Review: Aer Lingus A321LR Business Class

Filed Under: Aer Lingus, Airline Reviews

To kick off my round the world journey I flew Aer Lingus’ A321LR business class from Hartford to Dublin. The plane was literally just a few days old, and I was on the third ever flight to Hartford, which is the first destination for the plane.

Aer Lingus is taking delivery of eight A321LRs, which will serve them really well in the transatlantic market. There’s a lot of talk about the A321 lately, especially with the upcoming launch of the A321XLR, which will be the world’s longest range narrow body plane.

How I redeemed miles for Aer Lingus business class

I managed to find a business class award seat on the Hartford to Dublin flight just about a week before departure. There are three ways I could have redeemed miles for this flight:

I decided to book through British Airways, since they had the lowest cost due to how I value Avios.

My ticket cost 60,000 Avios plus just $35.07 in taxes and fees. Talk about a steal, in particular compared to the surcharges they’d impose if you were traveling on British Airways.

Aer Lingus Lounge Bradley Airport

Aer Lingus uses the Escape Lounge at Bradley Airport, which at this point is the only lounge in the airport. Steph reviewed this lounge not too long ago, so I won’t be reviewing it again.

Bradley International Airport terminal

Escape Lounge Bradley International Airport

She was spot on with everything she said — the lounge had a surprisingly good selection of food, and I found the staff to be exceptional. When I entered the lounge the agent gave me a detailed rundown of the lounge the offerings, and even introduced herself and the two other people working in the lounge by name.

Aer Lingus business class A321LR review

My boarding pass indicated that boarding was supposed to start at 5:15PM, so I headed to the gate a bit before 5PM. Aer Lingus departs from gate 7, which is near the Escape Lounge.

Aer Lingus departure gate Bradley

There was even a banner promoting the new aircraft type. As they put it, they’re “shamrockin’ a brand new look.” Hah.

Punny, Aer Lingus!

The inbound flight was a little bit late, so I got to see it arrive at the gate. I’ve gotta say, Aer Lingus’ A321LR looks super spiffy in their new livery!

Aer Lingus A321LR


Aer Lingus A321LR

Since Aer Lingus offers US pre-clearance in Dublin, all passengers deplaned as domestic passengers. Similarly, the inbound crew got off the plane as well, and they “briefed” the outbound crew.

There were three pilots working each sector (which seems unnecessary, but maybe it’s because it’s a brand new plane) and five flight attendants. The crew basically had a 10 minute kiki.

Boarding started at 5:30PM, with those needing extra time being invited to board first, followed by business class.

Aer Lingus 130
Hartford (BDL) – Dublin (DUB)
Sunday, August 4
Depart: 6:00PM
Arrive: 5:15AM (+1 day)
Duration: 6hr15min
Aircraft: Airbus A321LR
Seat: 5A (Business Class)

Ahhhh, the new plane smell! Before I even looked into the cabin, I could smell it. A new plane smell puts a new car smell to shame, in my opinion.

Aer Lingus’ A321 business class seats are identical to the seats they have on their A330s, so it’s cool that they maintained the same product, despite this being a narrow body. In fairness, this configuration is perfectly optimized for a narrow body, and the cabin looks a whole lot like JetBlue Mint, sans doors.

Aer Lingus’ A321 has a total of 16 staggered business class seats, spread across five rows. It’s just such a cool-looking cabin, in my opinion.

Aer Lingus A321LR business class cabin


Aer Lingus A321LR business class cabin

Rows two, four, and six (there’s no row one) of the plane feature seats in a 2-2 configuration, so they’re good if you’re traveling with a companion (and even if you’re not, odds are good you’ll end up in one of these, since this is how 75% of the seats are).


Aer Lingus business class seats A321LR


Aer Lingus business class seats A321LR

The really great seats are the ones in rows three and five, which are “throne” seats in a 1-1 configuration. As you can see, these seats feature a lot of privacy and personal space.


Aer Lingus business class seats A321LR


Aer Lingus business class seats A321LR


Aer Lingus business class seats A321LR

I had assigned myself seat 5A, the throne seat in the second to last row on the left.


Aer Lingus business class seats A321LR

I had a huge “counter” to the left of my seat, which was great for storing things (just not for takeoff or landing, because the space needs to be clear during that time).


