IT’S not been the easiest year for aviation, with Covid laying waste to schedules.
But despite Omicron throwing a spanner in the works, there are signs things are looking up as travel restrictions ease and we can think of holidays to New York City rather than Newquay.
The latest arrival at Heathrow is just the tonic we need. New York low-cost airline JetBlue is running daily flights between the Big Apple and both Heathrow and Gatwick, filling the void left by Norwegian’s unfortunate withdrawal from the market.
What’s more, this is a travelling experience that feels distinctly unbudget – a blessing when you’re spending eight hours in the air rather than just hopping over to Europe.
First off – comfort. As a hulking 6ft 2in Northerner, plane seats, especially the budget kind, can be a painful experience.
In JetBlue’s Core seats (their name for economy), I had generous legroom and an adjustable headrest – and I slept, which is a rarity for me.
JetBlue advertises its seat pitch in Core as 32-37in, which it claims is the most legroom to be found in transatlantic economy.
But a sound sleep in this spacious seating might be a waste given the free wifi. Yes, that’s right – free wifi for everyone, even in economy, enabling you to browse the web, check your social media or send a few work emails once you’re safely in the air.
Each Core passenger also has entertainment at their fingertips.
A 10in touchscreen TV, that can also be paired with your mobile, features a broad range of movies, enough TV series from HBO and Showtime to last you a round trip to the moon, and a handful of live news and sport channels including Sky News and BBC World.
Core travellers can also curate their own meal via the touchscreen, choosing from dishes put together by NY-based chain Dig. It’s tasty stuff – roasted chicken thigh with herbed brown rice, spiced aubergine over coconut cauliflower quinoa, mixed heirloom tomato salad … Oh, and did I mention the free booze? Yes, that too.
If all this isn’t enough for your hop across the Pond, if you have the extra dollars you can upgrade yourself to Mint class. Here you’ll find your own suite, with even more comfort.
The seat has three-way adjustability and extends to a lie-flat bed measuring 6ft 8in, while ambient lighting options and a sliding door for privacy ensure you can be cocooned in your own little world for those Red Eye overnighters.
The menu in Mint is a step up, too. Each passenger can build their own meal by choosing from several “small plates” by New York-based Delicious Hospitality Group. I had the lamb curry with fingerling potatoes, and for dessert a vanilla gelato with lemon marmalata and pistachio crunch.
The drawback of all this affordable excellence, of course, is that you’ll then land in New York and have to pay $9 for a beer and $10 for a Pret sandwich.
Maybe stash some of the free JetBlue snacks in your hand luggage? Don’t tell them I suggested that.
JetBlue flies from Heathrow and Gatwick to New York’s JFK Airport with fares from £319 in Core (economy) and £3,100 in Mint (business).
The airline hopes to introduce Boston flights from next year. See jetblue.com.