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JetBlue introduces a premium class with lie-flat seating

JetBlue (JBLU), the low-cost carrier built on an egalitarian ethos, is now getting on board with an offering common to competitors: a premium service.

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For the first time ever JetBlue is going to begin offering an upgraded service, similar to what other airlines might call business or first class. They're calling it "Mint," and the option will be available on transcontinental flights from New York to Los Angeles (JFK to LAX) scheduled to begin June 15, and from New York to San Francisco (JFK to SFO) planned to start October 26. It's a change in strategy for an airline that has adhered to a policy of treating passengers equally, but the price is still sharper compared to some other competitors' business or first class fares. A one-way Mint ticket will run between $599 and $999.

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Jamie Perry, director of product development for JetBlue, tells us the reason behind the strategy shift: The airline was losing loyal customers on transcontinental flights. The customers said they were booking with other airlines due to JetBlue's lack of Internet access and the lack of a premium seating option that competitors had. So JetBlue has now moved to address both -- rolling out a high speed wifi product they call "Fly-Fi" and debuting "Mint." The transcontinental route is considered very competitive in the airline industry.

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The Daily Ticker got a preview of the new seating class in the video above, which includes 6'8" lie-flat beds, some private suites with doors that close, massage chairs, a multi-course meal in partnership with New York restaurant Saxon + Parole, premium beverages, power outlets, amenities from beauty startup Birchbox and 100s of channels on Direct TV. The main cabin gets some upgrades, too, with more free snacks, better TVs, cushier seats, and the option of extra space.

The Mint service is available on the airline's new Airbus A321s.

In terms of the business, JBLU's stock has gained more than 67% over the last 12 months, but those gains lag some larger competitors. As far as minting revenue through this new premium service, the company isn't sharing projections. But Perry tells us when all 11 A321s are in service, Mint seats will represent less than 0.5% of the carrier's seats. So far for the month of June, at least, he says they're sold out.

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