Aer Lingus business class “throne” seat

Underneath that space were a couple of storage compartments.


Aer Lingus business class seat storage

Most of the other features were to the right of the seat. There was an enclosed storage compartment, seat controls, a USB and 110v outlet, headphone jacks, a reading light, and a bottle holder (with a bottle of water in it).


Aer Lingus business class seat controls & storage


Aer Lingus business class seat controls 

Also to the right of the seat underneath a panel was the entertainment controller.


Aer Lingus business class seat entertainment controls

In addition to the highly customized seat controls, there were also some pre-sets to the side of the seat, should you want to put the seat all the way upright, recline it fully, etc.


Aer Lingus business class seat controls

The tray table also folded out from the right side of the seat, and was big.


Aer Lingus business class seat tray table

The one downside to these “throne” seats is that the footwell in which you have to place your feet is fairly small. That’s because the way this configuration is so efficient is because the footwell is between the seats in front, so that leaves a fairly limited space.


Aer Lingus business class seat footwell

I was happy to see that Aer Lingus had individual air nozzles at every seat, and they even customized them so that there was a single air nozzle over my center seat.


Aer Lingus A321LR individual air nozzles

I loved the intimate feel of the cabin, though I’d note the one downside of the A321 is that everyone boards through the forward door. So you have a ton of foot traffic during boarding, and it’s not as relaxing as it would be if people boarded through the door behind business class.

There also weren’t any pre-departure beverages. I’m not sure if that was specifically because of that, or for a different reason.

Also, as someone who tries to take lots of pictures, it’s much more challenging to do so on an A321 where everyone is boarding through the forward door, especially since those who need extra time usually are invited to board before business class.

On the plus side, Aer Lingus had great boarding music, and I always enjoy Irish boarding announcement, especially how they say “you are most welcome onboard this Aer Lingus flight to Dublin.”

Anyway, boarding took quite a while, though when it was finished economy was mostly full, while 10 out of the 16 business class seats were taken. As luck would have it, I was the only passenger in the last two rows, so I had that entire section of six seats to myself.


Aer Lingus business class staggered configuration

Aer Lingus A321 business class cabin

Already waiting at my seat upon boarding was the menu and wine list for the flight, as well as an invitation to visit the arrivals lounge in Dublin.

Aer Lingus business class menu

Then there was an amenity kit with Voya amenities. The amenity kit was on the basic side, though when you consider that this flight is basically as long as a transcon, that’s totally sufficient.

Aer Lingus business class amenity kit

The bedding was excellent, and included a plush pillow and blanket.


Aer Lingus business class pillow & blanket

Then there were a pair of low quality headphones.

Aer Lingus business class headphones

At 5:55PM the captain made his welcome aboard announcement, informing us that we should be pushing back shortly, and that it would be about a 10 minute taxi to the runway before our 5hr50min flight.

The crew was super friendly — there were two guys working in business class, and they genuinely seemed to enjoy their jobs. At 6PM my meal order was taken, and I was also asked if I wanted to be woken up for breakfast.

At 6:10PM the captain was back on the PA apologizing for a delay. He explained that they were sent their weight & balance details, and needed to move some cargo around so they could be within their limits. He said that shouldn’t take too long.

Sure enough, at 6:20PM the main cabin door closed, and a few minutes later we began our pushback. At that point the safety video was screened.

At 6:30PM we began our taxi, and at 6:35PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 24.

Taking off from Bradley Airport


Taking off from Bradley Airport

During takeoff I definitely noticed that the A321LR is quieter than previous versions of the A321.

We had a smooth climb out, and just five minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off.

View after takeoff from Bradley

After takeoff codes were distributed for free wifi. Impressively these offer up to 400MB of data, even though the most expensive paid plan only offers 270MB of data. While I’m generally not a fan of wifi plans based on data usage rather than time, 400MB is a very generous allowance.


Aer Lingus business class free wifi


Aer Lingus business class free wifi

I immediately connected to the wifi, and was impressed by the speeds.


