Sneak Peek: Inside the new Aer Lingus business class
Aer Lingus is launching a new business class cabin in 2015, with lie-flat beds among the features that should see it combine with US Customs and Border pre-clearance at Dublin Airport to steal a march on transatlantic competitors.
So what will the new service look like? I've picked out the best new features here... expect to see them rolled out between January and March of next year.
1) Lie-flat seats
The new business class cabin features fully lie-flat seats - a small but important upgrade on its current angle-flat beds. The nifty ThompsonAero Vantage Suite seats are in use by JetBlue, among other airlines, and recline into two-metre beds. 90pc of the seats have direct access to the aisles, the airline says, although the lie-flat beds will only be available on its A330s, and not 757 services.
2) A16-inch HD screen
New personal entertainment consoles feature 16-inch screens and multi-touch capabilities, bringing them into line with the highest standards across global long-haul. Some 90 hours of TV shows are promised, along with dozens of new release movies and 1,000 albums.
3) Food and drink
An on-demand gourmet food and wine offering will ensure "you never go hungry", according to the airline's snazzy business class preview website, but we await further details on that. Will Clodagh McKenna, who designed the airline's 'Bia' menu, be involved?
4) Other services
The new business class product also promises free wi-fi (which costs €19.95 per 24 hours for economy class customers), USB power outlets, pre-boarding night-time dining services at Boston and JFK, noise cancelling headphones, a goodie bag (featuring Voya samples) that doubles as an iPad case, and custom storage for shoes, coats and laptops.
5) How much will it cost?
Lead-in prices in 2015 start from around €699 per sector, the airline says - though depending on availability, they can quickly rise to two or three times that. Another recently introduced service allows customers who book economy class seats to bid on business upgrades, with lowest prices from around €300 per sector.
So with fancy new cabins on the way, and the airline on a firm financial footing (long-haul passenger numbers were up over 22% in July), where can business class passengers expect to jet off to in 2015?
Direct flights to Toronto and San Francisco re-commenced from Dublin this year, and there was chatter about new transatlantic routs to Huston, Dallas or Miami at the airline's recent half-yearly results.
“I will not mention any destinations but we have very concrete plans," said CEO Christoph Mueller. "There is more good news to come and that will happen while I am still here."
Mueller is to step down as CEO in May, 2015.
Aer Lingus is also working on a new economy class cabin; announcements TBC.