JetBlue Airways has brought in-flight dining to both cabins of service on its new London flights.
Dig is crafting the economy class menu while Delicious Hospitality Group is tasked with catering in Mint business class.
Italian food was a big focus on my flights with options like meatballs, cavatelli, and chicken Milanese offered.
JetBlue is offering more than cheap fares on its London routes, it's also offering a full culinary experience.
Travelers in both economy and business classes receive complimentary hot meals on European flights. It's the first time in economy class that JetBlue flyers receive any meals.
The choice to provide meals aligns JetBlue with all the current airlines flying between the US and London. Meals are standard in economy on transatlantic flights to the UK and the offering shows that JetBlue isn't taking the budget carrier route of charging extra for meals.
The meal service is an important part of any flight as it passes the time, entertains, and breaks up the boredom of a long-haul flight.
I flew JetBlue to London in economy class and back in business class. Here's what dining on the airline was like in both cabins.
My restaurant for the outbound flight to London was the economy class cabin onboard JetBlue's first Airbus A321neoLR, and I even scored a table near the window.
Instead of perusing a paper menu, however, all meals are on display through the seat-back entertainment screen. I was immediately brought back to the times of Virgin America, which had a similar ordering style.
JetBlue chose Dig, a New York City-based eatery with an emphasis on healthy farm-to-table dining, to cater the economy class meals. I hadn't yet tried Dig's offering, despite working in New York City, and was eager to sample it.
"Dig has earned a big following in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, where customers love the fresh ingredients and customizable concept," Jayne O'Brien, JetBlue's head of marketing and loyalty, said in a statement. "We wanted customers in the air to have the same freedom to design their own meal, just like they would if they were dining at a Dig restaurant."
Ordering was quite simple and intuitive, starting with the main. Three options were available from which to choose only one, with two meat/poultry options and a vegetable option.
Each choice, to my surprise, had a list of the ingredients and a short description. I don't think I've ever seen that level of detail on an economy class food menu. On offer for the dinner service was charred chicken with brown rice in a lime juice with herbs….
Beef and chicken meatballs in a tomato ragu with farro and basil...
And spiced eggplant with turmeric cauliflower rice and toasted quinoa.
Next came the list of sides to accompany the main. Two sides could be selected from three choices available.
The options included a Dig Acres tomato salad with soft farm cheese, pickled onions, and mint…
Chilled sheet tray carrots with garlic, herbs, and a lemon peel…
And mac and cheese in a three-cheese blend with whole-wheat pasta and crispy panko breadcrumbs. To be honest, it was hard to pick since all three seemed ideal to accompany the main.
But just like that, I had the perfect meal queued up and ready to go. There was nothing more I had to do or say, and the anticipation was already building before takeoff.
The empty middle seat in my row also presented another opportunity: use the screen to order an additional meal. My rowmate, a JetBlue employee, and I decided to test out the system and ordered an additional meal to the empty seat.
I also took a look at the interactive drink menu that listed all the beverages available on our flight.
JetBlue offers complimentary soft drinks, beers, wines, and liquors in economy class.
The in-flight service began once the mood lighting in the cabin turned pink. Two flight attendants geared with service trolleys walked up and down the aisle to serve the cabin.
I opted for the traditional gin and tonic in honor of JetBlue's first flight to London. The classic drink consisted of Bombay Sapphire gin and Canada Dry tonic water.
Next came the part we were all waiting for, the meal service. Flight attendants once again started at both ends of the cabin, making their way towards the middle.
A large black insulator case on top of the service trolley served to keep all the meals warn. It reminded me of a pizza delivery box but it did the trick.
The presentation was also unlike anything I had seen in economy, with the food served in small reusable containers. It was certainly presented better than the traditional microwaveable dinner-style packaging to which I'm accustomed on other airlines.
Also on the meal tray was a water bottle and two sauce cups containing sriracha and garlic mayonnaise. This differs from, say, the dinner roll, small side salad, cheese and crackers, and perhaps a dessert that other airlines will pack onto the tray.
I opened the lids, however, and found more than enough food to satisfy, and everything looked delicious. I quickly dug in, no pun intended, and effectively cleaned my plate.
The highlight was the mac and cheese which was the perfect comfort food for a long flight. I didn't love the cold carrots and was surprised by their temperature in comparison with the hot food but it was still tasty.
Next came the meatball main and while the presentation was similarly delightful, I do have to say that I didn't love the meatballs. They were alright but as someone that takes joy in making meatballs from scratch, I thought I could have made a better meatball.
The tomato salad, however, was incredibly fresh and delightful. It was a perfectly healthy option for the flight. I was too full to clean the tray but I made sure to enjoy the second serving of mac and cheese.