Aer Lingus A321LR wifi

For reference, Aer Lingus’ normal A321 wifi pricing is as follows:

  • 6.95EUR for 50MB of data
  • 13.95EUR for 120M of data
  • 29.95EUR for 270MB of data

Aer Lingus A321LR wifi

They also offer free messaging to all passengers, which is a nice feature. You just need to provide an email address to sign up. While it’s technically limited to an hour, you can sign up with a new email from the same device and it keeps working (and there’s no complicated registration process, you just enter an email address).

I also checked out the entertainment selection, which was top notch. The system was highly responsive, and there was a huge selection of TV shows and movies.

Aer Lingus business class entertainment selection


Aer Lingus business class entertainment selection


Aer Lingus business class entertainment selection

The meal service was quick to get started after takeoff. As you’d expect, these crews are used to these short overnights, so serving efficiently is their specialty.

The menu read as follows:

There was also a breakfast card you could fill out, though I was never asked to do so:

The drink list read as follows:

Lastly, there was an invitation to visit the arrivals lounge:

35 minutes after takeoff the first round of drinks was served. I ordered a glass of champagne, which was the fairly good Jean Pernet Tradition Brut.

I was offered asiago & cheddar crisps and an amuse bouche to go along with the drink. I asked the flight attendant what the amuse bouche was, and in the most sincere and adorable way he stared blankly at me and said “I’m not going to lie to you, I have no clue.” LOL!

As it turned out, it was some sort of tuna and cream concoction.

Aer Lingus business class dinner — champagne and snacks

After that, warm towels were distributed.


Aer Lingus business class warm towel

50 minutes after takeoff the meal was served. Aer Lingus keeps their meal service simple, which makes sense on such a short overnight flight.

I was offered a side salad and a roll, and for my main course selected the herb-crusted cod served with baby spinach, carrots, cherry tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, and a puttanesca sauce, which was surprisingly excellent. The fish itself was reasonably good, but in particular I loved the sauce.


Aer Lingus business class dinner 

After that I was asked if I wanted cheese or dessert. I asked for dessert, which was a cheesecake. That was brought to me on a separate tray, and I also ordered some chamomile tea to go along with it.


Aer Lingus business class dessert

The entire meal service was complete about an hour after takeoff, which was perfect. The food was simple but good, the crew was friendly and efficient, and most importantly, the meal didn’t cut too much into my sleep.

I also have to say that I really like flying a narrow body across the Atlantic with such an intimate cabin. You really almost feel like you’re getting a business class plus experience, given how few passengers there are. The fact that the cabin wasn’t even two thirds full probably helped as well.

At this point I had some gorgeous sunset views out the window.

Beautiful sunset enroute to Dublin

Before heading to bed I checked out the lavatory, which was at the front of the cabin. It featured Vaya toiletries.


Aer Lingus A321LR business class lavatory

At that point I reclined my seat to get some rest.

Aer Lingus business class bed

While the footwell was on the tight side, overall I found the bed to be comfortable.


Aer Lingus business class bed

When I went to sleep we had just over 4hr20min remaining to Dublin.

Moving map enroute to Dublin


Moving map enroute to Dublin

I was woken up exactly one hour before landing. Getting a solid three hours of sleep on a flight this short is great, as far as I’m concerned.


Moving map enroute to Dublin

When I woke up there was already a glass of orange juice next to my seat.

Aer Lingus business class breakfast

I was asked what I wanted for breakfast, with the choice of bread, fresh fruit, a bacon roll, a smoothie, etc. I asked for a smoothie, a coffee, fresh fruit, and a croissant. I was served that a couple of minutes later.


Aer Lingus business class breakfast

This isn’t the crew’s fault, though I do have to say that I don’t love how early Aer Lingus prepares the cabin for landing. They made a loud announcement in the cabin just about an hour before landing, and then 45 minutes out the crew had to prepare the cabin for landing. On a short overnight flight that can make a difference in terms of rest.

We had a smooth approach to Dublin, and ended up landing on runway 28 at 5:15AM.

View approaching Dublin

From there we had about a 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate.

Arrival gate Dublin

Aer Lingus A321 business class bottom line

There are two aspects to this — the A321LR as such, and Aer Lingus.

I loved my first flight on the A321LR (not that it’s that different than other A321s from a passenger perspective, but still…). On balance I’d actually say I preferred this to being on a wide body, because there’s something nice about how intimate the cabin feels. The fact that the plane still smelled and looked brand new didn’t hurt either. As far as I’m concerned, the only real downside to the plane is that everyone boards through the forward door, and that isn’t great for the pre-departure experience.

