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JetBlue’s first passenger-carrying Heathrow arrival (Photo: JetBlue)

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.

A giant U.K. flag served as the backdrop for the night’s events (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

Airport Check-In and Gate Festivities

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’s check-in counters for London are located at the far end of Terminal 5 (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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.

Beefeaters guard the entrance to the gate (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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.”

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes speaks before the inaugural flight (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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.

The first A321LR is named after former chairman Joel Peterson (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

The Aircraft and Inflight Experience

JetBlue has selected the Airbus A321LR aircraft to run the route to London and ordered a total of 26, split between the A321LR and extended-range A321XLR. Two have already been delivered and a third will be delivered next week.

JetBlue ordered 26 Airbus A321LR aircraft (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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.

JetBlue’s A321LR is premium-heavy with 24 Mint seats (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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.

JetBlue inflight crewmembers welcome passengers (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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’s ‘Core’ product has 114 seats, including 24 Even More Space seats (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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.

I was seated in JetBlue’s ‘Core’ cabin (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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.

The tray tables were large enough to fit my laptop and a drink (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

Moreover, the overhead bin space was large enough to fit most carry-on-sized luggage, making gate-checked bags a thing of the past.

The A321 offers large overhead bins (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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 silicon pouch came with lip balm, moisturizer, a mint and socks (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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.

Each screen could pair with a smartphone to use as a remote (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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.

For the main course, passengers could choose from chicken, meatballs or eggplant (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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.

Meatballs, carrots and mac & cheese (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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.

For dessert we were served and ice cream sandwich Chicken, carrots and mac & cheese (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

The inflight crew also served a pre-arrival meal and we could choose from fruit or a chocolate croissant. Personally, I favored the fruit.

Passengers were given two breakfast options: fruit or a chocolate croissant Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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.

London Heathrow Arrival and Customs

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. 

Staff welcomed us at Heathrow when we deplaned (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

The walk from the gate to customs was short, and we got to take one last look at the jet before crossing the border. 

JetBlue’s A321LR jet (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Taylor Rains)

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. 

Overall Impression

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.

This story was updated on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021 at 4:36 p.m. ET to clarify JetBlue’s A321LR order. 

Author

  • Taylor Rains graduated from Florida Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Aviation Management in 2017. She has worked in the aviation industry for the past five years and has a specialty in safety analytics for part 121 airlines, but she has also worked for a part 135 company in Alaska. Her experience has allowed her to work in many areas of aviation, including airport operations, flight operations, security, inflight, dispatch, and maintenance. Taylor is also an avid traveler and has used her flight benefits to fly on as many airlines and aircraft types as possible. So far, her favorite flight has been aboard KLM’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

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