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Review: flying to New York on a single aisle Aer Lingus A321LR in business class (Part 2)

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This is Part 2 our review of the Aer Lingus A321LR in Business Class.

The A321LR, with its three extra fuel tanks, is allowing airlines such as Aer Lingus to fly modern single aisle aircraft across the Atlantic. I thought it was time we checked out the Business Class seat and service on offer.

Part 1 of our Aer Lingus A321LR review looked at the seat and the different seating permutations available, plus the wi-fi and amenity kit. In this final part I want to look at the impressive catering and the IFE, plus how to earn and burn Avios with Aer Lingus.

Aer Lingus A321LR business class review

Aer Lingus Business Class catering

If you’ve flown British Airways in Club World recently, you will know that the catering is dire. You are basically getting a Club Europe ‘one tray’ meal, because BA has cut cabin crew numbers to the legal minimum and this does not allow it to offer a proper meal service.

This situation is not due to change until the Winter timetable launches at the end of October. For people who have paid £5,000+ for their seats it is embarrassing.

What is worse for BA is that Aer Lingus, which is positioned as a low cost sister airline, is wiping the floor with it in terms of catering.

The only downside of Aer Lingus catering on the A321LR is that, with only 16 seats in the cabin, it makes no sense to have a huge number of options for each course.

The drinks run

Service kicked off with a drinks run, and predictably I went with champagne (Jean Pernet).

What wasn’t predictable was what came with it. I hate nuts and, with so many people allergic to them, I don’t understand why British Airways and other airlines insist on handing them out.

Instead, Aer Lingus handed out ‘drinks biscuits’ (pecorino, rosemary and seaweed flavour!) and onion jam. This was genuinely different and actually quite tasty, although whether onion jam is a good partner for champagne is another question.

Review: Business Class to New York on a single-aisle Air Lingus A321LR

The main meal

Lunch kicked off with a choice of:

  • smoked salmon served with Toons Bridge mozzarella and roasted red peppers, or
  • smoked chicken served with a celeriac remoulade and cornichons

I went with the former. BA Club World flyers will be a bit confused by this picture, but let me explain – on Aer Lingus, each bit of your meal comes separately. It’s a radical concept and I doubt it will catch on.

Review: Business Class to New York on a single-aisle Air Lingus A321LR

Mains were a choice of:

  • oven-baked cod served with braised savoy cabbage and baby potatoes (see below)
  • steamed chicken in a cream sauce, served with basil risotto and roasted vegetables – this dish was also available without the chicken as a vegetarian option
  • Irish fillet of beef with rosemary jus, gratin potatoes and steamed garden vegetables
Review: Business Class to New York on a single-aisle Air Lingus A321LR

Dessert was a ‘no choice’ choice, of chocolate marble cake or nothing, although a cheese plate was also available.

Review: Business Class to New York on a single-aisle Air Lingus A321LR

An afternoon tea plate of sandwiches and assorted desserts was offered before landing:

Review: Business Class to New York on a single-aisle Air Lingus A321LR

On the overnight flight back, Aer Lingus was serving a shorter menu with no starter. There were three mains:

  • seared fillet of beef served with roasted baby potatoes, baby carrots, grilled zucchini and a rich shallot sauce
  • herb-crusted cod served with baby spinach, carrots, cherry tomatoes, roaster red skin potatoes and puttanesca sauce
  • herb-crusted chicken on a bed of romaine and kale, served with grape tomatoes, red onion and chickpeas

I had the cod, below. If you wanted the (cold) chicken, you could request it to be served as an express meal in advance of the main service to maximise sleep.

Review: Business Class to New York on a single-aisle Air Lingus A321LR

Dessert was a ‘take it or leave it’ cheesecake, unless you wanted the cheese plate.

The breakfast option on the return was just fruit and yogurt, but I don’t think any of the 16 passengers on the flight bothered (the flight landed at 4.30am in Dublin, a bit early for breakfast) – I didn’t see anyone eating when I got up.

Regular readers will know that I never pretend to be a food critic. However, Aer Lingus performed a lot better than I expected – although admittedly I was still traumatised by what BA had served me on the way to Mauritius a couple of weeks earlier.

Fundamentally, whilst Aer Lingus is a little low on choice – although with only 16 seats there isn’t much alternative if it wants to avoid huge amounts of waste – the selection it does offer is of a high standard.

IFE

I tend not to bother with IFE, using long haul flights to clear my backlog of unread magazines from the living room table, but the Aer Lingus selection looked decent.

You have the usual mix of TV, movies, audio options and video games, with a special kids section too.

The Aer Lingus idea of ‘current’ movies included Death on the Nile, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, The Duke, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Godzilla vs Kong, House of Gucci, Last Night in Soho, Licorice Pizza, Sing 2, Space Jam: A New Legacy and The Phantom of the Open.

In general, they are a couple of months behind the curve but it certainly isn’t the worst selection out there. You wouldn’t struggle to find something to pass the short flying time to New York.

Aer Lingus Avios

Earning Avios and tier points with Aer Lingus

You cannot (yet) earn British Airways Executive Club tier points with Aer Lingus. At some point Aer Lingus will join the oneworld transatlantic joint venture with American, Finnair, BA and Iberia, but so far the IT issues are proving hard to solve. Anti-trust approval has already been given.

You can earn status credits in Aer Lingus AerClub, but this is unlikely to be much use for a one off trip.

You CAN earn Avios. There are two options:

  • credit to an Aer Lingus AerClub account and then move your Avios into British Airways Executive Club via ‘Combine My Avios’ or
  • credit directly to a British Airways Executive Club account

The amount of Avios you earn will differ between the two options.

