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Aer Lingus will begin flying fully-flat business class seats daily between Dublin and London across October 2019, courtesy of its new long-range Airbus A321LR jets.
The comfortable international-grade business class will easily trump conventional 'Euro-business' seats, even on this quick 80 minute dash.
Aer Lingus' Airbus A321LR fleet sport the same familiar business class seats as its Boeing 757 and Airbus A330 jets.
These are the Vantage series produced by Irish seat maker Thompson Aero and customised by London’s FactoryDesign to include more personal stowage and space around the seat.
The A321LRs will have 16 business class seats in a staggered layout, with three rows of paired seats on either side of the aisle alternating with two rows of solo ‘throne’ seats.
Each seat converts into a fully lie-flat bed, which might see little use from Dublin to London or Paris but will certainly be welcome on flights to and from North America.
Savvy travellers should look to book Aer Lingus' 7.30am flight EI154 from Dublin to London, and the 9.50am return leg EI155, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; or the 8.30am Dublin-London flight EI156, and the 10.50am EI157 for London-Dublin, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
These flights are currently showing in Aer Lingus' booking system from 1 October to 26 October, and are of course subject to change. Aer Lingus was approached by Executive Traveller for comment but had not replied by the time this story was published.
Dublin as a gateway
Aer Lingus' plans for the A321LRs will see the jets make the long trek between Dublin and North America, but also operate a second leg from Dublin to the likes of London, Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona.
The aim is to turn Dublin into a connecting gateway between North America and Europe, which means offering premium passengers a full business class experience from start to finish.
Although the primary market for the A321LR's European-bound business class cabin will be US and Canadian passengers transiting through Dublin, the airline will also sell the lie-flat seats on Dublin-Europe legs so as to fill the cabin on every flight.
However, the inflight service on those short hops will be drawn from the same 'buy on board' menu as available to every passenger, although meals and drinks will be complimentary.
The Irish carrier expects to fly to at least 18 North American destinations daily by 2024, with the A321LR opening up new routes to the US midwest as well as boost services to existing destinations such as Seattle and Florida.
Oneworld membership on the cards?
Aer Lingus could also rejoin the Oneworld alliance under the new Oneworld Connect partner model, rather than being a full member along the lines of British Airways.
Willie Walsh, CEO of parent company IAG, told Executive Traveller earlier this year that "Aer Lingus would certainly like to look at the Oneworld alliance again, and given the way that Oneworld has evolved I think that's a fairly realistic prospect."
Walsh indicated that Oneworld Connect – sometimes described as a 'membership lite' model – would be a likely fit.
"I think it's fair to say that one of the reasons Aer Lingus left the Oneworld alliance was because of the complexity associated with being a full member, which at the time was difficult for Aer Lingus to justify as the alliance expanded," Walsh expanded.
"I think the iterations that are now in place are much more suited to the business model of Aer Lingus and would be an attractive proposition for Aer Lingus."
Oneworld Connect partners provide a baseline of benefits to frequent flyers from any Oneworld member airline, with a more extensive range of benefits offered on at least three sponsor airlines.
That baseline sees travellers holding Oneworld Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald status – in Australia that’s equivalent to Qantas Silver, Gold and Platinum – able to use the priority check-in desks of a Oneworld Connect member, with priority boarding available with a flash of your Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald card.
There's a better set of benefits for top-tier frequent flyers from the sponsors of a Oneworld Connect airline: through check-in of luggage, earning and redeeming points, earning status credits plus lounge access for first and business class passengers and Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald cardholders.
Aer Lingus was a Oneworld member until 2007, when it left the global airline group as part of a strategic shift away from the premium market to become a low-cost airline.
The airline has since reversed course and, following a £1bn buy-out by IAG, has been edging closer to its parent, including the adoption of the common Avios currency in its AerClub frequent flyer scheme.