Monday, July 31, 2017

Trip Report: Aer Lingus, Boston to Dublin (July 2017)

Trip Report: Aer Lingus, Boston to Dublin
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

As part of my European trip, I was going to spend time in Dublin.  When looking to travel between the U.S. and Europe, flying to Dublin has proved to be one of the low cost options.  There are many airlines that fly between US and Dublin, but Aer Lingus was offering some of the best rates – and since I want to try new airlines – I booked with Aer Lingus. 

My original flight path was from New Orleans to Boston on JetBlue, Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus, Dublin to Chicago on Aer Lingus, and then Chicago to New Orleans on United (I later had to change the return due to work so instead of Aer Lingus came back on American Airlines - check out that blog post here).  Everything was booked through Aer Lingus as they have a lot of partnerships and codeshares with various airlines.  It was extremely easy to book and navigate through the Aer Lingus site.  On the site you can see which option best fits you, and if another day has a cheaper option.  After selecting the flights, you can then choose other options for the flight.  Free checked baggage was included in my ticket, along with free seat selection.  Aer Lingus provides complimentary meals, or you can upgrade your emails for a price.  You can also add lounge access, hotels, and car rental at the time of booking.  Overall, it was easy to manage the flights and manage the options.

Aer Lingus also partners with many airlines so within one ticket you are able to seamlessly transfer between airlines.  For my ticket, I had partnered with jetBlue as they were my first carrier I was unable to check-in to my flight.  I was told I had to receive the boarding passes from the Aer Lingus counter in Boston.  In Boston, Aer Lingus has a number of flights to and from both Dublin and Shannon.  My flight was scheduled to depart at 9:20pm and around 8p the staff started making announcements requesting anyone who had connections, or those who had printed their boarding passes at home, to come and verify and collect their boarding passes.  They also made announcements that boarding, which was scheduled to start at 8:30p, was now going to be delayed.  Even though we started to board late, and it was a generally full flight, boarding was efficient and we were able to push back within 5-10 minutes of the departure time.

The aircraft on this route was an Airbus A330-300 which can seat over 287 in economy in a
2-4-2 layout.  The legroom was pretty decent on the plane, as long as the person in front of you did not recline.  If they did not recline, then the legroom was pretty good; however, if they did decline then the legroom cut down dramatically.  I was seated in an aisle on the 2-seat section on the other side of the cabin in the first economy section – there were two economy sections and one business class section.  Once boarding finished, there was an empty 4-seat available behind me so I moved there.  As I said, even though we boarded late, boarding was quick and we pushed back generally on time.  The flight attendants were on hand to greet passengers, and when it was time to screen the safety video they came around to ensure everyone was awake and paying attention to the video (almost like you were back in school). 

The flight time was scheduled at 5hr30min so it is not a long flight.  The seats are generally comfortable, although there is not that much padding so you feel the stiffness by the 5th hour.  The headrests are adjustable, and as I said before the legroom was decent.  Each seat had a blanket, a pillow, and a headset waiting for the passengers.  In the seatpocket were the safety card, throw-up bag, airline magazine, and another magazine which doubled both as the duty free shop as well as the buy on-board snack shop. Each seat did have individual PTV’s, which were small but seemed updated.  No USB ports were available and I could not find plug outlets beneath the seat.  Even though the screens were touchscreen, they were not very sensitive and it took a while to respond – it was easier to maneuver with remote.  The remote was located in the armrest, as were the headphone jacks.  The remote also contained the buttons for the light and call button.  Selection in the PTVs was definitely limited, especially in the TV section.  While there was a decent selection of movies, and this selectin would be enough to get through the short flight, there were not enough selection of TV programs available to get through the entire flight.  It was also sometimes hard to see the screen.

Our scheduled departure time was 9:20p and we pushed back generally on-time and then had a decent taxi to the runway before taking off about 9:45pm.  There was going to be a beverage service, then meal service, then tea and coffee, and then duty free.  Most other transatlantic flights, especially night flights, tend to start the service very quickly so that it can be quickly finished and passengers can get the most amount of rest.  I am not sure whether it was because of turbulence, or this is how they operate, but the service did not commence until at least an hour after take-off, so around 10:45p/11p.  As the cabin lights were dimmed, and the crew were taking some time, most passengers were asleep.  

Around 11p, the crew turned on the cabin lights to begin their service.  The first service was a full beverage cart in which some drinks were complimentary while others needed to be paid for.  A packet of pretzels were served along with the drink.  Afterwards, the meal service commenced but it was not right after – it took some time after the drink service for the meal service to begin.  I had ordered a special meal so mine was brought out prior to everyone else’s – the choices in the main cabin were either beef pot pie or chicken with veggies.  Along with the entrĂ©e, the meal tray contained bread, salad, and water.  My meal tray also contained fruit for dessert, while others had ice cream.  The portion size of the meals was tiny, but to be fair the airline had promoted it as a “half-dinner’.  You could upgrade to a full dinner for a charge before the flight.  Afterwards, tea and coffee were served. 

After the meal trays were cleared, the cabin lights remained on for a long time as the
crew was preparing for the duty free.  Again, as compared to other transatlantic flights, this was the most time I had seen the cabin lights on in a flight.  The lights remained on for almost 2.5hrs – which is long considering it was only a 5hr flight (with strong tailwinds the flight time became shorter).  After duty free, the cabin lights were dimmed but we only had 2 hours left of the flight.  About an hour later, flight attendants came by (in the dark) and handed out boxes which contained a light breakfast.  The box contained a small orange juice and a muffin.  No other drink service was provided along with the breakfast – although water and other drinks were available in the galley.

The cabin lights were switched on when we were starting out decent into Dublin.  The cabin was prepared for landing and we landed into Dublin about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, and then had a quick taxi to the gate.  Immigration and customs was quick –it took about 10 minutes- and I was out the airport and on the bus less than an hour after landing.

Overall, it was an interesting flight with Aer Lingus.  The timing of the service was still a bit odd and did not allow for maximum sleep, which is what most passengers want on an overnight transatlantic flight.  Given the short flight time, the airline flights a nice service – decent seats, nice legroom, a PTV, free checked baggage, and a light meal.  Also, the airline is very good at connections both within Ireland and with other airline partners and this is very convenient.  Given all this, would I fly them again?  While they would not be my first choice, if I found a good deal (and they usually have them from the US NE coast) then I would not hesitate to fly them again.

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