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Review: flying to New York on a single aisle Aer Lingus A321LR in business class (Part 1)

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This is our review of the Aer Lingus A321LR in business class.

For readers who don’t know their aircraft types, this means that I flew transatlantic on a single aisle aircraft. This is a tweaked version of the Airbus aircraft that normally flies you from the UK into Europe, with three additional fuel tanks in the cargo hold.

The three extra fuel tanks give the A321LR over 4,000 nautical miles of ‘range’. This changes the game entirely, because it allows them to fly from the US East Coast to Western Europe. Being able to fly small, cheap single aisle aircraft transatlantic opens up new routes and new options, both to cities which couldn’t justify a long haul aircraft and to cities where there is less high yielding business traffic.

Aer Lingus A321LR business class review

Three airlines have taken the lead in using the A321LR for transatlantic services – JetBlue, TAP Air Portugal and Aer Lingus. We are hoping to take a look at what JetBlue and TAP offer in the near future.

A quick recap

This is the third article in this series. My review of the Aer Lingus lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 2 is here. My review of the ’51st & Green’ preclearance lounge at Dublin, and an overview of how US Customs & Immigration works at Dublin, is here.

I paid £1,300 return for a business class ticket between Dublin and New York Newark. My connection from Heathrow to Dublin was on Avios.

Whilst we have done ‘free’ review flights with Aer Lingus in the past, this was a paid trip and the airline was not involved in any way.

The Aer Lingus A321LR

Aer Lingus has configured its A321LR fleet with 16 flat bed seats in Business Class and 168 seats in Economy.

Whilst this review isn’t focused on Economy, it is worth clarifying one point. Whilst the cabin looks like a standard short haul Economy class cabin in photographs (and indeed it is, to the extent that it has the usual 3×3 seating), you get the usual bells and whistles that you expect in long haul economy, including IFE. You are not sat for seven hours without entertainment!

There is no Premium Economy on the A321LR, or indeed any Aer Lingus long haul aircraft. Aer Lingus does not operate First Class.

Business Class on the Aer Lingus A321LR

Here is a PR photograph showing the Business Class seating, without any annoying passengers getting in the way. However, this picture is not from a real aircraft – the actual layout has another row of two seats at the back.

Basically, it goes 2 / 1 / 2 / 1 / 2 down either side, for a total of 16 seats.

Aer Lingus A321LR business class review

We are breaking our usual rule about ‘scoring’ seats

For what I think is the first time on HfP, I am going to make separate recommendations based on the seat you can get. With Aer Lingus, this makes a huge difference.

As you can see above, there are four solo ‘throne’ seats, two on either side of the aircraft. These are exceptionally good seats. In fact, in terms of a sense of space, it is one of the best seats I have ever flown.

Purely in terms of the seat, for a 6-7 hour day flight, I’d rank it alongside anything else on the market. Yes, BA Club Suite / Qatar Airways Qsuite might have a door etc etc but in terms of light and space, the four ‘throne’ seats on Aer Lingus give you all you need unless you are a privacy nut.

However ….

The paired seats are not ideal if you are not with your partner.

Aer Lingus A321LR business class review

As you can see above, there is little privacy between you and the person next to you. You also don’t have direct aisle access if you are by the window. You are either climbing over someone to get out or, if you are on the aisle, you are being climbed over.

I wouldn’t be keen to sit with a stranger, especially on a night flight, in one of these seats.

Even with your partner, you may find that you are a bit too close for comfort. Just because you know the person you are climbing over / is climbing over you in the middle of the night, it doesn’t make the experience better.

In summary, before we get to the meat of the review:

  • I would, in a heartbeat, fly Aer Lingus long haul again in a ‘throne’ seat
  • I would not book Aer Lingus business class if I was on my own and the only available seat was part of a pair, unless there was a substantial price or timing advantage
  • If I was with my wife, I could live with being in a seat pair but I’d consider another airline if the pricing was the same

Should Aer Lingus restrict access to ‘throne’ seats?

There is a discussion to be had about seat pricing with Aer Lingus. It doesn’t charge for seat reservations in business class, which is great.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that seats are allocated ‘fairly’.

