It was by pure chance and a lot of missed flights that I happened to fly Aer Lingus Business Class from Chicago O’Hare to Dublin. I was originally ticketed to fly San Diego to JFK and then on American and BA through London Heathrow. To make a long story short, my flight to JFK was delayed by several hours due to a crew member not showing up and then thanks to some quick work by the agent in the Lounge, I was rebooked to connect through ORD to Dublin. Of course my flight to Chicago was delayed and unfortunately, despite arriving at the gate 12 minutes before departure, the doors had already closed on the AA flight to DUB. After a few tense minutes, the gate agent was able to get me and a few other passengers on the Aer Lingus flight (they said it was full, but in fact was empty). The Aer Lingus flight didn’t leave for a couple of hours so I took my time to the International Terminal at ORD. There is new bus service from Terminal 3 to the International Terminal. This bus not only saves time, but also the need to leave the terminal and go back through security at Terminal 5. By the time I made my way to T5 I only had about an hour until departure. I was able to use the British Airways Lounge with my Aer Lingus Business Class ticket, however, I only stayed for a few minutes as the lounge was crowded, none of the food options were appealing and it is a little on the tired side.
When I arrived at the gate I sheepishly asked about available seats (thinking the flight must be full). The agent was very pleasant and told me not to worry there were plenty of seats and I could move once onboard if I didn’t like the seat she issued. I was a little haggard as I spent the day worrying about making a variety of flights so knowing I would actually arrive a few minutes earlier than my original flight through LHR and to be able to sit with the seat empty next to me lightened my mood considerably.
The flight boarded on time with Business Class passengers boarding first. After a warm greeting from a flight attendant I took my seat. The cabin has an unusual layout. Some rows were 1x2x2 while others were 1x2x1. Aer Lingus flies both the A330-200 and A330-300. This flight was on a 200 and there were 5 rows for a total of 23 seats. The 300 has 7 rows with the same 1x2x2 or 1x2x1 configuration for a total of 30 seats (row 1 only has 3 seats). My first thought was there was a nice balance of single seats for someone traveling alone and plenty of two seats if traveling with someone. The downside to this layout is every seat does not have direct aisle access. If you are seated on the two side at the window (2K, 4K, 6K) you can be blocked in if your seatmate has their seat fully reclined, otherwise, the rest of the seats have direct aisles access. Like with most new Business Class layouts some of the seats on the single side are next to the window (seats 3A & 5A) while (2A, 4A & 6A) are more on the aisle (just have to lean to look out the window). Aer Lingus has recently upgraded their Business Class so the look and feel of the cabin was very pleasant. They only fly the A330 to and from their North American destinations; SFO, LAX, ORD, BOS, EWR, JFK, YYZ, MIA and MCO this summer. They also fly to a few other cities in the US using a B757 that have the same Business Class seats and I am sure the same service.
The seats were cloth with a leather headrest and all facing forward. While the cabin had a delightful feel and look it certainly is not as luxurious as many other airline’s Business Class product. That said, I found the seats to be well designed. The power port (both plug & USB), headphone jack, entertainment handset, reading light, and seat controls (two of them) were at your side and very easy to access. In addition, there was a large storage area (different seats had different locations, on your side or below center armrest) that was also conveniently located as well as a basket below for your shoes. There is also an enclosed area below the TV screen.
As the cabin was not full there was plenty of room in the overhead and while I was not able to get a single seat, I sat in 5D in the middle with no one sitting next to me (or behind me). A pillow, headphones and bottled water was at the seat as we arrived. Menus and a smallish amenity kit (Voya products) were handed out before take off, but not newspapers or magazines (there was reading material on back wall). A pre-departure drink of water, orange juice or champagne was offered. I had a glass of orange juice.
Shortly after our on-time departure, blankets and a complimentary Wi-Fi card were distributed. The card had a code for 400mb’s of free Wi-Fi. If you wanted additional mb’s or for non Business Class passengers, the charge was $7.95 for 50 mb’s, $15.95 for 120mb’s, or $32.95 for 270mb’s. I wish they would just equate it to minutes as I am not the most tech savvy person. It seems expensive, but the flight was only 6 hours & 30 minutes long and my 400 mb’s lasted me the entire flight. I really didn’t access the internet that much so I can not comment on how long the different options would last. I must say the complimentary 400mb’s is generous for those in Business compared to the cost of 270mb’s. The Wi-Fi was thru T-Mobile and the speed was acceptable.
