by Trent Nickson
Airline: Aer Lingus
Routing: New York-JFK (IATA: JFK/ICAO: KJFK)-Dublin (IATA: DUB/EIDW)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300 (EI-DUZ St. Aoife)
Departure: 1740 (scheduled), 1830 (actual)
Arrival: 0520+1 (scheduled), 0555+1 (actual)
ALL PHOTOS: TRENT NICKSON
After a nice weekend in New York, the return flight was a bit of a treat and I had used 110,000 of my Qantas frequent flyer points to get the two seats, as Qantas and Aer Lingus still have a relationship despite Aer Lingus no longer being a part of the oneworld alliance.
We arrived on the Air Train from Jamaica into Terminal 4 at JFK and proceeded to the Aer Lingus check-in area. Business Class and Gold Circle flyers have their own desk separate from the main check-in and when we arrived we were the only passengers there. The agent was on the phone, but immediately finished her call. Our bags were weighed, and then we were directed to place them on an ornate trolley in front of the desks for collection. We received an invitation to the Oasis Lounge, but as we had plenty of time to kill we went on the Air Train and visited a couple of the other terminals before going to the lounge.
Upon entering and handing over our lounge pass, we advised that a boarding announcement would be made in the lounge. In the entrance are cabinets full of china and such, topped with model aircraft from the various tenant airlines. Once inside, the first thing we did was to secure a couple of PCs in the Internet Cafe area to check our email. Access is complimentary (as it should be), so we spent some time there before getting drinks from the self-service bar. In addition to the bar, there is a television area, a selection of hot food, as well as other snacks such as rolls, cheese, crackers, and chips [crisps]. There is also a library with books lining the walls. The whole lounge offered a view over the ramp, with our Aer Lingus aircraft parked directly in front of us.
Once near gate A2, we had to pass through immigration which was quick and painless, and then through security which took somewhat longer as there was a queue. Also, they had run out of plastic trays, so we had to retrieve some from another line. We arrived at the boarding area and stationed ourselves beside the side reserved for Business Class and Gold Circle passengers. Boarding was called very soon afterward, and we were first to board the aircraft. Our boarding passes were checked and we turned left and proceeded past the three rows of economy into the Business Class cabin.
The Aer Lingus Business Class seats are the Recaro angled lie-flat model that are the off-the-shelf ones used by other airlines. The seat fabric is green, and each one had a snow white pillow. In the overhead locker, there were two blue duvets and we popped our cabin baggage up beside them.
Once seated, there was plenty of room, with the PTV in the back of the seat in front of us. The seat pocket is located directly under the PTV, and this contained noise canceling headphones packaged with a Unicef Change for Good envelope—a charity that many airlines seem to work with.
A literature holder beside the PTV contained the safety card, in-flight magazine, duty free catalog, and the menu. A feature that I hadn’t seen before is the water bottle holder, down on the right hand side of the seat near the floor so it would be reachable with the seat in the sleeping position. The seat is very comfortable and we relaxed while other passengers boarded.
The crew came around with pre-takeoff drinks and we selected Champagne (Jean Purnet Cuvée Tradition NV) over the water or fresh orange juice. This came in a weighty Waterford Crystal glass, with the word 'Premier', the former name of Aer Lingus Business Class that still appeared throughout the cabin. One of our crew was a bit of a celebrity as she is the lady featured in the in-flight magazine 'Cara' for a couple of years.
A two-hour ATC delay was announced by one of the pilots, so we decided to watch a movie. However, this didn’t last for long as the delay ended up being only 50 minutes or so. We watched the Aer Lingus animated safety demonstration video, the cabin lights were dimmed for takeoff, and we were soon in the air.
Once in the air, water bottles and amenity kits were handed out and I immediately put my bottle in the holder next to the seat. I retrieved our duvets from the overhead locker, removed the plastic, and settled in. It’s dark blue like the economy class blankets, very warm, thick, and comfortable. This is a really nice touch over the standard airline blanket.
We were offered canapes and drinks, and we stuck to the Champagne. There were four items on the plate: lemon dill shrimp, stuffed cherry tomato with fig and goat cheese, beef tenderloin topped with caramelized onion, and coponata on a toast square. These were polished off in short order and were delicious.
Hot towels were given out, and we refreshed our faces and hands before ordering vodka and lemonade. These were also presented in Waterford Crystal. Our meal order was taken, and there were four choices: lamb and morel stew, citrus chicken, crab cakes, or spinach gnocchi. We both opted for the lamb, described as 'A slow cooked stew with tender lamb, peas, onions, carrots, and morel mushrooms; topped with gratin potatoes'.
Our trays arrived containing the main meal and in addition was a salad which is described in the menu as, 'Insulata Rustica – consisting of a bed of mesculin lettuce, topped with cherry tomatoes, blistered grapes, prosciutto crisps, and shaved Parmesan cheese. This is served with Italian her vinaigrette'. Flight attendants also came by with a basket of bread.
The meal was nothing short of superb – great portion sizes, very tasty, and it pretty much faultless. The Premier branding was in abundance yet again, with every plate, glass, bowl, the serviette, and even the salt and pepper shakers holder so-designated.
Once the main course was cleared away it was time for dessert: a fruit and cheese plate or Irish cream bread pudding. We chose the latter and our tray was set out with a mug, sugar bowl, and milk (all Premier branded, of course) and our dessert. It was served warm with vanilla cream and again was a delight for the tastebuds.
After dinner, I indulged in a Bailey’s over ice and the cabin lights were dimmed so that people could get some sleep. In the supine position, the seats are angled, and it's not perfect for sleep as it’s not completely flat, but close enough to have a nice rest—especially snuggled up under the duvet.
After a fitful doze, breakfast was served. I chose a bagel which came with cream cheese and jam, as well as an orange juice and coffee. The bagel was cold and very dry, but after a bit the crewmember returned with strawberry banana yoghurt.
This was all cleared away, and we were soon on descent to an early morning arrival in Dublin. Business class passengers were first off the aircraft, and were quickly processed by Irish immigration. In Terminal 1 in Dublin there is a separate carousel (number 1) marked 'Business Class Priority Baggage Delivery'. This meant our bags came out separately and very quickly—the perfect end to a good flight.
Aer Lingus Business Class is very good. The cabin crew were efficient, helpful, and were always there to offer you something when required. During the night portion of the flight when the cabin lights were down, they were unobtrusive and quiet when passing through the cabin, which maximized opportunities for sleep. The food portion size was perfect, and the crew was not stingy with drinks. Recommended as a good way to get to and from Europe.
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