Aer Lingus Temporarily Cuts Business Class On JFK Flights

Filed Under: Aer Lingus

Here’s an interesting approach that Aer Lingus is taking towards operating their transatlantic route between Dublin and New York…

Aer Lingus’ transatlantic routes

Like all airlines, Aer Lingus has greatly reduced their route network, though the airline continues to operate several transatlantic flights. This includes flights from Dublin to Boston, Chicago, and New York.

While there are immigration restrictions in place, there’s still some demand for those looking to get home, and/or essential travelers who have a reason to travel.

Aer Lingus A330

What happened to business class?

While the Boston and Chicago flights are operating as normal(ish), there’s something interesting going on with the New York flight.

This daily flight is operated by an Airbus A330, and you’ll notice that on every single day through April 30, 2020, the flight shows as being sold out in business class.

Not only that, but those who are booked in business class are being informed by the airline that they need to be downgraded to economy due to “operational reasons.”

What exactly is going on? Well, it would appear that Aer Lingus is scheduling their current New York flights in such a way that the crews don’t have layovers in New York:

  • They operate the flight with two full crews
  • On the outbound, one crew sits in business class while the other crew works
  • On the return, the crew that sat in business class on the previous flight works, while the other one rests

While this is a long day for the crew, it doesn’t sound that bad. They leave Dublin at 2:20PM and get back to Dublin the next morning at 4:50AM. That’s 14.5 hours, not including boarding time, getting to the airport, etc.

What makes it tough is that this includes working overnight (which is tougher than working such a long daytime shift). Then again, they spend half of that time in a flat bed, so…

Aer Lingus A330 business class

Bottom line

Aer Lingus is taking an interesting approach towards operating their New York service, as they are double crewing the flight, and then blocking off business class so one crew can rest in each direction.

While it’s a long day for the crew, I imagine this is preferred over having the crew overnight in NYC, given all that is going on. Clearly this concern is specific to the COVID-19 outbreak in New York, since they’re not doing the same for Boston and Chicago.

(Tip of the hat to Troy)

  1. Makes some sense but do they really need ALL of the biz class seats for crew? I would have thought they’d block off the number required then sell the rest…JFK presumably is a decent route for EI albeit in this strange times…just thinking

  2. @Chuma-

    Their A330 is configured with 30 business class seats, in an alternating 1-2-2/1-2-1 formation. In order to keep social distancing in place, they probably only want half of those seats occupied (at the very least, they wouldn’t want any sets of two occupied).

    So, if you’re now down to having 15 or so seats, then at least half of those would be taken by the crew. So, you might have a total of 7 business class seats you can sell. But, the catch-22 is, as soon as you sell even one of those seats, you now need additional crew to work that section. It’s probably just a matter of diminishing returns, to offer a reduced business class experience to less than 5 pax, vs. just blocking off the entire section for the crew so that they can rest before/relax after working their flight.

  3. They are also doing up to 5 daily return trips DUB-PEK with the A330s to get PPE supplies for Ireland.

    The flights have two crews of pilots (one for each leg), an engineer and one member of ground staff. The pilots can’t get off the plane in Beijing bar to do a visual inspection so are spending 28 hours+ on board.

    Business class is used for the staff while economy is being used for cargo.

  4. This is actually a really smart idea. The only people who should be flying right now are people who have essential travel, and closing off business class will reduce unessential travel by those who want a luxury experience rather than those who must travel.

  5. This is great and it shows that they care about their crews.

    Demand can’t be high for business travel anyway.

  6. @Sam – nothing about travel right now is ‘luxurious’ so I don’t think that is an issue.

  7. Well they could keep few seats in Business Class and just offer Economy service. If is it the issue peopel seating next to unmand exits they could be re-seated for take off and landing.

  8. If I had paid for business class I’d be annoyed. Often when they downgrade you on a paid ticket they play games with the price difference and you end up getting screwed. If they properly adjust the fare then sitting in a nearly empty coach cabin is ok.

  9. The business class cabin has to be blocked off from pax to provide class 2 rest for the crew in order to facilitate the extended duty. To allow pax access would make it closer to class 1 rest, which under EASA FTL’s would make this duty illegal

  10. Cathay has been doing this since early February. Another set of crew were in business class cabin on flights to Australia.

  11. Why are they still operating Chicago and Boston? Two cities that are in tough shape with Covid 19. I can’t believe people are visiting either way. Ireland people can’t go more than I think 2Km from their homes.

    Just don’t understand. If we don’t stop for a while we are just going to have wave after wave. I understand ferrying medical supplies and staff but anything else? The cabins should be empty.

    What am I missing? I don’t leave my home for fear of contracting and spreading it but people are flying?

  12. @Rich They can’t screw you for the price difference. It’s an EU regulation. For a flight of that distance they are obliged to pay 75% of the flight price as compensation. Quite clear cut.

  13. @MCOL Say you paid $4,000 for your business class seat and they refund you 75%, you now get a coach seat that would normally go for $300 for the bargain price of $1,000.

  14. @Anthony That is the mandatory compensation. You also get the fare difference refunded, so you are financially better off thanks to the EU.
    So off you pop & wind your incorrect neck in petal.

  15. Thanks @mkcol….. Gotta love the EU way of protecting their flyers!!

    Think before you type…. 😉

  16. It mystifies me how these flights are able to fly to their USA destinations when Donald Trump has added Ireland and UK to the no fly to USA countries list at the beginning of March.

  17. @William I guess you missed the bit about it being human beings who he has banned (with a few provisos) not actual aircraft.

  18. @Jimmy I’m from the Boston area, and I’d assume that is because of the huge Irish populations in Boston and Chicago.

  19. So,

    Thanks, I was thinking that. But would anyone go now and risk spreading the virus? And if they would go what would the Garda do? Residents can’t go more than 2Kms from their homes. Not sure how much is closed but the people I know are hunkered down. My mother’s family is from Ireland so I consider them all family. I just wouldn’t put them at risk (or the people here in the US). Even though Ireland is doing ok and they are taking it serious a meeting at the US airport etc could be a infection moment.

    I get Aer Lingus doesn’t want to refund money (instead give vouchers which will probably end up being worthless) but it just feels risky to even give people the chance of engaging in risky behavior.

    Hopefully they are carrying cargo that is essential and folks wait until better times to go to the old country.

    Stay safe Si. Hope Boston gets better soon.

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