fit most carry-on-sized luggage, making gate-checked bags a thing of the past.
JetBlue makes every effort to help passengers sleep on board. The blue mood lighting is relaxing and passengers are given a thick, soft blanket to cozy up while enroute. Furthermore, the company also provided a sleep kit with earbuds and an eye mask, which helped block the sunrise as we approached the United Kingdom. While I think the seats could use more padding, I was still able to sleep for a few hours.
A unique touch provided by JetBlue was the reusable silicon food-safe. The silicon pouch was filled with lip balm, moisturizer and socks and is perfect for taking leftovers off the plane.
The best technological feature of JetBlue’s economy product is its seatback inflight entertainment system. The 10-inch system was loaded with dozens of great TV and movie selections and even connected to my smartphone to use as a remote.
In addition to inflight entertainment, I was also able to order my meal directly from the seatback screen. JetBlue’s London flights offer “Digs” build-your-own meal, which can be selected on the TV. This unique feature truly personalized my experience and appeared to speed up the inflight service.
The food offerings in JetBlue’s economy class exceeded expectations. Each plate was perfectly seasoned and each tasted fresh, which is impressive for an inflight meal. For dinner, I ordered through the seatback screen and selected the meatballs as my main dish and carrots and mac & cheese as my sides.
I was also able to try the eggplant and quinoa dish and the tomato salad. Everything I tasted was delicious, and I highly recommend the meatballs, though the chicken was well-received by other passengers as well. Dinner also comes with a bottled water and two sauces: garlic aioli and siratcha. The aioli went well with everything in my opinion.
For dessert, we were offered a vanilla-filled ice cream sandwich, which was also quite tasty.
The inflight crew also served a pre-arrival meal and we could choose from fruit or a chocolate croissant. Personally, I favored the fruit.
As far as beverage service, the airline had a solid selection of soda, coffee, tea, water, juice and alcohol. I enjoyed a rum and Pepsi and water.
We landed in London about 40 minutes early thanks to strong tailwinds across the Atlantic. Because JetBlue uses a single-aisle jet for the route, deplaning was quick and easy. Once off the plane, we were welcomed by staff at Heathrow.
The walk from the gate to customs was short, and we got to take one last look at the jet before crossing the border.
Because it was the inaugural flight, JetBlue passengers were given a designated line in customs to get us through easily, however that quick service shouldn’t be expected every time.
After officially entering England, vaccinated passengers must get a covid test on or before day two of travel to avoid quarantine. There are a few options in Heathrow, though I found the testing center on Level 0 of Terminal 2 arrivals was the most convenient.
JetBlue has been planning to go to London for many years, and finally seeing it come to fruition was exciting. The travel experience from check-in to touchdown was seamless and the Core product exceeded expectations.
While Core is an economy product, the spacious seats in the single-aisle jet make it favorable for transatlantic travel. Both meals were delicious, which was a pleasant surprise considering I’ve yet to have such an enjoyable economy class dish. Everything was well seasoned and it truly tasted fresh.
The only complaint I have would be the padding on the seats. They are quite slim and I could feel the soreness in my back after a few hours nap. While the seats were a little harder than expected, it is not a dealbreaker. I was pleased with the legroom and width of the seats and the TV screen kept me entertained throughout the flight.
There is no doubt I would fly JetBlue to London again. The price is right and the product is great, which makes the journey comfortable and enjoyable.