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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.

  • TimM says:

    It will be interesting to see which non-US routes TAP will fly on a A321LR.

    • AJA says:

      Mainly north east Brazil from LIS ie Belem or Fortaleza. That is a similar journey time across the Atlantic as it is from DUB to JFK.

  • AJA says:

    Interesting review and interesting option if you can match Rob’s price he paid (doubtful at the moment).

    Re the Avios there is no bonus for status if crediting to BAEC so you earn just short of 5k each way regardless.
    Plus the inability to earn TP means that you are trading this plus the inconvenience of the longer journey getting to DUB, which costs more money or Avios, for the better food service plus the more exclusive cabin feel of 16 seats (assuming you get the throne seat) versus the dormitory CS and poor food on BA. I think I’d be inclined to travel instead directly from LHR on AA. Although that would be more expensive it’s actually not that much more plus it takes less time and you get the T3 lounge options.

    • Rob says:

      Agree – but if you are connecting to Heathrow from elsewhere then it is a different game.

  • pauldb says:

    Will you be reviewing Mauritius in due course? Interested in your impressions but not going until Easter.

    • Rob says:

      No – but Rhys is there this week to review a few hotels.

      • MT says:

        I am in Mauritius at the moment, Rhys isn’t doing a Marriott review set at all is he?

        Have to say flew Air France out and they had a equally small business class which seemed much better than the Gatwick BA option!

        • Rob says:

          Two Marriott properties and a third one I’ve forgotten. He’s definitely at the newly refurbed Le Meridien, he’s not doing the JW because it’s a dump. Perhaps Westin? I’m not his PA 🙂

          If you see him and his mate go up to him and say ‘you’re Rhys Jones and I claim my free cocktail from Head for Points’.

          • Bob says:

            interesting! Good to know for the future. 🙂

            Thanks Rob.

          • Rob says:

            He’s at the Sofitel at the moment, moving on to one of the Marriott hotels today I think.

      • pauldb says:

        Great service: half the HfP team doing recceing missions for me. When do I need to let you know my 2024 plans? 😜

      • John says:

        That boy has an enviable life!

        • Rob says:

          Would you really want to spend 100 nights per year in 5-star hotels, with about 15 business class flights on top?

          • John says:

            Happily!!

          • CamFlyer says:

            Lots of us have done that at some point in our lives. And at some point we realise that the glamor and novelty of it all disappears.

  • Tracey says:

    I’m surprised that there are no vegetarian choices in the menus.

    • Rob says:

      There are. They don’t add the meat to certain meat meals.

      • vol says:

        I’m no herbivore, but simply removing the meat from a meal doesn’t make it a vegetarian option, it’s the meat option minus something, so vegetarians are losing out, and they wouldn’t necessarily receive bigger portions.

        A halal/kosher offering would have a substitute suitable item in place, or be a separate meal altogether, so that’s what I would expect for vegetarian options.

        • Rob says:

          If you pre-order, you get a vegetarian meal. If you don’t pre-order, you get the meat salad sans meat.

      • Charles Martel says:

        I remember ordering a veggie burger at a takeaway in Mullingar expecting a fake-meat or beanburger type patty and got a bap with salad in it. Everywhere outside the tourist hotspots seem to raise an eyebrow when you speak with an English accent. I’m of partial Irish descent and have no idea why so many plastics are nostalgic about the place, it’s backward is so many ways.

        • rob keane says:

          That comment sounds like it had very little to do with a review of a single isle business class experience on Aer Lingus, and more to do with a particular English man that doesn’t like ireland.

          • Charles Martel says:

            It was more a comment on the fact Ireland outside of the Pale doesn’t seem to be that accommodative of vegetarians. I neither love nor hate Ireland but for the most part it’s not a place that’s embraced pretentious lifestyles. I find it ironic that as a country it seems to be unable to forgive Britain for it’s messy history but does regularly jibe the British for leaving the EU for reasons that include the feeling of being dominated by former enemies in France and Germany. The UK should move on from WW1/2, the Napoleonic Wars while the Irish are entitled to remain fixated with Cromwell, the Easter Rising and Bloody Sunday.