An ice cream cookiewhich capped off the evening meal service, which was the highlight of the meal. And with that, it was off to bed for the rest of the transatlantic crossing.
For those still hungry, though, the JetBlue "pantry" was open for business with a selection of the carrier's signature snacks.
I was woken up just a few hours later by a JetBlue flight attendant, at my request, during the morning meal service.
There weren't any choices this time around and all passengers were given the same box of breakfast goods, including a pain au chocolate served warm and fruit salad.
Once again, the light meal hit the spot and prepared me to take on the day in London. Chocolate bread is also a personal favorite when in Europe and I'm glad JetBlue thought it would be ideal for London flights.
Landing in London completed the culinary journey that accompanied the flight, and the next few days were spent enjoying the local UK cuisine.
Soon enough, though, it was time to head back to New York on JetBlue. This time, I'd be flying in the Mint business class cabin for a taste, quite literally, of how the other half lives.
JetBlue has been working with the Delicious Hospitality Group to cater Mint business class flights since November. Any traveler that's flown Mint since then has had the opportunity to test out its culinary offering.
DHC under chef Ryan Hardy is known for its New York City restaurants including Pasquale Jones, Legacy Records, and Charlie Bird. Each restaurant has its turn onboard and Pasquale Jones was up for my flight to New York.
Ordering meals in business class is slightly different than in economy, and traditional menus were left on each seat. Dinner was served on the 2:05 p.m. flight to New York, with five options from which to choose including baby greens, roasted carrots, shrimp curry, chicken Milanese, and cavatelli.
Before the meal, however, a blood orange mimosa was served for the pre-departure beverage. It was quite refreshing and set a positive tone for the flight ahead.
A beverage menu also listed which cocktails, beers, and liquors were available to order. Traditional cocktails were on offer including an old fashioned, margarita, and a dirty martini, as well as JetBlue concoctions.
The meal service began shortly after takeoff with a tasting trio of olives, cashews, and anchovies. I'm not an anchovy fan but I can't hold that against JetBlue, especially as the other two snacks were delightful.
I also ordered a "mint condition," consisting of gin or vodka with ginger, lime, cucumber, and mint. It reminded me of a mojito and I very much enjoyed it.
Next came the main course, with four plates and a lot of food. Travelers can choose three of the five main course choices and I opted for the chicken Milanese, cavatelli, and baby greens.
The baby greens served as the salad for the meal and included sweet potato and buttermilk dressing. It was light, fresh, and delicious.
The chicken Milanese was basically a plain chicken cutlet, a dish I've eaten since I was a kid, accompanied with lemon and some greens. It was quite tasty but a bit bland without any sauce or cheese.
I was the most nervous about the cavatelli since I've never had a great experience with tomato sauces on airplanes. It wasn't my favorite dish on the tray but it was quite the Sunday gravy with a full bowl of pasta with sausage ragu with pecorino romano on top.
And finally, a dinner roll was served on the side with an "emergency kit," as chef Ryan Hardy calls it, of olive oil, spicy olive oil, and salt.
"I think we can really fix just about anything. If we have great salts, great olive oil, some hot pepper, and some lemon," Hardy said when debuting the new Mint offering in November, "because those are critical to the cooking that we do in our restaurants."
Dessert immediately followed dinner and flight attendants rolled the desert cart down the aisle. On offer were a cheese plate and vanilla gelato with blackberries and almond crunch.
A cheese plate, in my opinion, is the best way to end a meal and I'm glad to see that JetBlue recognizes that. My only complaint was that there weren't enough crackers to accompany the delicious cheeses.
While certainly tasty and well-presented, I can't say it was among the best in-flight meals I've ever had.
A selection of coffee and English tea was also available but I was fully content after the meal. The next few hours were spent working and resting.
The good food continued as we crossed the Atlantic with flight attendants passing around a selection of snacks, including Walker's shortbread cookies. I was glad to see it wasn't JetBlue traditional snack basket and had premium brands.
I also tested out the dirty martini and found it a little too dirty for my taste. But I did appreciate the odd number of olives in the drink.
The pre-landing "supper small plates" were served just under an hour before landing as we approached New York. A selection of three choices was provided, from which I could select two, including Italian clam soup, panzanella, and a panini.
I opted for the panzanella and panini, which were accompanied by a pretzel roll. It was a surprisingly good amount of food and I didn't even think I was hungry enough to eat again. But I was and I did.
Flight attendants also brought over the before-landing snack from economy, purely for demonstration purposes, consisting of a warm pretzel and fruit salad. I didn't indulge but both definitely would've sufficed had I been in the back.
Landing in New York came all too soon and it was safe to say that I didn't need to have dinner that night at home. But if I had to choose between the two JetBlue meals I had, I think I'd choose the meal I had on the flight I took in economy class.
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