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Aer Lingus is slated to launch what will likely be the most premium intra-European business class next fall. The Irish Times is reporting that in the second half of 2019, upon taking delivery of the airline’s new Airbus A321LR (long-range), Aer Lingus will launch a new European business class product. The A321LR will feature the airline’s newest business class seats, which are lie-flat seats launched aboard the much larger Airbus A330 in 2015. While the A321LR’s main purpose in the Aer Lingus fleet is to serve secondary cities in North America, the airline has decided to use them on European routes in between flights on the longer transatlantic sectors.
Aer Lingus will install 16 lie-flat seats aboard the A321LR. The carrier’s business class product is a slightly modified version of the popular Thompson Vantage seat — the same one used for JetBlue’s incredibly popular Mint product. The business class cabin will be configured in a 1-1 and 2-2 staggered configuration. The only major difference between Aer Lingus A321LR and JetBlue’s current A321s is Aer Lingus has opted to not include a door in rows with just one seat on either side of the aircraft.
Door or not, Aer Lingus has a very competitive hard product. While direct aisle-access on all seats would be even better, the seats are still fully lie-flat, offer a fair amount of privacy, and are quite spacious — all of which can be difficult to obtain on a single-aisle aircraft.
When it comes to business class on most intra-European flights, European airlines usually offer the same seat that is found in economy class but with the middle seat blocked off. In addition to a blocked middle seat, European airlines usually provides enhanced catering and lounge access. So this move by Aer Lingus to fly aircraft with lie-flat seats on European routes is a giant leap above what’s offered on competing airlines.
While Aer Lingus will certainly provide the nicest seat in the sky on intra-European flights, their soft product will be far from the best.
“All that will be on offer will be the space and the comfort,” said Aer Lingus Chief Executive Stephen Kavanaugh in an interview with the Irish Times. “We are not going to be reintroducing bespoke catering. There will be catering but it will be the same as you buy on board, it will just be complimentary. We will keep the process relatively simple.”
The product will only be available on a select few routes during the morning. The rationale behind this is to allow passengers who are traveling on a transatlantic flight in business and connecting to another European destination on Aer Lingus to continue on in the same product and cabin.
“When we have the LRs going on into Europe, they will now have a business cabin with full lie-flat seat,” said Kavanaugh. “So they’ll [passengers] get consistent service from all of the gateways in North America to the principal gateways in Europe.”
Essentially, it’s not to offer those who are flying intra-European business class another premium cabin option, but to give business class flyers a more consistent experience. Routes that are being considered for the new Airbus A321LR service include: London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Barcelona — among the most popular onward destinations for American travelers, added Kavanaugh. Only eight of its 14 new A321LRs will fly onwards from Dublin to Europe.
Aer Lingus is scheduled to take delivery of its first Airbus A321LR sometime in mid-2019. The jet will go into service in the late summer months initially serving cities like Pittsburgh (PIT), Hartford (BDL), and Montreal (YUL).
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