Airline: Aer Lingus Flight #: EI263 Route: BHX-DUB Class: Economy Seat: 16A Date: Saturday 22nd February 2020
Towards the end of February, I was lucky enough to become rather familiar with Birmingham airport, flying from it two weekends in a row for international trips. The first of these trips was a short hop across the Irish Sea to the capital of the emerald isle, Dublin, flying with Ireland’s national carrier Aer Lingus.
An early start meant staying overnight in the Ibis Budget hotel adjacent to the airport terminal, which as the name suggests, was basic but sufficient for one night prior to a flight. By 5am I had negotiated my way through the throngs of people heading off on skiing holidays, had passed through security and was on my way to the lounge.
On my last trip from Birmingham (also to the Irish capital – read that here) I spent some time in the No. 1 lounge so on this trip I opted to try out the other lounge my Dragonpass provides access to, the Aspire lounge. Birmingham has two Aspire lounges, with the Aspire North being closest to security and also having windows overlooking the apron running along its length.
Along with the apron views, the Aspire lounge provides a buffet of hot and cold breakfast items along with a wide range of hot, cold and alcoholic drinks. Despite it being the peak period for departures from Birmingham, the lounge wasn’t overly busy, and I was able to get a table near the windows and settled down for some breakfast and to get some writing done.
Some fifty minutes before our scheduled departure, the inbound flight from Dublin arrived operated by EI-CVA, a 19-year-old Airbus A320-200 which has operated for Aer Lingus since its delivery in June 2000. With the gate announced shortly after the inbound aircraft landed, I headed towards the newer part of Birmingham Airport, with the International Pier being a 21st century addition to the historic airport.
As I arrived at the gate, I was greeted with an indication of the weather outside as an Air France A319 arriving from Paris had to undertake it’s second go-around due to the windy conditions. Go-arounds are a standard aviation procedure and can happen for numerous reasons but essentially when the pilots or air traffic control feel it is unsafe for the aircraft to land.
Boarding was a rather chaotic experience as after the priority passengers had boarded, the gate staff announced that the aircraft would be boarded by seat rows. Unfortunately, a general queue of passengers had already formed and so there were suddenly people trying to get to the front, whilst other passengers tried to let them past. Whilst I’ve no issue with aircraft being boarded by seat row, the fact this wasn’t announced before hand caused chaos and also didn’t speed up the process as I still queued on the apron for 10 minutes.
My seat for the journey was 16A and as boarding was completed, I was pleased to find the adjacent 16B was empty giving me a bit more space on the short hop to Dublin. To increase my chances of getting an empty seat next door, when I choose my seat at check-in, I aim to pick a window seat on a row where the aisle is already taken. Unless the flight is full and there is no other choice, very few people will choose a middle seat where the two adjacent have already been taken.
Pushing back at exactly 0800 we had a short taxi to Birmingham’s runway 33, however queuing being the depart Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner and waiting for the inbound Lufthansa flight from Munich caused us to eventually take off at 0813. Take off was a little bit lively with the wind gusting at 31knots (about 25mph), however we were soon heading north-west towards Liverpool and crossed the English coast over The Wirral about 15-minutes later.
The legroom onboard this A320 was fairly generous for a short-haul economy product with me being able to sit normally and not have my knees touching the seat in front. Aer Lingus are unfortunately one of the European carriers that do not provide complimentary drinks and snacks to economy passengers on short-haul flights and so as we crossed the coast, the crew began a quick trolley service.
Given the length of the flight I was quite impressed with the offering from the trolley with a wide range of drinks and snacks being available including sandwiches and a ‘full Irish breakfast’. I opted for the coffee and chocolate meal deal which got me a decent Java Republic coffee and a KitKat for €4.50 or £3.90 when I paid in pounds.
Just half an hour after departing Birmingham, and a couple of minutes after I had capitulated and bought a model aircraft from the onboard shop, the crew announced we were 10 minutes from landing. Although the approach was a bit hazy and rather windy, I was still able to get great views of Howth, North Bull Island and the city of Dublin from our westerly approach. Just 47 minutes after taking off from England’s second city we landed in the capital of the Emerald Isle and started our taxi back to Dublin’s Terminal 2
Unfortunately, as with our taxi out at Birmingham, our taxi in from the runway at Dublin took longer than it should as we got stuck in a queue of aircraft that were waiting to depart. Arriving on our remote stand at 0912, there was a short wait for buses to the terminal, but once we arrived into the terminal building it just took five minutes for me to clear passport control and customs.
I was quite impressed with my first flight on Aer Lingus, especially with the friendliness of the crew and the punctuality of the flight despite poor weather and strong headwinds. Although it’s disappointing that Aer Lingus don’t provide complimentary refreshments, the offering onboard the trolley was quite impressive, especially for what was a 45-minute flight. Aer Lingus have definitely got themselves onto my radar and if I’m heading to Ireland or America in the future, I’ll definitely take a look!
Lounge 0* Seat/Facilities 3* Food 3* Service 5* Punctuality 5* Overall Rating 16/25 (read about my rating system here!)