Photo Credit: Kyle Hayes/AviationSource

A Disappointing Experience: Onboard The Aer Lingus Airbus A321LR Long-Haul

WASHINGTON & DUBLIN – For the return journey of the event I attended for AviationSource News in the United States, I flew back on one of Aer Lingus’ newest product offerings, their Airbus A321LR (Long Range).

This leg of my journey was the return from Washington Dulles (IAD) back to Dublin (DUB). Aer Lingus operates the Washington service on a twice-daily basis with flights EI115 (DUB to IAD), EI116 (IAD to DUB), EI117 (DUB to IAD), and EI118 (IAD to DUB).

All of their Washington services are operated by their Airbus A321LR fleet.

Aer Lingus’ Airbus A321LR aircraft features a configuration of 16 lie-flat business class seats and 168 economy class seats.

For this particular route, I was on flight EI116, the earliest return of their two daily Washington services, with flight EI118 operating later in the evening back to Dublin.

Flight Details


  • Flight Number: EI116 / Callsign EIN11P
  • Departure Airport: Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
  • Arrival Airport: Dublin Airport (DUB)
  • Aircraft Registration: EI-LRA, 3 years old at the time of flying.
  • Aircraft Type: Airbus A321-253NX LR (Long Range)

Dulles Arrival & Check-In


At the time of getting to the airport, the vehicle drop-off was quite busy, which meant there was a build-up of slow-moving traffic, but getting from the car to the check-in desk was quick and easy, and each airline was well-signed.

Unfortunately, due to the delay I experienced with the Washington Metro, I, fortunately, didn’t have to contend with any check-in queues at Washington Dulles, however, the staff was very efficient at getting you checked in and sending your luggage away to your aircraft.

Dulles Security


The security checks at Dulles were well-organized, and due to having very new X-Ray machines, you don’t have to remove any item from your bag as the X-Ray machines take a 3D scan of your bags that allows the security official to view and move around on their screen to see what is inside of your bag.

This, of course, meant that the security process was far quicker than anything I’ve experienced, and because there are a lot of security areas throughout the terminal building, there was very little queue build-up too.

Dulles Terminal


After leaving the security area, I once again boarded Dulles’ train shuttle to get from the main check-in and security terminal to my aircraft’s gate.

Due to the fact that I was running behind schedule, I didn’t get much chance to see a lot of the departures area of Dulles’ terminal; however, for my flight, I was at their B Gates.

Each terminal at Dulles airport is quite long, meaning there is quite a bit of a walk for most of the outer gates compared to the ones that are closer to where you come in from the train shuttle.

Thankfully there are plenty of shops and food places in the main departure areas as well as plenty of seating, most of which have power outlets so you can charge any personal devices prior to boarding your flight.

Boarding & Seat


The boarding process worked very well with very little queue build-up, which was mostly helped by the staff’s efficiency and the fact that passengers were boarded in their respective group numbers/letters.

My seat for this return service is 27F, which is a standard economy class seat with adequate legroom for someone who is average height, however, taller people may find it a little tight, especially if you have a bag under the seat in front of you which subsequently limits your foot space, so, on busier flights where you would have to have a bag under the seat due to the overhead bins being full, this could be uncomfortable, especially on longer services.

Much like the rest of their narrowbody fleet, Aer Lingus’ A321LRs are in a 3-3 configuration, with the business class being in a staggered 2-2 configuration.

As well as the minimized legroom, the pocket of the seat in front of you is very small, so you can’t fit an awful lot in the pocket, so any needed items would need to remain in your hand luggage.

The seats themselves aren’t the most comfortable as they are the Airbus ‘slimline’ seats, so the padding on them isn’t great, and for longer flights, you certainly do need to get up and stretch; however, Aer Lingus did provide a blanket and pillow which certainly helped to improve the comfort a little.

However, what didn’t help the comfort of my flight was a child kicking the back of my seat for near enough the entire duration of the flight. Coupled with the slimmer seats, meaning a lot more could be felt on your back.

One thing I did like was their seat design, with headrests that had the Aer Lingus Clover logo and dark outer fabric and lighter inner fabric with the Aer Lingus green piping.

Aer Lingus’ IFE (In-Flight Entertainment) system was of a very high standard, with plenty of choices of movies, TV shows, games, podcasts, and music playlists to choose from. Not only this, but you get the usual flight map, and the system is very responsive, so there is very little wait for anything to load up.

You will also find two headphone jacks to plug in normal headphones to listen to your personal IFE, as well as a USB-A connection to charge your devices. There is also a low-power plug outlet that is just below the seat in front of you.

Aer Lingus do provide headphones should you need them; however, there wasn’t a lot to go around for a nearly enough full aircraft.

In-Flight Service


Shortly after departure from Dulles, the crew began meal service, which for this flight consisted of either lightly spiced chicken and rice or a vegetable burrito.

I chose the lightly spiced chicken and rice; however, I was far from impressed as there was very little taste, and it may as well have been plain chicken and rice with no additional flavoring or spices.

As well as the main dish, Aer Lingus also provided small water, a side salad, a bread roll, and the best part of this meal, the triple chocolate mousse, which was delicious with some half-and-half (half milk/half cream).

We were also given a complimentary drink of choice; however, you could only choose a soft drink, juice, or water. If you wanted alcohol, you had to buy this, which at the time of flying beer and cider were approximately €5 and wine was approximately €6.

The crew then came around a little while after the meals had been handed out, offering a complimentary cup of tea or coffee.

Approximately an hour before landing in Dublin, the crew served then breakfast which was unfortunately again disappointing as all it consisted of was an orange juice and a Nutri-grain snack bar; no other choices were provided.

Arrival Into Dublin


After a 6-hour 26-minute flight, the arrival back into Dublin was a little turbulent given the weather was deteriorating rapidly with heavy rain, and thankfully, flight connections through Dublin airport at the Aer Lingus terminal are highly efficient and very quick, so getting to my connecting service was very easy, especially at 5 am after no rest on the flight from Washington.

Conclusion


I certainly found Dulles’ passenger experience very pleasant and easy, even given the fact that I was running behind schedule. The flight itself was certainly a lot smoother when compared to the turbulence I had on my outbound United service.

Aer Lingus’ economy class offering on their Airbus A321LR aircraft was below-par and falls into the same grouping as the service that British Airways provides on its short-haul routes, which I guess is consistent given that both airlines are part of the IAG Group.

I think Aer Lingus’ services on their A321LR, especially for longer routes, would benefit greatly if they offered more leg and foot room as well as wider seat armrests, as you are fighting for a small and narrow armrest with your seatmates, an unfortunate drawback of Airbus’ slimline seats as part of their ACF product.

As for the food, I was certainly disappointed with the main course, however, I’d still like to give Aer Lingus another chance and see what other alternative food choices they offer.

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