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.
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.
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.
The paired seats are not ideal if you are not with your partner.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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:
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.)
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:
…. 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.
No amenity kit was provided on our outbound day flight. On the return, we received this kit:
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.
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.