This is our review of Aer Lingus business class to Barbados on an A330-300.
Aer Lingus isn’t necessarily the first airline that springs to mind when you want to fly across the Atlantic from Manchester, but since October the Irish airline has been operating direct flights to:
- New York (daily, year round)
- Orlando (5x weekly, year round)
- Barbados (3x weekly, seasonal)
The rationale behind the move was that Aer Lingus thought it would have some spare aircraft post-covid that it could make better use of on leisure routes from Manchester. It was wrong on the first point and has had to lease some A330 aircraft from Qatar Airways to enable it to operate its full schedule from Ireland ….
With BA’s weak presence from Manchester it was an easy way for IAG, the parent company of both airlines. It broadens the route network and give anyone who likes to earn and burn Avios a reason to avoid Virgin Atlantic or Tui.
(At present, you cannot earn British Airways Executive Club tier points when you fly with Aer Lingus, even on transatlantic routes. You will earn Avios. You can earn Aer Lingus status credits, of course, if you credit your flight to an AerClub account. Aer Lingus is not in oneworld, so you do not receive any British Airways Executive Club status benefits.)
The bottom line is that Aer Lingus is now offering transatlantic long haul flights on which you can both earn and burn your Avios, which is an exciting opportunity for anyone outside the Heathrow catchment area. That said, business class availability for Avios redemptions is very tight with no guaranteed availability.
These routes have now been operating for six months and we were keen to take a look.
With thanks to ….
We partnered with visitbarbados.org, operated by the Barbados Tourist Board, to arrange a free trip. This included business class flights on Aer Lingus from Manchester as well as short stays at two different hotels. The hotel reviews will follow later this week. HfP paid for all of its incidental expenses.
Flying Aer Lingus to Barbados
Barbados is a seasonal route for Aer Lingus that operates three times a week during the Winter. Flights currently run until the end of April and the service is due to return in November 2022.
IAG positions Aer Lingus as a ‘value’ carrier in comparison with British Airways – a view which was definitely unfair pre-Club Suite and is still playing down what Aer Lingus has to offer. Let’s see what ‘value carrier’ means in practice.
Aer Lingus check in at Manchester
Aer Lingus is currently operating from both Terminals 1 and 2 at Manchester Airport. All short haul flights are from Terminal 1 whilst long haul flights are from the brand-new Terminal 2.
I arrived three hours before departure. The Aer Lingus desks were pretty quiet:
The business class queue was empty. I breezed straight to the front and was promptly checked in by the lovely ground staff.
Which lounge does Aer Lingus use at Manchester Terminal 2?
Aer Lingus does not have a dedicated lounge for business class passengers at Manchester Terminal 2. Instead, you are sent to the 1903 Lounge which is the most premium of the lounges operated by the airport.
You can find our full review of the 1903 lounge at Manchester Terminal 2 here, from my preview tour late last year.
I really like the 1903 Lounge – it has fantastic views of the airport and features self-pour drinks, including alcohol. Breakfast items included pastries, yoghurts and fruit in addition to the main selection of hot items for a full English.
The only potential downside is that, on busy days, two coffee machines may not be enough!
On board an Aer Lingus A330 from Manchester
I managed to arrange early boarding so that I could photograph the cabin without disturbing the other passengers.
Although an older aircraft, it has been refurbished in the past year and looked fresher than I was expecting. The A330-300s have 287 very green economy seats:
…. as well as 30 business class seats in the forward cabin. Aer Lingus doesn’t have a premium economy cabin.
I was sat in 3K, a ‘throne seat’. Aer Lingus has a staggered business class layout similar to that on Malaysia Airlines, which means the number of seats per row alternates between 2-2-1 and 1-2-1. You can see what I mean in this photo:
The benefit from such a layout is that it has good seats for both those travelling solo and those travelling as a couple. All seats also face forward, with no angle. Here is 3K:
There is a huge amount of personal space if you get a throne seat. You can see now why IAG’s positioning of Aer Lingus as a ‘value’ carrier seems unfair.
You have two permanent consoles on either side of you:
…. plus a large storage cupboard to the right of the headrest:
Next to the cupboard you have a bottle of water, a universal plug socket as well as seat controls that let you customise your leg rest, lumber support and recline:
The tray table also comes out of this section and then flips horizontally. It is a good sized tray table although you are effectively trapped if you want to get out of your seat during a meal service.
A 16-inch touchscreen is directly in front of you and can be used gate to gate. Because I was in a throne seat it looks small wedged in between the seat backs of the two seats in front of me, but it is a decent size.
Underneath the screen is a small net storage shelf which held the noise cancelling Aer Lingus headphones:
Underneath the TV is the foot cubby. When I first saw the seat I thought it looked very tight. It turned out not be an issue – I was able to sleep perfectly well on my night flight home despite being 6’2″ and having 10.5 size feet.
Unlike some airlines, Aer Lingus has retained individual air nozzles for passengers. This is great news for those who want some control over the temperature at their seat.