I paid peanuts for my ticket (£650 each way). Because I booked three months in advance, I had my pick of the cabin so I gave my daughter and I a ‘throne’ seat each. We could have sat together, but why should we, when there were two far better seats available?

Unfortunately, this meant that anyone who booked a last minute ticket for three times what I paid would have been stuck sharing a seat pair with a stranger.

Could / should Aer Lingus do something about this? Clearly I wasn’t complaining. Should the throne seats be held back for full fare ticket holders and/or elite flyers, or a Lufthansa-style additional fee be requested?

The Aer Lingus A321LR business class seat

Let’s take a look at the seat. I had taken Row 5 instead of Row 3 (the other row of ‘throne’ seats) because I thought it would have less loo and galley noise. Instead it turned out to have quite a bit of baby noise, since the bassinet seats are in Row 7, the front row of Economy. Note that there is no Row 1, so Business Class runs from Row 2 to Row 6.

Picking a row is a bit of a gamble. Loo and galley noise is guaranteed in Row 3 but manageable. Row 5 will be quieter if there are no babies on board, but you can’t be sure of that.

Aer Lingus A321LR business class review

If we look more closely at the right hand side of the seat, below, you can see a decent sized storage compartment, a reading light, power sockets and a water holder.

Aer Lingus A321LR business class review

Whilst it isn’t clear from the image, you can also see the dining table. It flips down and then spins around. Note that this is one of those dining tables that can’t easily be moved once in place. However, if you do need to nip out of your seat during a meal, you have plenty of space by the window to temporarily place your meal tray.

By the window you have a very large side table – I put the magazines there for a sense of scale. The only issue is that there is a big gap between the fuselage and the edge of the table, making it easy for things to slip down. There is an additional storage unit under this table which is big enough for shoes or magazines.

Aer Lingus A321LR business class review

There is also decent surface space on the other side. Sadly this seat design is too old to have a wireless charging pad, even though the seats themselves are pretty new (these are new aircraft, after all):

Aer Lingus A321LR business class review

You can see my jacket hanging. On the return flight, a crew member took it and placed it in the wardrobe. On the outbound it sat there for seven hours ….

There is additional storage under the IFE screen, where you find your headphones after boarding:

Aer Lingus A321LR business class review

These are, of course, ‘cubby hole’ seats where you feet disappear under the back of the seat in front. Whilst 6’2′, I found the space to be fine on the overnight return flight.

(This review will not discuss the overnight return flight. As regular New York travellers will know, there is no way of making the experience pleasant given the short flight time, irrespective of seat or airline. Like most people, I tried to sleep as soon as the seatbelt sign went off and remained flat until the seat belt sign came on again just before landing.)

Aer Lingus A321LR business class review

The photos above don’t do a great job of showing you the privacy you get. As you can see from this photo I took across the aisle of my daughter:

Aer Lingus A321LR business class review

…. you are hidden away when in a ‘throne’ seat. This is absolutely not the case if you are in one of the ‘pair’ seat rows and sitting on the aisle.

Amenity kits

No amenity kit was provided on our outbound day flight. On the return, we received this kit:

Aer Lingus A321LR business class review

Whilst branded ‘VOYA’, it looks and feels very similar to The White Company amenity kits given out by British Airways in Club World.

It’s not going to win any awards, but it has what you need – toothbrush and toothpaste, socks, eye mask, a pen, ear plugs, lip balm and hand cream. My son used the toothpaste on a short break we took the following week and declared it amazing!

Wi-Fi on Aer Lingus

As you may remember from Rhys’s review of flying Aer Lingus to Barbados, Aer Lingus has an exceptionally generous wi-fi policy.

Business Class passengers receive a voucher which gives them free wi-fi for the entire flight, with no data caps or time limits. Why don’t more airlines do this?

If you’re in Economy, there are a few options:

  • €3.49 for 1 hour of access to social media sites
  • €5.99 for full-flight access to social media sites
  • €13.49 for low bandwidth browsing for the entire flight
  • €20.49 for ‘no limits’ browsing for the entire flight

Of course, ‘no limits’ browsing is limited in reality, with the usual drop-outs as the aircraft moves out of range or too many other passengers log on. I found it perfectly fine for writing the drafts of my two airport lounge reviews but I didn’t waste my time trying to upload images.

