Aer Lingus, Economy Class – Airbus A 320: Shannon to London Heathrow

INTRODUCTION

It’s Thursday afternoon. The course with the IAA in Shannon went well. My job is done, and so it’s time to move on. The next course will be starting in two days.

Shannon airport is located about fifteen minutes away by car from IAA’s HQ. We arrive at the car park for the car rental returns and it’s pouring with rain. Although that isn’t really worth mentioning because it seems to be the normal state of affairs in Ireland. Which makes it all the more impressive how everyone here manages to stay so friendly and easy going.

There is a shuttle from the Hertz office to the terminal, but given that it’s only a two minute walk, that hardly seems worth it – even with the rain.

CHECK-IN

The terminal building is a strange place. The check-in area is in a part of the terminal which looks as though it’s much newer than the rest of the building. There are four rows of check-in counters, but half of them look as though they haven’t been used in years. I’m also not really sure what to make of the seventies style wood panelling everywhere.

In any case, I’m already checked in, but I still need to drop off my enormous suitcase. My first stop is at one of the Aerlingus self-service machines, but apparently they will only issue a boarding pass but not the baggage tag. So eventually I just head over to the check-in counter. Aerlingus has six counters in Shannon, but only one is manned when I arrive for check in.

LOUNGE & AIRSIDE

The departure gates are located one floor up from the check-in area. Luckily, the security check point is deserted when I arrive, which, as far as the Irish are concerned, is another great opportunity to have a little natter before sending me on my way. This must be just about the nicest security check I’ve ever undergone!

Aerlingus does not have its own lounge in Shannon, but Executive Club Silver passengers flying on Aerlingus are entitled to use the Boru lounge that is operated by Shannon airport.

The lounge is small but nicely laid out. The toilets are clean and there’s even a shower. As far as food goes, it’s really just hot and cold drinks and snacks to eat – things like scones and cake.

BOARDING

There are two separate queues for boarding. One for Priority passengers, and one for everyone else. Boarding for the flight starts thirty minutes before departure.

CABIN

This aircraft is in the same layout as that of my inbound flight. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, I think it’s the same plane. Today I’m seated on the emergency exit on 12A, which is the first of the two emergency exit rows on the A 320. Row 12 is the best place to sit, I think. On the one hand, because in addition to the extra legroom, the fact that it’s an exit row means the passengers in the row before cannot recline their seats. While at the same time, because the next row is also an emergency exit, the extra pitch means you won’t have the person sitting behind you grinding their kneecaps into your lower back. Unless of course, the person behind you is the tall, blond M. with his awfully long legs.

CREW

The crew are friendly, like everybody else I met on this trip to Ireland. The purser in an elderly gentleman who, quite frankly, looks as though he started his flying career back in the days of the elegant Vickers Viscount. Perhaps that also explains his excellent manners and customer care. I think he’s brilliant!

THE MEAL

Once we’re airborne, I buy a Coke Zero which sets me back EUR2.50. Which is reasonable for a 0.33l can.

ARRIVAL

Initially, the flight time is announced as one hour, which would have meant us arriving in Heathrow at 18h30. But instead we’re kept circling for a while before we make the approach. So that eventually, by the time we come to a stop on our designated stand, it’s already 19h05.

The Aerlingus gates in Terminal 2 are very conveniently located a very short walk away from the luggage belts. If you’re arriving from Ireland you will not have to go through immigration in the UK. At least not until the end of March.

My first stop after I exit through customs is at Marks & Spencer’s to get some food. And then from there I head down into the bowels of the Queen’s Terminal to catch the complimentary rail shuttle to Terminal 4.

All in all, from exiting the aircraft to entering my hotel room it takes me slightly more than ninety minutes. Mainly, because the shuttle to Terminal 4 only runs very thirty minutes at 03 and 33 past the hour.

Aer Lingus, Economy Class – Airbus A 320: London Heathrow to Shannon

TRANSFER IN HEATHROW

My flight from Basel arrives in Terminal 5, which is served only by British Airways and Iberia. My flight with Aer Lingus will be departing from Terminal 2, the Queen’s Terminal. I follow the signs for flight connections to other terminals, which eventually takes me one floor down to ground level. From here, there is a regular airside shuttle service to Terminal 2. The journey time by bus is roughly ten minutes. It’s kind of nice, a bit like taking a tour of the airport. On the way, we pass British Airways’ impressive line-up of long-haul aircraft parked at the B satellite of Terminal 5.

Once the bus arrives at Terminal 2, I head one floor up for security and another floor up to immigration, even though I’m only changing planes in Heathrow. On a side note, there is a separate channel for passengers continuing their journey to Ireland and the UK, although I’m not even sure there are any domestic flights out of Terminal 2. And then once that’s done, I’m airside.

AIRSIDE & LOUNGE

The Aer Lingus lounge is located one floor up from the public airside area. The entrance is opposite the escalators. The lounge is fairly large and the interior is welcoming, if somewhat worn in places. There’s a decidedly Irish touch to the place, with bright green carpets that have been designed to look like grass.