  • AerClub – click here – awards Avios based on the amount you spend. For flights from Dublin it is 3 Avios per €1, with Government taxes excluded from the calculation.

However, be careful.

Heavily discounted business class flights do not qualify for Avios in British Airways Executive Club.

The lowest fare class for business tickets is actually ‘P’, not the ‘D’ that ba.com shows, and ‘P’ earns nothing. My tickets were issued in ‘P’ and it is very likely that any heavily reduced business class ticket you buy will also be in ‘P’. Your e-ticket receipt shows the class as ‘P/Business’.

Unless your ticket is issued in ‘D’ and shows ‘D/Business’. you must credit your flight to AerClub otherwise you will receive nothing.

Booking Aer Lingus with Avios

Whilst Aer Lingus is not in oneworld, you can book Aer Lingus flights with Avios. This article gives you some more background.

I struggled to find availability in Business Class between Dublin and New York. You may have more luck from Shannon which also has US preclearance facilities. Other routes are easier to find seats.

Taxes and charges are substantially lower than when flying British Airways from London. This is partly down to the lack of Air Passenger Duty but also because Aer Lingus does not load on a similar level of random ‘surcharges’ to reward tickets.

Conclusion

I realise that I haven’t said anything yet about what it’s like to fly long haul on what is basically a short haul aircraft with bigger fuel tanks.

Whilst there is a novelty factor when you first get on the aircraft, it disappears after a few minutes. My overriding impression was not ‘it’s odd being in a flat bed on a single aisle plane’ but actually ‘it’s quite cool being in a business class cabin with just 16 of us’.

For me, the real difference from flying the A321LR was the one which comes as a side effect of using the smaller aircraft. There are only a handful of fellow passengers. You have a better relationship with the crew, because they can see everyone from the galley and you always get the same person serving you. You don’t need to wait for anything.

Remember that British Airways has 14 First Class seats on its A380 fleet, so you are getting a similar level of service with the 16 seats here. If you’ve ever sat in a huge British Airways Business Class cabin and thought it felt like a dormitory, you will be pleasantly surprised on an Aer Lingus A321LR. I suspect JetBlue and TAP generate a similar feeling with their A321LR fleet.

If you get the chance to fly Business Class on an Aer Lingus A321LR – and (if travelling solo) you can get a ‘throne’ seat – I recommend giving it a go. I think you’ll be more impressed than you anticipate.


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (August 2022)

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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

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.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

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.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (65)

  • laughingplace says:

    I hope this trend of using narrow body short-haul aircraft on long-haul routes doesn’t continue. Doesn’t seem a pleasant way of travelling long-haul. Bad enough for a few hour european hop!

    • PeteM says:

      This is very much the future of a lot of long-haul. Pleasant in J, not so much in Y. But I’d much rather fly direct on a narrow-body than have to change at a hub airport.

    • BJ says:

      While I share your setiments I think @PeteM is right. Much as I prefer wide body aircraft I’ ll reluctantly opt for the convenience of direct flighfs. The a321XLR seems to be attracting huge interest although Boeing claims (publicly at least ) the market for such an aircfaft is not great.

      • Mark says:

        Depends on where you’re flying. I wouldn’t expect the major long-haul transatlantic operators at Heathrow to be flying them to New York (although JetBlue does), but it does open up more opportunities on thin routes to/from smaller airports. Boeing seems to be looking at historical data rather then opportunities. There’s probably an element of “they would say that, wouldn’t they”, given that they don’t have anything to offer in that space and are unlikely to have for some time to come. However, that’s also part of the challenge given the size of Airbus’s order backlog and therefore delivery lead times which will constrain the pace of change.

        • Stu N says:

          Boeing inadvertently created the market with the 757-200 which could (just) cover NE USA to Western Europe. When the 757 was canned, they had nothing to offer. The 737MAX is still marginal for eastbound against strong headwinds and an ad hoc fuel stop will kill scheduling and profitability. Norwegian tried it from Edinburgh and Cork but couldn’t make it work.

          The 321LR/XLR have stepped into the market and are probably going to be only option for a decade, it was a fairly low risk move for Airbus as the A321 had the physical space for extra tanks and payload could be beefed up.

          Boeing would need a clean sheet design and are clearly struggling to deliver 787s to quality and 777X is years behind. A 787-7 would still cost most of what a full size 787 costs and there’s nothing more that can be done to the 737 airframe, so they clearly don’t want to highlight a market they can’t fulfil.

  • MC says:

    Rob – it’ll be interesting to find out how long it takes your Avios to be credited to BA, if indeed they ever are.
    IMO Aer Lingus has ongoing issues (ever since Aer Club was relaunched several years back) with the crediting of Avios/miles to partner airlines.

  • ADS says:

    When deciding whether to credit the flight to BAEC or AerClub – you really need to find out what booking class you’re in. From the Aer Lingus confirmation email you need to look for the status line:

    Departs: xxx
    Arrives: xxx
    Status: A/Economy Class

    And then you need to find out what the Avios rate is for that booking class. Personally I use the WhereToCredit website – but I don’t know if that’s kept up to date. There can be a huge difference in earning rates.

  • Prakash says:

    Thanks for the review – really interesting! Am flying Manchester to JFK on the A321 in September and managed to reserve throne seats – looking forward to it!

  • Bagoly says:

    Glad to find somebody else hates nuts and the assumption that we all like them. 🙂

    I also hate the taste of peppermint, which is a real challenge for toothpastes.

  • Katy says:

    Sorry if you’ve covered this before but what is the best way to find avios availability for Aer Lingus flights and how to book them?

    • Rob says:

      It’s in the linked article under spending Avios – either avios.com or ba.com, availability and taxes may vary.

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