Aer Lingus continues to roll out details on its A321LR fleet plans ahead of delivery later this Spring. The LR will kick off a brand revitalization effort in 2019 extending the carrier’s premium offerings. Even as it seeks to join some parts of the IAG framework, including the (long anticipated) transatlantic fares joint venture, Aer Lingus will keep a streak of independence from its IAG overlords.
Premium on the short haul
A premium, lie-flat product for business class passengers is a given in today’s market. Aer Lingus is hardly an outlier in choosing such. But the company did introduce a bit of surprise when suggesting that its A321LR fleet will connect onward into Continental Europe rather than just turning back and forth to North America. From a fleet utilization perspective this makes sense; the new planes don’t make any money sitting on the ground in Dublin. But it also means a shift in the European premium offering. The EuroBiz model will be replaced by a proper premium cabin in some markets.
ATW Online confirms that this is more than just an ad hoc use of the planes into the Continent. An Aer Lingus spokesperson suggested it “presents the opportunity to enhance the guest offering on the Dublin to Europe leg in the form of our lie-flat seating.” Which routes will receive the new service remain to be seen. Aer Lingus will add four A321LR aircraft to its fleet in 2019 and another four in 2020. Initial routes include Hartford, Minneapolis and Montreal.
Perhaps the real test will be whether Aer Lingus delivers more than just the premium seat on these flights. The carrier could focus on eroding premium yields from competitors with quick connections into more North American markets. Attacking Paris (Air France/SkyTeam), Frankfurt (Lufthansa/Star Alliance) or Zurich (Swiss/Star Alliance) could deliver a slight premium over typical connecting traffic while still undercutting the nonstop fares enough to attract passengers. And the Aer Lingus network on the US side brings a number of secondary markets into play.
Which WiFi on Board?
The overall IAG plan for inflight connectivity involves a blend of vendors. Aer Lingus committed to Panasonic Avionics‘ Ku-band offering well before it joined IAG and prior to the Gogo 2Ku deal the rest of the group’s long-haul fleet signed. A handful of the Aer Lingus 757s were slated to join the 2Ku party but the A321LR fleet was uncommitted at that time. PaxEx.Aero learned that these planes will carry the Panasonic kit on board for both entertainment and connectivity. The system will match the functionality and performance of the existing A330 installations.
From a consistency perspective the common system on board is good news for travelers. It also helps reduce maintenance complexity and aircraft servicing needs. And, for Panasonic, it represents a nice, albeit small, win for the company’s inflight connectivity product. That deal was almost certainly secured prior to the Inmarsat deal announcement last September but it shows that there are some airlines still committed to the PAC Ku-band solution on board.
As part of the brand revitalization the on-board wifi will also be free for all passengers on board, though only in a limited manner.
Unlike with complimentary limited messaging offerings from other carriers the megabyte-based package from Aer Lingus is less customer friendly. It does not convert to full connectivity package sales as well as the messaging offers. But it is relatively easy to implement with the existing Panasonic system so that helps drive the decision.