This is the sixth and final post documenting my Memorial Day weekend trip to Sitges, outside of Barcelona. You can read an overview of the trip here.
There are pluses and minuses of connecting through Dublin on a return to the United States. The biggest pluses are Dublin’s location making it a geographically desirable connection point on the Great Circle Route from much of Europe to much of the US. Also, Dublin has US Immigration and Customs Preclearance Facilities, which means you land in the US as if you were a domestic passenger. But while connecting anywhere isn’t necessarily a great experience, but I found it to be a particularly stressful one. Notably, with a 3.5 hour scheduled connection time, I ended up having not much time sitting still at all.
My Aer Lingus flight from Barcelona to Dublin arrived late to Dublin’s Terminal 1, and there was a long wait for a gate. But even once I got off the plane, the connection was a bit of an ordeal. First, there was a massive long sterile hallway connecting T1 to T2, where all the US-bound flights depart out of. The signage wasn’t great, and I think several people accidentally left the hallway. There were no monitors or anything, so if you didn’t know your outbound flight was leaving out of T2, you might not have realized you needed to follow the signs for T2. There were also inadequate bathrooms, just single user facilities dotted along the fairly antiquated hallway. And, reader, I had to tinkle. It took me a full 30 minutes from the time we landed until I made it to Irish immigration at the entrance to T2.
The main terminal of T2 is quite nice and airy, with lots of shops and restaurants, high ceilings, and a modern feel. But given the timing, I figured I’d head right to the preclearance facility and into the separate area for U.S. departures. You go down a long hallway, then an escalator, then down another corridor, then down another set of stairs/escalator. First up was security, which was just an x-ray of bags; there was a shared business class and family lane, which did not move that quickly given that combination. Then there was U.S. immigration. I used the Global Entry kiosk, but all travelers have to stop at the agent anyway. The last time I flew out of Dublin and checked a bag, they showed me a picture of my checked bag; this time, they didn’t- I imagine it might be because I didn’t originate in Dublin. Finally, I was through to the US boarding gates at 2pm; a fifteen minute or so process from when I got to T2.
The US boarding gates at Dublin are terrible. It is one long corridor, with barely any seating, and a few small restaurants on one side of the hall. They manage to cram 6 gates essentially under the main concourse of T2, which means low ceilings and darkness. There is a pretty good lounge there now, at least. I had been to the 51st and Green lounge once before, shortly after it opened, and nothing has really changed about the space. I was there earlier in the day, though, so it was less crowded, and the food spread was breakfast. This time, the lunch spread was out (and in the process of being taken down), and, it was not as good. There was a gross potato lentil soup, “Creole beans sauce” and rice, smoked salmon, cheese, and then some salads. There were plenty of desserts.
Beverages were a bit of a mess (beyond self-serve soft drinks). The lounge brags that it has a “Barista” but it’s the same person serving as the bartender. The bar itself is small, but a group of guys from New York had just parked themselves there for easy access to refills, even though it is not meant to be a bar to sit at. The wait for drinks was thus pretty long.
Seating was also harder to find than during my last visit. Not only was the time of day different, but since my last trip, Aer Lingus has added several US destinations, and Norwegian has now started flying Dublin to the US as well. But given that every airline uses the lounge, and it’s a Priority Pass lounge, and the lounge is open to anyone for $39, I thought it would be even more crowded. I did find a seat with outlets and a view of the runway, but it was in the sudden, making it hard to work. Also, there was pop/rock music playing, which didn’t really give off a relaxing vibe.
I did take a shower on my stop in the lounge, which was fine, although there were no toilets in the shower rooms (or anywhere nearby), which is frustrating.
Aer Lingus’s boarding process was a mess. For one, the boarding time on my boarding pass was 90 minutes before departure—which is when they want people to head to the preclearance area, not when they actually board. So, I headed to my gate, which was on the complete opposite end of the terminal, at 3:20pm- 50 minutes before my scheduled boarding time. The pier had started to look like a rescue shelter, with people sitting in the middle of the floor, blocking the corridor. (It didn’t help that AA’s 11am to Philadelphia had been severely delayed and still hadn’t boarded yet.) The gate for the JFK flight was next to the gate for the SEA flight, and there was one seating area, which was a disaster. Seemed poor space allocation by Aer Lingus.
At 3:35pm, a gate agent announced that due to “ongoing servicing,” it would be another twenty minutes before boarding would begin. Standing was getting exhausting, so I fought my way through the gauntlet and back to the lounge for about 10 minutes. I came back to the gate at 3:52pm, and wheelchair boarding had begun. At 3:56pm, business class passengers began to board – but not the plane itself. We stood waiting on the very hot jet bridge for an additional 15 minutes, and it was about 4:15pm when I finally got into my seat on the A330.