If you don’t use your free wi-fi voucher, you can save it for another flight. On the return leg, I didn’t use the wi-fi because I wanted to maximise sleep. I was able to use my code later for free surfing on my connecting Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Heathrow.

This is the end of Part 1. In Part 2 (click here) I will look at the surprisingly impressive food in Aer Lingus business class, plus the IFE and give my conclusions on what its like to fly the A321LR.


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Comments (45)

  • Leo says:

    I don’t think you should restrict the throne seats – it’s the luck of the draw. I don’t think parents should be booking them for young children however. Also I can’t understand why a parent wouldn’t choose to sit with their kids no matter if they are a bit older….I feel for the bloke in the comments with the family who had spread out in all the throne seats…ghastly people.

    • acewoking says:

      It’s a bit like (terrible analogy here) picking up the yellow label items in the supermarket. If you can get a pizza for 50p, but are able to afford a full price one for £4, should you leave the reduced one for a poor family? No, because some other rich person will just come and get it instead. So grab what you can when you can.

  • Sloth says:

    Poor old Rob’s son, his sister gets a trip to NY, he gets some toothpaste…:)

  • A T says:

    How do the seats & experience compare to the BA Babybus, which was also a single aisle transatlantic service? Your article made me very nostalgic 🙂

    • Rob says:

      Better, because of the throne seat option. In fact, to be fair, even the seat pairs are better on Aer Lingus than on the A318. You also didn’t benefit from a 16 seat business class cabin, and didn’t have proper IFE.

  • B Bjorn says:

    JetBlue mint is far better all round. And can be had for £1170 return or £585 each way if you book well ahead.

  • Ladyshopper says:

    My first ever business class flight was on Aer Lingus when they did the really really cheap redemptions (think it was Dublin to Boston?). One of my kids had to sit in economy each way, as could only get 2 avios seats in business (they were mid-teens and fine with this, daughter was savvy and picked the night flight to get the most out of the lie flat seat!).

    Anyway, I remember getting the free wifi codes and asking the cabin steward if I could possibly get one for my daughter in economy, and he was more than happy. Thought that was really kind of him. She made friends with the family she was sat with, so all was good!

  • BJ says:

    I found it interesting that your conclusions are essentially based around the sense of light and space. For me, this gets to the heart of the matter and is the reason I have thus far refused to cross the Atlantic in a single aisle plane. I just feel more comfortable on large aircraft, and it’s why I like the a380 and 747 so much. The longest single aisle flight I have taken is NYC to LAX and I detested it, Air Asia DMK to DPS is about my limit I think. Regardless of how good the seats may be I remain reluctant to spend 8h+ aloft in a small metal or composite tube but the real test will come when I’ m faced with the option of a direct flight from EDI versus a transit in LHR or wherever.

    • yorkieflyer says:

      We enjoyed as Norwegian to and from EDI to Stewart on a Max, very short flight though but not as short as some poor folk had

    • S says:

      I very much agree. My employer (in Canada) will pay for exit row economy (or at a push PE if you can get a decent price).

      For work visits, Aer Lingus via is often competatively priced for those of us in the UK (NCL), however most of us simply can’t face the prospect of 8hrs in 321 economy and invariably opt for the pricier option (BA via LHR, generally).

  • ADS says:

    Voya is a proper company – started out with their seaweed baths in the west coast of Ireland … now doing more stuff … although it doesn’t look like they sell their toothpaste !

    https://www.voya.ie/pages/voya-founding-story

  • speedy66 says:

    Were the two outward flights linked so you didn’t have to collect your luggage at Dublin and check in again?

    • Rob says:

      Hand baggage only.

      You don’t need a suitcase for 4 days in New York. Even a 14-year old girl didn’t need a suitcase for 4 days in New York 🙂

    • ADS says:

      when I flew LHR-DUB and DUB-SFO a few years ago on completely separate tickets, they checked my bag through without a problem

      • ChrisC says:

        That’s all changed now though.

        Neither BA and AA will do that now – yes people have reported otherwise but the policy is no through check on separate tickets.

        • ADS says:

          Oneworld changed their through checking policy with effect from 1st June 2016

          My experience with Aer Lingus was years later – but still some years ago!

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