          • rob keane says:

            moved from one sentence on vegetarian meals to a diatribe about irish. My initial assessment was spot on.

          • Bagoly says:

            I think the point is that Aer Lingus is one of those airlines where vegetarians should order in advance or feel short-changed, and Charles has suggested that’s consistent with the comparative lack of vegetarianism in Ireland.
            I’ll guess that Indian and Singaporean airlines cater comparatively well to vegetarians?
            Brazil and Argentina are meat-mad countries (“yum” from me) – are airlines from there weak on the vegetarian front?

            The equivalent that frustrates me is Iberia serving Cava and no champagne-style sparkling wine. Lufthansa doesn’t make the same mistake with Sekt.

        • Flyin says:

          Literally everything in both these posts is nonsense. That’s impressive in its own way I suppose

          • sohan says:

            Charles this is racist nonsense that has no place here. Please don’t bother contributing this is the sort of stuff you have to say.

          • Charles Martel says:

            Racist? Does this mean, in your opinion, we’re not allowed to have any negative views on the culinary offerings experienced overseas or disagreements about historical record? I’d argue some of my negative experiences in Ireland are racist, either based on my home counties English accent or traveller surname but whatever…

        • John says:

          “regularly jibe the British for leaving the EU for reasons that include the feeling of being dominated by former enemies in France and Germany”.

          The largely unanimous opposition to Brexit that you will find among Irish people owes everything to how little thought was given to torching the hard-won but functioning equilibrium at our only land border (NI). Beyond that, Irish people generally perceive Brexit with a combination of horror, confusion and pity.

        • lumma says:

          Five Guys do the same thing to be fair.

        • Patrick says:

          I’m English and divide my time between England and Ireland (outside The Pale). I fly approximately 50 times between the two each year. The restaurant food is better in Ireland and as the husband of a vegetarian she is well served in both countries.

      • Doug says:

        That sounds more like theft than a meal.
        I do feel they should offer at least one vegetarian dish on the menu.
        …. so long as it’s not the dreaded tofu.

        • Thegasman says:

          Had a delicious tofu based lunch in BA CE last week. Genuinely one of my best ever airline meals including long haul J. Wouldn’t have normally tried it but the excellent cabin crew recommended it.

      • AJA says:

        😀 That reminds me of My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the mother-in-law finds out the groom is vegetarian, she says something like “Oh that’s no problem he can eat lamb, right?”

  • insider says:

    AER lingus

  • Mark Wilson says:

    You might find that you’ve got an unpleasant shock coming on the Avios front, as did I a couple of months ago….
    You only get Avios credited if you’ve booked a J, C or D class ticket. Nothing for my I class ticket for some bizarre reason.
    It took BA two full months to answer my missing mileage claim, and this was the result!

    • Rob says:

      I assumed it booked into D. Not sure they ever told me what it booked into ….

    • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

      Considering you get no TP anyway, wouldn’t it be safer to credit to –
      Aer Club then combine your Avios later in BAEC

  • Tom R says:

    I haven’t got to try “Mint” yet but have flown JetBlue 321LR a couple of times in economy. I was pretty impressed with the LR, with JetBlue only having 114 seats in economy (due to 24 in business & also extra legroom economy seats). It was a very peaceful flight with fast and attentive service compared to a 200+ pax 9-10 abreast wide body. Their economy good was exceptional compared to other carriers and free WiFi in economy too. Mint looked nice with all aisle access, incidentally the Aer Lingus seats and layout are the same as the “old” Mint Jetblue uses on their Transcon 321 classics. I have got to try that and agree the throne seats are great. The mint thrones also had doors as well. Will be interested to see your reviews of transatlantic mint and TAP who I’ve been tempted to take across the pond for a change.

  • PeteM says:

    Brought back memories of the ex-BMI A321s BA sadly got rid of. It felt positively luxurious to get one of the throne seats to Amman or Beirut!

    • Michael says:

      And even more luxurious to get one to Dublin or Belfast. I once was the only passenger from Dublin to London in lie flat Business with the cabin extending back past the first exits. It was an evening flight with the lights kept dimmed throughout, and a bonus G&T for landing.

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