I generally liked the seat– more than my Iberia seat. The business class cabin has a strange layout, and reminded me of Austrian. The left side of cabin has one seat, alternating with the seat closer to the aisle versus closer to the window. The middle section has two seats the whole way, with a small console between the seats. Finally, the right section alternates between one and two seats. The single seats in this section (3K, 5K, and 7K) are “throne” seats, with side consoles on both sides of the seat. They have the most space for a solo traveler, and that’s what I had gotten myself assigned. Out of thirty seats in business, only four were empty. The passenger mix on the flight was nearly all American, quite different from my Iberia outbound.
One thing the seat definitely had was storage. There was a small magazine pocket under the TV. Then on the right side of the seat there was a built-in little cubby with shelves. On the left side, there was a small cabinet with a door, and another magazine pocket. There were two USB ports and a regular power port in the seat. The one quibble I have is the table seemed a bit small.
The seat was also heavily customizable, with lots of buttons. There was an immobile touch screen for the in-flight entertainment, which could also be operated by a remote. It started working on the ground, which was nice, and it had a lot of TV and a very good selection of movies, including most of the 2017 Oscar nominees (which I had not seen).
At boarding, on each seat was a pretty substantial pillow, amenity kit, and noise canceling headphones. (My headphones were broken, but a flight attendant was able to grab me a pair from one of the empty seats.) The amenity kit was not very fancy, and the pouch is pretty small and not of high likelihood of reuse – the plastic felt like a cheap rain poncho. Inside, there was a cheap toothbrush and toothpaste, a Voya lip balm and hand cream, socks, an eye mask, mints, and earplugs.
Thankfully, the Aer Lingus crew was lovely, and they made the boarding process fairly efficient. The flight attendants seemed more senior and polished than I’d had on other trips on this trip. Shortly after boarding, the friendly FA came around with an offer of regular or rhubarb champagne, water, or juice. I tried the rhubarb champagne and it was fine. The FAs proactively came and picked up plastic wrappers, etc.
The captain explained there had been a delay due to needing get the plane from a remote parking spot or something, and at 5:07 local time, we were wheels up—about an hour late. Once in the air, the flight attendants distributed cards with passwords for 400MB free wi-fi for business passengers. That lasted me through the flight no problem.
About 45 minutes into the flight, the meal service began. It was very well-done, though seemed to drag on a bit. First came the drink cart with a plate of three canapes. One was a small smoked salmon sandwich. The other two, I couldn’t tell you. Sweet potato tart? Pate tart? Who knows.
Then came the full meal tray, which contained the appetizer, a small salad with greens, beets and feta, and a pass of the bread basket. Of the two appetizer choices, I went with the buffalo mozzarella which was sorta caprese, with a slice of tomato and a dot of pesto. It was tasty and quite fresh.
For the main, I probably should have gone with the steak or fish, but I went with the chicken with noodles in sweet chili sauce. It was a healthy portion of chicken, and flavorful, but a bit dry. Over dinner, I watched Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, and, it was …not great?
More than an hour post-canapes, my entrée plate was cleared. It was only fifteen minutes later, 2.5 hours into flight, that dessert came. But at least each course was presented with a smile. There was a choice of an apple crumble or a cheese plate, and I went with the former, with coffee.
Ten minutes later, plates were cleared and I continued watching The Shape of Water before sleeping about 30 minutes. There were supposedly snacks in the galley, but I didn’t see any. It was unnecessary, though, since right after I woke up, the “tea” service began. I think there was a service issue, because first came the tray with the two tiny finger sandwiches (roast beef, and vegetables and feta), along with clotted cream and jam. Scones came significantly after. They were fine, but it wasn’t as good as Virgin Atlantic’s afternoon tea.
I watched some TV episodes and before I knew it, we were making our descent into JFK, pretty much on time despite the delayed departure. The internet worked all the way until the descent, and, unlike other carriers, they did not collect headphones prior to landing.
By 6:56pm, I was on the ground in the JetBlue terminal. My bag took a while to come, as it hadn’t been priority-tagged at BCN, and ended up being one of the last off the plane for the flight. Still, not bad.
In all, I thought the Aer Lingus business class experience was quite lovely. The ground experience connecting in Dublin stank, though. I’d be curious to fly Aer Lingus on an eastbound leg to see if connecting to a non-US departure is a less harried experience.
Next: My summer travel continued with a July 4th Trip to Iceland.