Aer Lingus Airbus A330-300
To say a lot has changed at Aer Lingus since I last flew the airline in 2014 would be an understatement. The airline’s fleet has grown, new destinations have been added, new products introduced, and ownership has transferred to IAG, the parent group of British Airways. On a recent work trip between New York JFK and Berlin, I had a chance to try out the new Aer Lingus business class product, which is now fully rolled out to every long-haul aircraft in the fleet. Yes, even the 757s.
My trip started at JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK, where Aer Lingus is one of just two other airlines that share the terminal with JetBlue. For whatever reason, Aer Lingus is incapable of issuing mobile boarding passes on flights to and from the United States, so I had a chance to visit the dedicated business class check-in desks. Staffed by friendly JetBlue employees, I was quickly checked-in and on my way to the relatively new Aer Lingus lounge.
I recently had the opportunity to fly Air Transat’s Club Class on their service from Manchester to Vancouver using an Airbus A330-200.
Club Class on Air Transat is more equal to premium economy on other European carriers, or World Traveller Plus on British Airways; it is not a true business class. That said, there are only two rows of seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, the seats sport a 36-inch pitch, and there is a dedicated cabin crew member; all this makes the cabin feel very personal.
From Manchester to Vancouver – Photo: GCMap.com
Although my flight did not depart until mid-day, I arrived very early at the check-in area which turned out to be a mistake. On a Friday morning, Air Transat also has a flight to Toronto that departs an hour before the Vancouver service. This meant that my flight was not yet open. After a 30-minute wait I was ready to check in. Although Club Class has its own desk, passengers still had to join a general melee to be processed and have passports checked by the handling agent’s security personnel. Having overcome this early problem, the rest of the processing was quick and the staff were polite.
A Thomas Cook Airbus A330 taxis by the Manchester Airport Runway Visitor Park – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
Every few days, I tweet out another installment of my “airline you’ve (probably) never heard of before” series. For many of you reading this, Thomas Cook Airlines probably fits that description. Thomas Cook is not a new airline, or really even that small. But unless you are European and going on holiday, you probably have not come across Thomas Cook as an option before.
That is slowly changing, as Thomas Cook starts its transformation from a primarily holiday booking and charter operation to full-time scheduled airline alongside its sister airline Condor. This is a daunting challenge, nearly as difficult as starting up a new airline from scratch in some regards. The airline reached out to me to give me a look at how they are changing, and offered a review flight in its Premium Class product. My response to them, basically, was “you have a premium class product?” It does, and it is worth a closer look.
The Premium Class cabin on my Thomas Cook A330 – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
Before I continue, it’s important to convey that Thomas Cook is not competing with other airlines on a basis of lie-flat seats or posh lounges. What it brings to the table is a specific value proposition. Getting passengers from A to B in relative comfort for the lowest fare possible. The airline is often hundreds of dollars less than its competitors flying between New York and Manchester — the route that I flew.
I wouldn’t blame you if you were to say “save hundreds of dollars? The flight is probably crap, right?” It isn’t. In fact, flying between New York and Manchester, it’s one of the better options. The Thomas Cook intercontinental fleet operates using the Airbus A330, and each aircraft has recently been refurbished. Each A330 sports economy in a 2-4-2 configuration, not the squishy 3-3-3 you might have found in the past. Each seat has its own on-demand entertainment screen, complete with USB port to charge your own device. You won’t find either of those things on a certain U.S.-based airline also operating this route.
Qantas Airbus A330-200 aircraft now feature the upgraded business class cabin – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
Over the last 18 months, Qantas has been progressively upgrading their business class product on their Airbus A330-200 aircraft. The new business suites bring the product in line with the ever-increasing trend of direct aisle access for all business class passengers, as well lie flat beds — a first for Qantas on the domestic market. The upgraded A330-200 cabins are configured with 28 lie-flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration that can remain in the recline position during takeoff and landing.
It has been quite some time since I last had the opportunity to fly domestically in business class with Qantas, and with my annual trip to Australia, I thought I would burn some Qantas frequent flyer points to check out their new business suites on the popular Sydney-Melbourne route, a very short 95-minute flight.