And the toilets are certainly better than those in the British Airways lounge back in Terminal 5! Other than that though, drink and food choices are limited. In fact, there is only a pot of creamy chicken soup by way of proper food. Other than that, it’s really just biscuits and packets of crisps.

The location of the lounge gives you a good view of the outside and the threshold of runway 09L. Unfortunately though, there is this metal construction in front of the windows which kind of obstructs the view. But it’s still good enough.

BOARDING

Boarding for the flight starts at 14h40 for a 15h20 departure. In fact, by the time I reach the gate at 14h45, the flight is already in the final stages of boarding. The flight has a good load, but is not fully booked, and there are still a few empty seats. Luckily, the middle seat on my row also stays empty.

CABIN

Aer Lingus operates its short-haul fleet in an Economy Class only configuration. Although I recently heard that they were considering reintroducing a sort of Business Class on some routes.

The seats are in dark blue leather and are nicely padded and comfortable. The seat pitch is also very good. The headrest is adjustable.

CREW

The crew consists of five middle aged ladies. They’re not overly friendly, but their service is professional and polite towards the passengers. The flight time is given as one hour.

THE MEAL

Food is buy on board on Aer Lingus. Once we’re airborne, I order a cup of tea for EUR3.

The one thing that strikes me about Aer Lingus, is that the atmosphere in the cabin is always quite pleasant and relaxed. And today’s flight is no different. I wonder if perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Aer Lingus’ passengers are just used to the concept of buy on board. As a result, you don’t get that undercurrent of resentment from both the crews and the passengers about having to fork out for a drink and a snack.

ARRIVAL

We land in Shannon on time and the weather is horrible. The apron is fairly quiet, save for two Ryanair flights that are in the final stages of boarding, with passengers hurrying along to get out of the pouring rain. I guess that’s one way to speed up the boarding process… At least Aer Lingus has the decency to use an airbridge.

The terminal building at Shannon airport really is exceptionally ugly. It’s old and any work that has been done in recent years has been done primarily to expand the facility, but obviously not to embellish. But never mind, it’s a passenger terminal, not a five star hotel.

The flying Dutchman has rented a car, which we’ll need to get from Limerick, where the hotel is, to the venue of the course. The journey by car from the airport into Limerick takes under thirty minutes.

Aer Lingus, Economy Class – Airbus A 320: Shannon to London Heathrow

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Date: 03 December 2016.
Departure: 08h50.
Arrival: 10h10.
Flight time: 1 hour 20 minutes.
Seat: 10F.

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INTRODUCTION
I always enjoy the courses in Ireland very much. The people are all very welcoming and friendly and wherever you go, you can always be sure to find somebody or other eager to strike up a conversation. But still I am glad I am on my home. It is the end of the year and I can feel myself loosing steam. Just two more business trip this year, one next week and then the week after and I am done.

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Taxi.
Journey time:
30 minutes.
Departs from:
Absolute Hotel in the centre of Limerick.
Arrives:
In front of the departures concourse at Shannon airport.
Cost:
EUR45.

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CHECK-IN
Terminal: There is only the one terminal building.
Row:
Counters: Aer Linugs have their own row of dedicated check-in counters. There is one desk for Aer Lingus frequent flyers, one for Aer Lingus Business Class and another for Economy Class passengers.
Web check-in:
Urgh!
Self-service check-in:
There are four machines at the airport.

Well that interface certainly does not work…! I booked the ticket I am flying on via the BA website. But for some reason, although the Aer Lingus flight is operated as a BA codeshare, interline check-in is not possible.

When I try to check in on the BA app I get a message that check-in for the flight is only possible at the airport. When I try to check in on the Aer Lingus app, I receive the message that there is something wrong with my booking. But if I try to check in online via the Aer Lingus website, I can check in but I cannot select any seats or additional services.

So by the time I arrive at the airport, I am still missing the boarding pass for this flight. I try the self-service kiosk, which informs me that there is no booking in my name. Interesting. So I approach one of the counters, where a friendly Irishman swiftly checks me in, no questions asked, and even offers if I’d prefer a window seat over the aisle seat I had originally selected at check-in (I did…?).

Other than that, Shannon’s terminal is easy to navigate through. I think what impresses me most about the structure is how high the ceiling is in the check-in area – it makes the place feel more like a church than an airport.

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BOARDING
Boarding is from gate 4 – which, luckily for me – means the aircraft is parked at a remote stand. Boarding starts forty minutes before departure. My boarding pass is scanned and I step outside into the cold morning air. I walk along the outside of the building to where our aircraft is parked. The crew are obviously not ready for boarding yet, and so we are left standing outside in the cold for ten minutes before eventually we are allowed on board.