As far as Aer Lingus goes, I really love the airline. In many ways they’re no frills, but they get the basics really right. The crew was friendly, meal service was efficient and tasty, wifi was free, seats are great, and bedding is good.

I love crossing the Atlantic on Aer Lingus, and I think I even prefer the A321LR to the A330.

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!
Comments
  1. Crystal Geyser water instead of Dasani? I am sold. And free wifi… heck wifi at all is a major draw.

    I hope to fly them soon from SEA.

  2. Thanks for doing a trip review through BDL. It’s exciting to see the hometown airport on the big stage!

  3. I think the new Aer Lingus livery looks great on the narrow bodies, less so on the A330s.

    Bit curious why barista made coffee is only available in the lounge until 7am – does that mean for the rest of the day, it’s machine coffee?

  4. STOP spreading the lie that this flight can be booked with United miles. IT CAN NOT. Virtually all the J award inventory on Aer Lingus that’s shown on united.com is phantom, and will NOT ticket. You continue to propagate this misinformation over and over. Either you are woefully ignorant to this (really, it’s widely known, it shouldn’t come as a shock) or else you’re being willfully dishonest about it. Either way, you do a disservice to both your readers and to your credibility. Please stop.

  5. Where did you fly after you arrived in dublin??

    @JDS – the way EI do most of their business is flights from the US (and Toronto) arriving into Dublin in the early hours then connecting onto continental Europe and the UK. The reason it’s so early is cause Ireland is 1 hour behind most of the continent.

  6. Love this new trip report thing you’re doing. Absolutely love it. Thanks Ben. Great review as always.

  7. Only three types of beer – and one of them is Heineken??? I would have been deeply disappointed! Fly Brussels Airlines and you can have a full beer tasting.

    Other than that: it sounds like a narrow-body is not such a bad experience after all. I would try it any time.

    Thanks for the great review!

  8. @Lucky–genuinely confused. You said the only real downside to this arrangement was entering through the forward door. Would you feel the same way about the flight if you weren’t in one of the throne seats? It looks like the other seats in J have no or virtually no storage. Wondering why I would ever deliberately choose this arrangement compared to 4-per-row seating on 777s and 787s.

  9. @RKC

    Oh no, I get the timings of EI flights into Dublin (my passport has a harp on the front ;)), I was just surprised why they only bother to offer barista coffee in the early morning.

  10. Sounds like a great trip, but is this really a good use of miles? Unless I am missing something you spent 120,000 miles for round trip Chicago to Japan in first (Virgin vs Avios, but both are transfer partners with major credit cards which I assume is how most people will get the miles) vs 60,000 for 1 way in Business on a much shorter flight.

  11. Liking the new approach to doing a speedy detailed write up, just as informative and enjoyable as usual. Looking forward to following along with the rest of your trip

  12. Impressed by the top shelf liquor… Hendrick’s Gin, Grey Goose Vodka… that’s better than most in business class.

  13. Very cool. I’ll be on my way to DUB tomorrow(8/8) night, but will be flying D1 on DL as this trip is primarily for MQM. I hope to give EI a try as well someday, even if it doesn’t have the new plane smell.

    Count me in as a fan of the new livery as well. I know it follows the general trend of mostly white liveries these days but that shamrock on the tail just looks FAST!

  14. Hartford is an easy airport and as someone from central CT it’s so nice to finally have decent international service thru BDL. I’ve flown in the old aircraft several times almost always on the throne seat to/from Hartford and it was ok. (Business fares are quite good if you book early.) But coach one time was pretty bad. Found the flight attendants not all that friendly in either cabin. The best part is clearing customs in Dublin, but have found check-in at European locations except Dublin really disorganized and annoying. I do love the lounge in Dublin! I’m looking forward to trying the new plane and thanks for the very thorough report.

