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.
Somehow understated, but an amazing and easy to find mark in any airport – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
I seem to live in airport lounges these days. I’ve noticed a theme, especially within the United States. The concept of luxury, decadence, and modernity have been eschewed by small packs of American cheese, rubbery cookies, and buy-your-own ill-textured food provided by Sysco. On top of that, the lounges are usually dirty. The showers feel more “grandmother’s basement” than luxury. In the case of one overseas lounge, it cannot pass a health inspection to save its life!
Etihad Airways has had great lounges in the past, but now again succeeds with the introduction of Facets of Abu Dhabi brand. Etihad knew they had to not just lead, but cement that lead, as best in all classes. To be fair though, the older-style Etihad lounges are starting to merely be the best, not years beyond the competition.
That said, according to Calum Laming, Etihad’s Vice President of Guest Experience, what they came up with is really not a mere lounge.
The bar is the central fixture of the new Etihad JFK lounge. It’s truly beautiful. – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
He is right.
Imagine if you could, with the help of an airport facility design firm called Gensler (they do shopping malls as well), create something inside an airport that felt nothing like it, save for the spectacular ramp view?
Well, they did it. I knew, previously, that Etihad takes its design cues from Fairmont hotels. Except when you step into the lobby of this lounge, it feels as if you have left JFK; teleported to Vancouver, and walked into the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel.
One of the British Airways Airbus A318s at JFK – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer Lindgren | JDLMultimedia
When it comes to long-haul flying, typically the bigger the aircraft the better. Whether it’s the Boeing 747 or Airbus A380, these are the aircraft typically associated with extreme luxury – private suites, on-board showers, and maybe even a fully stocked bar. Sometimes, though, smaller might actually be better. British Airways operates a pair of tiny Airbus A318s between New York JFK and London City Airport (LCY) with a business class-only configuration featuring only 32 seats (by comparison, Air France carries 131 passengers on their A318s). It sure is a strange (but great) way to fly. To give you a sense of just how small the A318 is, here are some numbers to help size it up: The Airbus A380 sports a total length of 238 feet with a 261-foot wingspan. The A318 is just 103 feet long with a wingspan of just under 112 feet.
The British Airways A318 cabin only has 32 seats – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
I was recently able to fly from JFK to LCY and experience what it’s like flying into London on the A318. Spoiler: It’s wonderful and actually quite a different experience. While the London to New York flight involves a stop in Shannon, Ireland for fuel, the reverse flight is non-stop.
A brand new 787-9, my ride to Santiago, Chile – Photo: Ben Granucci | AirlineReporter
I recently made a trip to Santiago to cover the opening of LAN’s new VIP Lounge. I was pretty excited since this gave me a few firsts. This was the first time that I was invited to do an international trip as media and my first time in South America. This was also going to be my first trip on a 787 of any variant. While the Santiago to JFK route was normally flown by a 787-8 at that time, the night before my flight I discovered that a brand new 787-9 had been swapped in. I was beyond excited!
The bulkhead row of seats on LAN’s 787-9 – Photo: Ben Granucci | AirlineReporter
Although I would say that I had a better than average international economy experience, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t encounter some challenges. Some were things that happen just because the complexities of running an airline, but others I think could be updated to improve the overall economy passenger experience.