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CABIN & SEAT
Configuration:
Economy Class only configuration.
Seat Layout: 3 + 3.
Pitch: 32 inches.
Width: 17 inches.
AC Power:
Not available.
Audio and Video: Not available.
Connectivity: Not available.
Comment:
The A 320 has a seating capacity of 174 in Aer Lingus’ configuration. The seats are rather comfortable and certainly not as hard as many of those new flimsy Recaro affairs that leave your butt sore after an hour of flying.

Seat pitch is good. Every seat comes with a coat hook and the headrest is adjustable in height. Emergency exit seats can be purchased at the time of booking.

 

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SERVICE & CREW
The crew are of course typically Irish. All of them are very friendly and take their time to chat with the passengers. They are actually quite funny to watch during the on board duty free sales as they go cooing over the design of some of the scarves and comparing notes with each other and the passengers on the quality of this facial cream and that Dead Sea mud…

THE MEAL
Food and beverages are strictly buy on board on Aer Lingus short-haul flights. They have a good selection of hot and cold snacks and on flights departing before eleven o’clock in the morning there is also a traditional Irish breakfast available. Prices are reasonable to me. I have a cheese and coleslaw bap with coffee and a bottle of still water, which sets me back EUR10.50.

The quality of the food is good. The bap tastes fresh and the coffee is strong enough to revive the spirits.

 ARRIVAL
Terminal:
2.
The flight time to Heathrow is one hour. In fact we are slightly ahead of schedule, which is rarely a good idea in Heathrow, and subsequently we are sent into a holding for about ten minutes before we are allowed to make our approach into the airport from the west.

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TRANSFER IN HEATHROW
In Heathrow I am connecting onto the British Airways flight to Basel, which means I will have to make the transfer from Terminal 2 to Terminal 5. And I really have to say, the journey is really painless and smooth. I step off the Aer Lingus flight at 10h22. By 10h50 I am already in Terminal 5 and through security. The transfer process is fairly straight forward as long as you know which terminal you are looking for.

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CONCLUSION
Overall I rather liked Aer Lingus. Their strongest selling point is certainly their staff, all of which were friendly and polite at all times. The boarding process is a bit cumbersome and very much had the look and feel of a low cost carrier. But other than that, I would fly with them again.

Aer Lingus, Economy Class – A 320: Dublin to Amsterdam

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The beginning of September sees me travelling to Ireland to give another course. The venue of the course is near Shannon airport, so obviously the easiest thing would have been to fly to and from Shannon airport. But connections to Shannon are not really very good – at least if you’re coming from Switzerland – so eventually we decide to use Dublin Airport instead and rent a car from there.

The journey to and from Ireland is with KLM and Aer Lingus via Amsterdam. Flights between Amsterdam and Dublin are operated as a code-share with KLM. And even though Aer Lingus has no affiliation whatsoever with KLM and Flying Blue, you can still collect miles with them, as long as your ticket is issued on KLM stock and with the KLM flight number.

CHECK-IN

Aer Lingus operates out of Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport. It is possible to check in at the self-service check-in machines and you will even be issued the boarding pass for your onward connection on KLM.

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The only draw back with this code-share is that there is no possibility for KLM passengers to check in online. As a result, if you are running late you just have to take what is left.

THE LOUNGE

Flying Blue status card holder are entitled to use the Aer Lingus Lounge in Dublin when they are travelling on the service to Amsterdam. It does not seem to make a difference whether you are checked in on the KLM or Aer Lingus flight number.

The lounge looks rather nice but it is quite small. It also has an odd shape. It is quite narrow and long. There are computer workstations but the screens face the lounge, which means that anybody can easily peer over your shoulder to take a look at what you have on the screen. The food and drinks options are very limited, although perhaps that may also have something to do with the time of day when I visited.

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THE FLIGHT

Service on Aer Lingus is buy-on-board. I do not purchase anything but the prices seem fairly decent. Seat pitch on the A 320 is excellent, with loads of leg space. Furthermore, it is still a proper seat with comfortable padding, unlike those horrible Recaro slimline seats most carriers in Europe seem to use these days and which can be a bit severe on the backside.

The flight is uneventful, which is also why I do not take any pictures. There simply is nothing to photograph. The crew on the inbound and the outbound are hardly worth mentioning either. They do their job, but nothing else.

TRANSFER IN AMSTERDAM

I have a connection of fifty minutes. So obviously I become slightly apprehensive when the flight from Dublin departs with a delay of twenty-five minutes. In fact I am pretty sure I am going to have to spend the night in Amsterdam.

Eventually we arrive at the gate in Amsterdam at 20:05. As it happens, it is the one but last gate on the D concourse. My flight to Basel will depart in exactly thirty minutes and I still have to walk all the way to the beginning of the concourse, clear immigration, go through security again and then make the long trek over to the B gates by the Fokker farm.

But surprisingly, tonight lady luck appears to be smiling upon me full of mercy and compassion. There is no queue at immigration and security takes all of two minutes to clear, and even that is only because my belt gets stuck. I am the last passenger to board. Nonetheless, we still manage to depart ten minutes ahead of schedule.