When I mention to friends I’m flying with Aer Lingus in Business Class they look surprised. “Isn’t it a budget airline?” Absolutely not!
Founded by the Irish government in 1936 the airline is now a wholly owned subsidiary of International Airlines Group (IAG) and flies to 11 Stateside destinations. I took the largest aircraft in its fleet, the Airbus A330 from Dublin to Newark, beginning my flight in London.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance
The only European country to offer full US Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance before flying, Ireland has it down pat at Dublin’s Terminal 2. After a superbly smooth 75-minute flight from Heathrow (great lounge) once out of security and passport control, I headed downstairs to the US Customs pre-clearance area. You’ll need to allow at least an hour for the process, but it means a speedy getaway Stateside. Alternatively, use one of the 18 self-service kiosks that are available for US citizens and ESTA passengers. Simply scan your passport, have your photo taken, scan your digits and take your approval receipt to a US pre-clearance officer for a brief inspection. Done!
At Newark I was treated as a domestic arrival, allowing me to avoid lengthy and stressful immigration queues, pick up my luggage and be in my Manhattan-bound Uber a mere 40 minutes after landing! Such a treat. ‘Arriving before you depart’ is genius!
Aer Lingus Lounges: Heathrow and Dublin
I didn’t stay long in the Heathrow lounge but enjoyed the well-designed and light-filled space, thanks to the 5m-high glass walls with great views of the runways. A selection of buffet snacks and drinks was available, and I especially liked the separate ‘quiet area’ with chaise longue-style seating. The work zone area was well equipped with power points and offered full ICT services.
At Dublin airport, Business Class and select AerClub members can enjoy the Aer Lingus lounge located in the T2 Departures area. I relaxed here before heading for pre-clearance, followed by the welcome calm inside the spacious 51st&Green lounge. Conveniently located adjacent to US departure gates 405 and 406, 51st&Green is a light-filled 750 sq m lounge space with large windows looking out onto the runway. And it’s the only airport lounge in the world this close to all the big bird action.
The 51st&Green lounge is divided into distinct activity areas, with a dedicated workstation zone, a comfortable lounge area, and quiet relaxation space, as well as dining tables. There’s a wide range of food and drink: from fish pie to mac and cheese. Tempting pastries and cakes are there too, as well as healthier salad and quiche options. As a die-hard java addict, I loved the Barista Bar, which served excellent coffee – surely an essential ingredient of any successful airport lounge.
As you’d expect, Wi-Fi is complimentary and there is luxury shower rooms, multiple charging outlets, printing facilities, a private area for Platinum Service customers, an entertainment area with sports channels – and most welcome of all, very friendly and efficient staff. Conveniently, 51st&Green is only minutes away from the US boarding gates.
Aer Lingus doesn’t yet have its own dedicated lounge at Newark (unlike JFK) so guests can make use of the BA lounge (open from 15:00 to 22.45) next to Gates B50-58. This was a huge space, with plenty of seating but the selection of food and drink on offer didn’t match the Aer Lingus lounge at Dublin.
Business Class Cabin – Airbus A330
Oh, the pure joy of turning left on an aircraft. The Aer Lingus cabin crew were immediately welcoming and showed me to my fabulous seat: 2A on the outbound and 6A inbound. The configuration in Aer Lingus Business Class is 1:2:1, providing plenty of privacy for solo travellers as well as open-aisle access. The branding is light and bright, and I loved the shamrock motif on the front wall panel.
My seat was next to the window with storage to my right. With a vacant double seat across the aisle, I enjoyed my own private and very generous space. And thanks to the ample 22-inch seat width and generous 6.5ft lie-flat seat, even the longest of legs will be able to stretch out.
The seat was comfortably supportive with an easy-to-use control panel that boasted a fabulous massage facility. Relax, Upright and Sleep options also meant I could position the seat in a variety of angles, whether I was eating, resting, sleeping or watching some of the 120 hours of entertainment on offer via the 16-inch Panasonic touchscreen (the hand control is located in the armrest).Aer Lingus supplies noise-cancelling headphones, although I chose to use my Apple earphones as they are lighter on my noggin.
The personal charging points and USB outlets are sufficient and there is space for a mini-tablet on a pullout tray under the screen.
I loved the small cabinet for personal items, and the magazine/laptop storage – there’s even storage for shoes. Aer Lingus Business Class seats are your office, your private restaurant and your bedroom all in one luxurious and well-designed space.
Falling asleep later, I welcomed the cotton-rich pillows and blanket.
Service and Cuisine
The flight attendants on both my outbound and inbound flights were extremely professional, courteous and regularly checked on passengers between meals. Once on board we were offered a glass – with generous refills – of Jean Pernet Champagne, water or orange juice. Lunch menus were also handed out at this point, as well as amenity kits and blankets. Special meal requests can be ordered up to 24 hours in advance of the flight.
The tray table, as I discovered, is discreetly sited between the seat and the storage compartment. Large enough to hold a tray and several drinks, as well as a magazine. White linen tablecloths also feature the Shamrock logo. Classy.
The amuse bouche to accompany my Champagne was tasty (olives, meat, cucumber, fish paste) as was my Barton Bordeaux – a fruity mélange of Merlot/Cab Sauvignon/Cab Franc/Petit Verdot.
I enjoyed a delicious prawn cocktail with salad for starters; the bread roll and butter were also very good. Mains choices were fishcake, roast Parmesan chicken or beef fillet medallions. I opted for the delicious fishcake with tartar sauce and green beans. The chicken and beef also received appreciative nods from fellow diners. Eschewing the raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake, I dived into the cheeseboard with its fab apple and plum chutney, accompanied by a Sandeman port miniature.
Aer Lingus supports local provenance in its meals, using suppliers such as Burren Smokehouse out of County Clare, and James Whelan Butchers from Tipperary to name just two. Flavours and presentation – on Wedgwood China – were excellent.
I declined coffee in favour of sleep, but not before I’d enjoyed a couple of great movies: Assassin’s Creed and La La Land. I stretched out to my full 5-foot 2-and-a-half inches after the superb lunch and slept for the remainder of the flight, thankfully not awakened by the considerate crew for afternoon tea (superfood salad and scones).
Arriving fresh and awake in Newark, I loved the chilled towels before landing, thank you crew. And best of all? No horrible customs queues to endure or offensive pat downs and detailed questioning since I was treated as a domestic traveller. Heaven.
After a short walk to luggage collection, I was in a Manhattan-bound Uber only 40 minutes after landing. That’s what I call luxury.
This was my first transatlantic flight with Aer Lingus and the first time I’ve flown to the US via Dublin. I was so impressed by the impeccable service, the superb cabin seating and the whole luxurious Business Class experience, I will be flying Aer Lingus across the Pond on my next trip, to be sure. Highly recommended.
Aer Lingus Business Class – Dublin to Newark
Aer Lingus, Ireland’s only 4 Star airline, currently operates up to four flights daily to New York, seamlessly connecting UK travellers via Dublin and Shannon. Pre-clear US Immigration at both airports before you board, avoiding lengthy queues upon arrival in the US. Wi-Fi access is complimentary in Business Class. All Business Class cabins are fitted with 6.5ft, 22-inch width full lie-flat seating, an extensive in-flight entertainment selection, new menus offering the best of modern Irish cuisine and a selection of wines, Champagne and spirits.
Business Class luggage allowances are one item of hand luggage (10kg) and three items of checked baggage (combined total up to 69kg) on Transatlantic flights. Business Class fares vary according to season. For further information and booking, visit aerlingus.com
Luxurious Magazine | November 2017