9 July 2005, DUB-LHR, EI 156
Airbus A321, Seat 3A
Sched. Dep - 0835, Actual Dep - 0900
Now that I have moved from Australia to Ireland, I thought it was high time that I tried the national airline of my adopted country. I've mostly only heard bad things on this forum - Aer Lingus shouldn't be in OneWorld as it's a low cost airline, Aer Lingus is no good, and so on and so forth. So I thought I'd see for myself...
I arrived at Dublin airport nice and early for my flight, and used the Fast Pass check-in. You can see a demonstration at the following web site - http://www.aerlingus.com/FastPass/
You stick in your credit card, it confirms who you are and up comes the colourful and easy to use touch screen interface that lets you pick your seat. I changed mine to 3A and voila - boarding pass printed and I was ready to go.
It took me about 10 minutes to get through security (where everyone must take their shoes off - I had holes in my socks, really classy hehe!), and then I waited at the boarding gate. The flight was delayed a few times from the original boarding time, but once boarding commenced, the plane was filled pretty quickly. I would estimate we were 80% full.
The safety demonstration at Aer Lingus is similar to Qantas in that the flight attendants do the demo in front of you. They also dim the lights before take off, which I've only seen a few airlines do, and I think it's much safer than leaving the lights brightly shining throughout takeoff.
Cabin decor is quite nice. The seats are green, and the fabric has cursive writing all over it. One of the sayings I could make out had something to do with bees and honey. It's an intriguing design!
Seat pitch is excellent. When I was sitting down, I had a good 10-12cm (about 4 or 5 inches) between my knee and the seat in front of me. It didn't feel claustrophobic at all. This is the seat pitch I am used to in Economy class on airlines such as Qantas and the like. Definitely not the cramped "pack them in" seating I expected from comments on this site.
Anyway, the pilots informed us that there was an ATC delay and that we'd be another half an hour sitting on the plane. The lead flight attendant chatted at length to some people who were worried about missing their connection. They were also asking silly questions and all the while she was pleasant and very helpful. I was impressed! Happily, the pilot came back on to advise that we were to go immediately, and we took off on our 50 minute flight to London Heathrow.
Shortly after takeoff, we were allowed to order a meal if we wanted to. Below is the entire menu that is available, along with the prices.
Skycafe Menu -
Full Irish Breakfast - € 7.00
Sausages, Bacon, Grilled Tomato, Black and White Pudding & Sauteed Potatoes. Served with Gills Farmhouse Brown Bread, Orange Juice and Tea/Coffee or Cappuccino.
Sandwiches - € 4.00
Chicken & Stuffing.
Ham with Cheddar Cheese & Honey Mustard.
Mature Cheddar Cheese & chopped Spring Onion.
Panini - € 5.00
Hot Ham & Cheese.
Savoury Snack Pack - € 3.00
Jacob's Sundried Tomato Flavour Crackers, Mini-Cheddars, Jacob's Bran Table Crackers, Pate & Cheese Spread.
Muffins - € 2.00
McVitie's Galaxy Chocolate Muffin.
Lemon Curd Muffin.
Cookies - € 1.50
Lily O'Brien Double Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Pringles - € 1.50
Original, Sour Cream & Onion, 50gm.
Dairy Milk & Kit Kat - € 1.00
Maltesers King Size & Maynards Wine Gums - € 1.50
Shark Tale Children's Snack Box - € 4.50
Beer - € 3.50
Heineken 330ml can.
Grolsch 330ml can.
Soft Drinks - € 1.50
Coca Cola, Diet Coke, Club Orange, 7up, 330ml can.
Tipperary Water 500ml bottle.
Spirit Miniatures - € 4.00
Baileys Mini 70ml, Cork Dry Gin, Teacher's Whiskey, Bacardi Rum, Martell Brandy, Smirnoff Vodka, Jameson Whiskey, 50ml bottle.
Mixers - € 1.00
Schweppes Tonic, Schweppes Soda, Canada Dry Ginger Ale, Britvic Tomato Juice, Britvic Orange Juice, 150ml can.
White Wine - € 4.50
Willowglen Semillon Chardonnay. 1/4 bottle.
Red Wine - € 4.50
Willowglen Shiraz Cabernet. 1/4 bottle.
Champagne - € 10.00
Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne, 1/4 bottle.
Hot Drinks - € 2.00
Nescafe Coffee, Kenco Cappuccino and Lyons Tea.
Irish Times - € 1.50
Sunday Independent - € 2.00
Irish Examiner (Cork flights) - € 1.50
I was hungry, and I ordered the Full Irish Breakfast. The meal tasted amazing! The sausages were delicious, the bacon great, the black and the white pudding both equally nice, nice potatoes, and so on and so forth. I devoured every scrap of it that was put in front of me. It was better than my Business Class meal on Cathay Pacific (PEK-HKG) a few months ago.
Shortly after that, we landed, braked heavily (which was fun!) and arrived at Gate 90 in Terminal 1 at Heathrow. Of course, this is the furthest away from the entrance to Terminal 1, which means a very long walk to get out of the airport.
Surprisingly, 2 days after the London bombings, my Passport wasn't checked on arrival. At Dublin, all I had to do was show the photo page as we boarded, and then I exited the other end without anyone checking anything.
11 July 2005, LHR-DUB, EI 169
Airbus A321, Seat 4A
Sched. Dep - 1650, Actual Dep - 1650
For the return flight, I again used the Fast Pass service and seated myself in 4A. It's a good system, because you can see which seats are already booked around you, and pick one in the hopes of having no-one sitting next to you in the middle seat, which I managed for both sectors.
Security at Heathrow was efficient, and when I got to gates 80-90 (where Aer Lingus usually go from), there was a police checkpoint checking passports. They saw that I had an Australian one and just waved me through without looking into it.
We boarded through door 2, which was nice, and ended up leaving on time. Just before the doors closed, one man arrived in the cabin, sweaty and flustered from running to the plane. As he put his things in the overhead compartments, the flight attendant nearby went to the galley and handed him a water just as he sat down. That is the kind of service that keeps Aer Lingus in OneWorld. Remember, this was an all Economy Class flight.
Our female First Officer came over the intercom (quite clear intercoms on the A321 as well, I might add) and advised that the Captain would be flying the aircraft, and also she told us the route we'd be following for the flight.
We departed, and this time I opted for the Panini, which was also very good, but perhaps not as good value as the Irish Breakfast. I also had a white wine, and I was asked if I would like ice, and I said no, and the F/A replied, "Yeah, ice is a bit girly, isn't it!" and I had a good laugh at that, and so did she. We were friends from then on The wine is Australian wine and this particular glass was very drinkable. It was much better than the house wine I had at a cafe in London.
Our arrival was close to on time, and thus ended my experience with Aer Lingus.
I found the pilots always very informative and nice, and the cabin crew spot on throughout. Seat pitch was great, the on board food selection okay, reasonably priced, and quite delicious. I firmly believe that Aer Lingus contribute something good to the OneWorld alliance, and I believe that all people in Ireland should be proud of their airline.
Will I fly them again? Absolutely!