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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.


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Comments (65)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Dominic Barrington says:

    Where is part one??

    • Rhys says:

      Up now – is published later so that the order going down the homepage makes sense!

  • Mirp says:

    Nice review. My concern with single aisle planes across the Atlantic is turbulence. I flew BA 1 from LCY a few times and it could be bumpy. I also flew JetBlue in Mint from LHR-JFK with no turbulence. Perhaps plane technology is getting better.

  • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

    That’s odd about the breakfast. It should be a bacon roll too. Although my experience is they heat them one by one as people wake so I have on occasion finished the rest of my tray then had the bacon roll with a 2nd mug of tea.

  • ChrisC says:

    AA also manages to serve its meals as separate courses AND offers choice of mains selectable in advance both to and from the US plus hot towels and pre departure drink as well.

    Such radicalism!

    • Benjamin Murphy-Ryan says:

      Lol yeah – flight Aa first to DFW and back on BA First and can only reserve meal on AA – BA can’t cope with that on way back to a flagship location

  • Markjanes says:

    Interesting service, although the pre-clearance in Dublin (as reviewed earlier) sounds a bit dire.
    How is the cabin noise level, I wonder, compared to a modern wide-body aircraft? I find aircraft with quieter cabins so much more relaxing to fly in.

    • Panda Mick says:

      Same here…. saying that, anything is quieter than an old Delta 767!

      I also find the cabin pressure important. Had my best ever night’s sleep on an A350 (for someone who traditionally doesn’t manage to sleep, even in business)

  • JDB says:

    Thank you for the very interesting review; sounds worth a try. EI, many moons ago, when it still had F class provided some of the best food in the sky, better than AF or SQ.

    Re current BA single tray service on long haul , the bigger issue for me is that the CW single tray food may be more substantial than CE, but is miles lower quality. As for current CW wine …

  • Lev441 says:

    Since the move from a330’s to the smaller a321, there has definitely been a decrease in seats available on avios whenever I’ve looked for both New York and Toronto…

    Rob – is the seat the same as the a330?

  • Andrew J says:

    Food certainly looks a world away from the economy style catering provided in Club World – it’s almost laughably bad when you’re presented with that single tray of garbage.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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