  15. “STOP spreading the lie that this flight can be booked with United miles. IT CAN NOT. Virtually all the J award inventory on Aer Lingus that’s shown on united.com is phantom, and will NOT ticket.” -Andre R

    A couple of months ago I booked DUB-IAD on EI, using United miles. Ticketed within 5 minutes without any issue.
    Last week I went online to change the travel date (but still flying DUB-IAD on EI). Ticketed without any issues.
    Yesterday I made another date change, keeping the DUB-IAD route in EI. Ticket issued instantaneously.

    I don’t know what you’re doing wrong, but you should stop doing it.

  16. Aer Lingus looks a great option to cross the Atlantic, and I’m impressed by the meal service presentation. LOVE the new livery and especially on this A321LR.

    Thanks for the report!

  17. Question… why do so many flights board through the first door instead of the second?? Can these jetway at smaller airports not accommodate burins through the second door?
    I can’t imagine any type of draw back by boarding through door 2, and would think it would add so much more to first class experience not having everyone shlep past you to coach.
    Great review.

  18. Hi Lucky, great review.
    Unfortunately for your boarding preference the A321neoLR features the new door configuration called Airbus Cabin Flex (ACF). There is only the front door and then two small overwing emergency exits in the forward cabin.
    ACF is quickly becoming the standard delivery spec for A321neos and you will have that issue with most airlines going forward.

  19. Willie Walsh and Alex Cruz and have reduced BA so much that now Air Lingus looks like a vastly better experience even in an A321….

  20. @ Philip Harrison

    Er …. you do know that Willie Walsh is also the big boss of Aer Lingus’ holding company? If you’re going to blame him for the one, you should be praising him for the other…

    I dunno – why not compare like with like, and contrast EI’s brand-new J class with BA’s brand-new J class? Which, if you wait a short while, I suspect is exactly what Lucky is about to do.

    As a regular UK-US flyer, and despite almost always prioritising direct non-stop routes over routes with changes, I have been tempted by EI – because of clearing US immigration in Ireland. What has put me off until now has been Economy-only flights on the UK-Ireland leg (I only ever have carryon), but since they are upgrading those routes I may give this a try.

  21. Thanks for the review.
    I will be flying that route in Sept. in eco and looking forward to the new A321LR.
    Just wondering while seeing the picture of the “old” headphone. Does this new aircraft only has the old double headphone jacks?
    Or can I use my own headphone with one 3,5mm plug?

  22. @Bob
    Door 2 on a321s is not a full-sized boarding door. It’s really just a larger emergency exit. (A larger exit allows for faster evacuation to meet the 90 second rule.)

    I was a little surprised they didn’t make that a full door on the NEO.

  23. @Scudder, doors add weight and reduce available space for seating. Airbus’ customer base wants fewer doors, not more. Look at the photo of the incoming aircraft. There is no second door prior to the wing.

  24. Not only is the configuration and seats identical to jetblue’s Mint, but the amenity kit, meal presentation and even the blanket look identical. Not a bad thing at all!

    Loving the new review format/timing, too, Lucky!

  25. I literally just flew the opposite route from Dublin to Hartford and am writing this reply here at BDL while waiting for my very delayed JetBlue flight to Orlando. I am actually quite disappointed with the whole inflight experience. While the seats are really no different from A330, the service on this daytime flight is much less than similar flights operated by A330. The canapês were replaced by the amuse bouche, similar to your flight, but we had no additional snack offering. While main course is individually plated on A330s, main course is served in a casserole dish on A321. The pre-arrival meal features three pastries served in a similar tray like your breakfast. The toastie was served in its original microwave packaging. I sort of miss the classic afternoon tea service. We had two F/As dedicated to the business cabin, but the main meal service took three hours.

    I really don’t think I agree with you that A321LR is better than A330. In the future, I will try to stay with the A330s. There is nothing wrong with A321LR but A330s are still better!

  26. “The canapês were replaced by the amuse bouche … but we had no additional snack offering. … main course is served in a casserole dish on A321. The pre-arrival meal features three pastries served in a similar tray like your breakfast. The toastie was served in its original microwave packaging.”

    Oh, the humanity…

  27. I’ve not taken this version of the A321 on long haul but had the similar older J cabin on several BA LHR-CAI-LHR flights and found it the best BA J hard product experience particularly with the “throne” seat. This does look like an attractive way of using my Avios (without those outrageous fees) to cross the Atlantic…just curious what the intra-Europe J flights would be like.

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