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 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.
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.
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
Dessert was a ‘no choice’ choice, of chocolate marble cake or nothing, although a cheese plate was also available.
An afternoon tea plate of sandwiches and assorted desserts was offered before landing:
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.
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.
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.
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.
- British Airways Executive Club, as you can see here, awards 150% of miles flown for discounted Business Class tickets
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.
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 from UK credit cards (September 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.