Airline: Aer Lingus Flight #: EI3264 Route: DUB-BHX Class: Economy Seat: 11A Date: Monday 24th February 2020
After being lucky with the weather whilst exploring Dublin over the previous two days (read about that here), I woke up early on the Monday morning to the sound of heavy rain outside the window. Thankfully before I left the BnB the rain had let up and only a light drizzle accompanied me for my walk back to the nearby stop for the AirLink bus.
I’m pretty sure I’ve raved about the Leap cards in a previous post, but they’re definitely worth it. If you’re in Dublin, GET ONE, as the day pass works out cheaper than a return on the AirLink and includes unlimited travel on that, the buses, LUAS (Trams) and trains within the city. I had a 72-hour pass for this trip which cost €19 meaning I essentially paid €5 on top of the AirLink fare for unlimited travel whilst I was there.
Having checked in on my mobile the previous day (Aer Lingus check-in opens 30 hours before the flights and allows free seat selection from this point), I had been provided with the option to purchase access to the Aer Lingus lounge for £30. Whilst I get some free lounge access with my DragonPass and had been planning on just visiting the generic airport lounge, I decided to see what Aer Lingus had to offer at their main hub and duly paid the £30.
The first slight problem with the lounge arose the day before as this purchased lounge access requires a voucher to be printed and presented to staff. Whilst my BnB didn’t have any computer or printer access, luckily the hotel my friends were staying in did and so with that problem solved the day before, I was ready for my visit.
Having a much better security experience than my previous visit to Dublin (whether this is a Terminal 2 vs Terminal 1 thing, I don’t know), I was soon following the signs into what seemed to be the bowels of the terminal and heading to the lounge. There’s no mistaking the Aer Lingus lounge from its neighbours with a giant shamrock greeting you as you arrive outside.
Whilst my first impression of the lounge was that it was quite smart and the staff at the front desk were friendly, I soon came to be disappointed with the offering and felt that £30 was rather overpriced for what was there. Whilst the general amenities in the lounge were fine (a range of seating areas, free wi-fi and showers etc), the food and drink on offer were rather underwhelming.
My visit to the lounge was from about 0800 and other than crisps and biscuits the only breakfast food on offer were fruit scones, which whilst delicious, seemed a rather limited selection for the home carrier’s lounge. Whilst there is a barista coffee machine, this is only available until 0700 and after that machines with very limited options are used.
There was a range of seating areas available including a mezzanine level ‘quiet area’ where I decided to base myself, however wanting to get on with some writing my options were limited as there only seemed to be power sockets near about a quarter of the seats. I was also disappointed with the attentiveness of the staff in the lounge as despite the mezzanine having its own coffee and snack area, this had clearly not been stocked up and only had a couple of packs of biscuits and nothing to stir drinks with.
To try and end the mini lounge review on a positive, I was extremely happy with the floor to ceiling windows providing excellent views out over the apron, taxiways and runway, although the rain did make getting photos rather challenging, with my camera deciding to focus on the raindrops rather than the aircraft.
After relaxing in the lounge and watching the aircraft for a couple of hours, I had just a 3-minute walk down to the bus gate my flight was boarding from. Being in AvGeek mode when booking my flights, I’d deliberately chosen this flight home as it was scheduled to be operated by an ATR for Aer Lingus Regional and so I wasn’t surprised that we’d be departing from a remote stand.
Whilst some people find bus boarding a pain, I think most AvGeeks will agree that it is a bonus to the airport experience as you get up close to the aircraft and often get an unofficial apron tour. I was on the second bus to the aircraft which had just a handful of passengers on and for me it was timed just right as we had to hold a couple of times on the apron for passing aircraft.
The short flight across the Irish Sea back to Birmingham was going to be operated by EI-FAW an ATR7 72-600 owned and operated by Stobart Air who operate Aer Lingus Regional flights on behalf of the Irish flag carrier. This ATR was just 6 years old and had a very smart and modern interior with slimline seats providing plenty of legroom in a 2-2 configuration. Being on the second bus, boarding was completed soon after I took my seat, and with 60 of the 72 seats onboard occupied, I wasn’t fortunate to have an empty seat next to me.
Being on a remote stand surrounded by taxiways there was no need for pushback, and we were off stand at 1011 for a quick taxi to Dublin’s runway 28 with us taking off at 1018. After a right turn, we crossed over the Irish Coast near Portrane and my seat of the left side of the aircraft gave me a great view of the Skerries Islands Natural Heritage Area.
The two flight attendants soon started the service, just as we were passing north of Anglesey and once again, I opted for one of the ‘meal deals’ available with a coffee and blueberry muffin costing €5.50 and using the last of my Euros. We took a right turn just after the Welsh island and crossed the coast of Great Britain near to the town of Llandudno with the captain announcing an ETA into Birmingham of 1105, 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
The skies over England and Wales were extremely cloudy and in one of the small breaks in the clouds I was treated to the wonderful sight of the M6 near Stafford… Finally breaking below the clouds as we passed between the West Midlands towns of Walsall and Sutton Coldfield, we landed on Birmingham’s runway 15 at 1102, after a flight of just 44 minutes.
In what seemed to be becoming a common trend for me on this trip we were delayed arriving onto stand due to waiting for Jet2’s Boeing 737-800 G-JZHW to depart on a flight to Funchal. The arrival experience into Birmingham was a bit of a mixed bag, with the transfer to the terminal by bus providing a great view of our aircraft, however being dumped outside Gate 1 and queuing climbing the stairs to the jet bridge in the rain quickly took away from that positive.
Arriving from Ireland, part of the Common Travel Area, we didn’t have to pass through passport control and were soon through to baggage claim. Whilst I had only traveled with hand luggage, I had offered to have my case checked at the gate in Dublin due to the flight being busy and so had to wait for this to make it from the aircraft. After about a 10-minute wait the bags arrived and passing through Customs into Birmingham’s modern arrivals area brought an end to my latest Irish adventure.
As my travel experiences go, I think this one is truly the most mixed experience I’ve had to review. Whilst it is great that Aer Lingus offer economy passengers the chance to visit their lounge, the actual lounge offering is certainly below par and I wouldn’t be too impressed if I’d paid for a Business Class ticket. Birmingham’s arrival process left a lot to be desired and is one of the few black marks against what is quickly becoming my favourite airport, however this experience still beats arriving at Stansted. Most importantly the flight and service provided by the Stobart Air crew on behalf of Aer Lingus Regional was excellent, friendly and professional and the early arrival into Birmingham was certainly a plus.
Lounge 2* Seat/Facilities 3* Food 3* Service 5* Punctuality 5* Overall Rating 18/25 (read about my rating system here!)