The TV handset is located on the armrest enclosed by a cover. The IFE TV screens are not far from the seat (leg room under forward seat) which makes it easy to navigate the programing via touchscreen. My remote was not working so well so I accessed all programming from the screen itself. The screen is an impressive 16 inches. While there was not a huge amount of programming there was certainly was enough content to keep me entertained. I watched a movie after take-off and sitcom or two before arrival. Unfortunately the movie I watched was edited (I think all content is). At least you could access the IFE while on the ground. The usual programming was available. Movies (new releases, older movies and a few Irish movies), TV shows (only a few), a kids zone, large music selection, games, and a nice moving-map. Their headphones were good enough that I didn’t use my own. If I did, I would have to use a 2-prong adapter.
The service didn’t start until about 30 minutes after take off. A small plate of three starters were accompanied with the drink orders. This was followed by a hot towel and dinner orders. There was three choices for dinner; Seared Filet of Beef, Seared Breast of Chicken, or Poached Lemon Sole. To my disappointment the Beef was no longer available when they got to me. This would have normally annoyed me, but my thinking was the flight was catered to the original load and not the extra passengers that were brought over from the American flight, so I happily ordered the Chicken. The dinner was served all together on one tray; entrée, a small salad, and a roll (no choice). Much to my delight the Chicken was nice and hot, but that’s the best thing I can say about it. It was edible as was the Risotto. Honestly, I was looking forward to the Beef and Dauphinoise Potatoes which probably effected my opinion of the Chicken. I don’t consider Cheese as a dessert (no sugar ;)) so there was only one choice for dessert; a Raspberry Tart (ok, or a selection of cheeses with Fig Preserves). The Tart was very good as was the Tea served with it. An additional bottle of water was given after the meal service. Considering this is an overnight flight under 7 hours I was impressed to see that there was a small selection of snacks in the forward galley between services. Some cookies, Twix bar, packet of pretzels, and cheese & crackers. We were woken an hour prior to landing and a small Breakfast was served. A Fruit Skewer with an Irish Bacon Roll. The menu also stated that a basket of pastries was also available for breakfast, but I was never offered this. Still, despite being a small offering, it was an appropriate amount for the length of flight and time between meals. The Bacon Roll tasted much better than it looks. A second hot towel was passed out after breakfast.
In general the seat is very comfortable. Besides all the storage space and convenience of the plugs and settings there is ample legroom and space at your feet. The seat controls allows for the seat to recline in a 180 degree, fully flat, 6.5 foot bed (connecting with an ottoman under the TV). Even with a generous 22 inches of width, I still was uncomfortable in the fully flat position. However, I was able to sleep a couple of hours in a cradle position. Now, if you have read any of my other reviews, you will know I actually prefer to sleep in a cradle position. I find it claustrophobic when you sink under the seat in front of you. Those that are fans of the fully flat seat will be pleased. There is an adjustable divider for privacy between the seats that come in pairs. The blanket and pillow were functional (there was no vent overhead, but luckily the cabin temp was pleasant). The seat also had a nice massage function that I actually could feel.
There is only one lavatory for Business Class near the forward galley. There is also a lavatory behind Business Class that you could also use. The lavatory up front was pretty basic, but did have Voya soap and lotion. Two flight attendants worked Business Class and they were very pleasant and attentive. The announcements were mostly in English, while the greeting after boarding and prior to arrival were in English and Irish (Gaelic) as well.
Business Class passengers received an invitation to the arrival’s lounge at DUB in the menu (so you have to look for it). The lounge is in the baggage claim area. I just stopped in for a minute so I can not comment to much about the lounge other than they do have showers and a small amount of food, drinks, and a coffee machine. It was breakfast time and I may have had a muffin and grabbed a bottle of water for the road.
Overall, I was pleased with Aer Lingus Business Class. The flight was on-time and I actually was happy to arrive later than the American flight from ORD. Aer Lingus Business Class fares tend to be more reasonable and while their product is somewhat meat & potatoes and certainly not as luxurious as many other airlines it is a good value. For those looking to be pampered you may be disappointed, but if you have more modest (realistic) expectations, then Aer Lingus is a solid product. What would discourage me from flying Aer Lingus is their lack of participation in any of the big three alliances. Not sure why they are not a member of oneworld as they are partners with British Airways (Aer Lingus AerClub points are also called Avios) Cathay Pacific and Qantas. Their only US partner is United.