Waiting on my seat was a VOYA amenity kit as well as a pillow. The contents of the kit included lip balm, hand cream, an eye shade, socks, ear plugs and a pen:
The kit is decent but not quite as premium as The White Company kit BA offers. It also involved a lot of plastic – it would be nice to see Aer Lingus transition away from quite so much wrap.
A quilted blanket very similar to that on BA is available from the overhead locker:
There are two dedicated toilets at the front of the cabin for business class passengers which are stocked with Voya toiletries. The one on the right hand side was fairly small:
Clearly, Aer Lingus business class is not the Qatar Airways Qsuite or ANA’s The Room. However, it is still a very solid product and I was very comfortable for the duration of the flight.
A quick note if you are travelling to New York ….
Aer Lingus uses the A330-300 above on its flights from Manchester to Barbados and Orlando.
If you are travelling to New York, you won’t get this aircraft. New York JFK operates with a new single-aisle A321LR aircraft, albeit with the same business class seating in alternating 2-1 and 1-2 rows. Rob is flying this aircraft from Dublin to New York in July and we will review it at that point.
In flight entertainment on Aer Lingus
I tested the sound quality on the standard Aer Lingus headphones before I switched over to my own Sennheisers. The quality was pretty average for business class headphones, to be honest. They do include noise cancellation which not all airlines do.
The film selection was good. At first I thought it was quite small, but Aer Lingus has categorised all the options so you need to flick through a couple to see the full selection. There was a good selection of recent releases including Spencer, No Time to Die and House of Gucci as well as a good back catalogue:
I ended up watching In The Heights, which almost made me cry (I almost always cry on flights…) and Crazy Rich Asians. I had seen this before but not since I had been to the Four Seasons Langawki (review here), which is where they filmed part of it.
Inflight wifi on Aer Lingus
To my surprise, Aer Lingus offers free wifi for all business class passengers. You are given a small card with a redeemable code:
The code is valid for 400mb. For comparison, British Airways charges £17.99 for 150mb on its A350 fleet. If you run out or if you are sat in economy you have a choice of three packages:
- Aer Social (50mb) – €6.95
- Aer Surf (120mb) – €13.95
- Aer Max (270mb) – €29.95
A free 400mb of capacity is a valuable perk if you are planning to work.
Whilst the wifi dropped out a fair bit (I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a seamless connection on any airline), it was nice to be able to stay in contact and pick up a few emails in between watching films and having lunch.
Service on board Aer Lingus business class
Once in my seat I was offered a welcome drink. I went for the champagne:
Shortly after takeoff the crew came round to take a second round of drinks orders as well as our food order. Aer Lingus didn”t offer in-flight menus so the crew explained what was on offer. I did get a menu on my return, so I’m not sure why there were none on the outbound.
On my flight this meant beef, chicken and cod options. I’m not sure what you would get as a vegetarian or vegan if you hadn’t pre-ordered.
Unlike British Airways, Aer Lingus is now serving meals in its full, pre-covid service, which means they are plated up individually rather than on one tray. BA is not expected to return to a ‘proper’ meal service until November, because it requires additional cabin crew members in Club World.
To start, I had the smoked salmon:
The starter comes with a salad and a slice of bread. The bread was uninspiring but I liked the fact that it came with a side salad.
For the main course I had the chicken which came with a risotto and some sautéed mushrooms and vegetables, which I really enjoyed:
Finally, for dessert, I had a cheesecake:
Midway through the flight the crew come round with a basket of snacks including chocolate bars and crisps.
About an hour before landing afternoon tea is served, with a selection of finger sandwiches and sweet items:
I enjoyed the egg and mayo sandwich although I struggled to identify what the other sandwich was! I would have preferred to have scones to the profiterole and other desserts they had on offer but that’s just my personal taste.
I was really surprised by the food on Aer Lingus. The airline offers a choice on all courses and the presentation and taste was really good.
All too soon we had reached Barbados and it was time to land.
Despite Aer Lingus’ position as the ‘value’ airline of IAG’s three mainline carriers I was impressed. Having never flown the airline before, the flight to Barbados exceeded my expectations.
Aer Lingus offers a solid seat in its business class cabin and the meal service was surprisingly good.
Of course a crew can make or break a flight. I’m pleased to say that Nicole and Hannah, who were looking after us up front, were excellent, both to me and the other passengers.
All things considered, I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Aer Lingus again on a long haul flight. Whilst it doesn’t offer the sort of luxury you find on some airlines it manages to nail everything you could want from a business class flight.
It can also offer excellent deals at times. Rob’s July trip from Dublin to New York, which does not involve a Saturday night stay, was only £1,300 return in a recent sale. This is for a refundable ticket – all Aer Lingus business class tickets are refundable – albeit that discounted tickets have a refund fee of 15% of the base fare.
You can find out more, and book, on the Aer Lingus website here. The Barbados route will restart on the 2nd November. Avios redemptions start at 125,000 Avios in business class return. You can find out more about Avios redemptions with Aer Lingus here.
This series continues later this week with my hotel reviews. You can find out more about Barbados holidays on visitbarbados.org.
Head for Points made a financial contribution to the Woodland Trust as part of this trip. The Woodland Trust creates and manages forests in the UK in accordance with the Woodland Carbon Code.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.