Aer Lingus will buck the Euro-business trend by installing fully-flat business class seats on its forthcoming Airbus A321 jets, which will bring many popular European destinations under their wing.
The Irish flag-carrier expects to take delivery of the first of 14 long-range Airbus A321LR aircraft in June, boasting 16 flat-bed business class seats at the pointy end.
Although the A321LRs will primarily serve trans-Atlantic routes to North America, on return to Dublin an estimated eight of the single-aisle jets will be dispatched to key European cities,
“We will have 15 aircraft arriving before 5am across the Atlantic [each day],” explains Aer Lingus CEO Stephen Kavanagh, but instead of those jets sitting on the ground in Dublin for almost half a day they will continue through to the likes of London, Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona.
“When we have the LRs going on into Europe, they will now have a business cabin with full lie-flat seat."
"At the moment, passengers getting a business class experience across the Atlantic transfer on to an economy aircraft," Kavanagh tells The Irish Times. "It will give us the ability to offer a full end-to-end business cabin experience to the five or six principal European destinations."
Aer Lingus will begin selling its European flat-bed business class from the third quarter of 2019, following the arrival of its second A321LR in August, "and then we’ll start to schedule the aircraft on to the principal high-volume business routes into Europe," Kavanagh says.
Although the primary market for the A321LR's European business class will be US passengers transiting through Dublin, Kavanagh says the airline will also sell the seats on stand-alone Dublin-Europe legs so as to fill the cabin on every flight.
However, the extra space and comfort of a true business class seat is all that passengers can expect once airborne. "We are not going to be reintroducing bespoke catering," Kavanagh says. "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."
“I’ve been excited about this aircraft for the last seven years,” Kavanagh says, in part due to the A321LR's ability to open up new routes to the US midwest and boost existing destinations such as Seattle and Florida, but with less risk that the airline's current A330 trans-Atlantic fleet.
While the A321LRs can reach most parts of the US east coast, they do so with same relative seat costs as the larger A330s.
The A321LR jets are part of a five-year plan to fly 30 aircraft, up from the current 17, to at least 18 North American destinations daily, with Dublin Airport positioned as a hub connecting North America with Europe.