#934146 by Sealink
07 Apr 2017, 01:50
Alternative title: Look Out! It's Aer Lingus (there's probably only two other people on the forum who'll get that reference!)

CAVEAT: I mention a lot in the TR about 'economy' passengers. This isn't me being a precious business class flyer, honest, and I have had my fair share of economy flights over the years. However I am a firm believer that if a company promises A, B and C and then it should deliver A, B and C. How did Aer Lingus fare in this regard? Read on!

I have wanted to fly Aer Lingus transatlantic for years, and somehow never got around to it. When I used to be a travel agent in Belfast, colleagues would rave about how good Aer Lingus Premier was. Of course, it's now called Aer Lingus Business, but it looked good. Add to this that they were so much cheaper than VS or BA then it was a no-brainer.
I booked flights from Gatwick, as this is much easier for me to get to than Heathrow.

There were a few odd things about the booking process:

- the website showed that Aer Lingus flew from the South Terminal, with a note that the lounge was "No. 1 Traveller at Gatwick's North Terminal"
- once you select your seats (free on business class reservations) you can't change them until you get to the airport - even online check-in didn't offer a chance to change seats
- mobile boarding passes were not offered on my booking, which was annoying.

However, these are minor concerns really.

I arrived at Gatwick the night before and stayed at the bloc hotel, with a room overlooking the apron and runway. It was fun for a bit and then... well, when you've seen one easyJet Airbus... so I settled in to watch a fascinating BBC Four programme about quiz shows and London.

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Later on I went for a dander around Gatwick, as I love the buzz of the airport. And also bought some M&S gin and tonics :)

Early the next morning I headed to the Aer Lingus bag drop desk. I was totally disoriented at Gatwick and couldn't see where the check-in zone was! I came out of the hotel, and could see the signs for the North Terminal, the train station and arrivals. Because of building work, and my own poor memory, the access to the check-in zone totally escaped my line of sight, but I got there in the end.

Hooray! There's a Business Class Check-In area.
But wait... there's one person on duty... and she's busying herself with economy passengers, some of whom were taking ages. Another economy passenger is called forward as I stand waiting... so I join the back of the economy queue and am eventually served. The check in agent isn't stand-offish but there is something about her that just doesn't sit well...

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I am handed both boarding passes and I note that there's no Gatwick Premium sticker for FastTrack security. I am aware that the sticker is more for show as the info should be incorporated into the bar code, but sometimes bar codes fail... anyway... as I leave the bag drop area I see another couple waiting patiently in the business class queue, (he throws his hands in the air as the check in agent again serves an economy passenger) so explain that they'd be better going to the economy queue... security isn't particularly fast but before long I am in the bosom of Gatwick South.

Oh God! What a mess. I don't like it at all. And I don't have a shiny clubhouse to go to, just the No. 1 Traveller Lounge.

I show my boarding pass to the lady on duty and she asks "Do you have a card?"

I don't really understand her and pause. "Do you have a card? The card? What card do you have?"

At this point I tell her I don't understand the question. "The Aer Lingus card. Do you have the Aer Lingus card?"

I work out that Aer Lingus issue a card to AerClub members to give them lounge access, but as I am flying business class transatlantic that boarding pass is fine.

But no, my boarding pass does not say "FLEX" so there's no access. "Can I use my Priority Pass?" I ask.
"Yes, but we're full. "

At this point I am tempted to ask how can you be full if you were about to accept me if I had THE CARD... and to add insult to injury she tells me that I should have asked for a lounge invite... I have to count to three inside because I cannot bear that level of customer service, where customers are supposed to know what to ask for... but I'm rather jaded by Aer Lingus so sit glumly in the dismal South Terminal.

More insult, more injury.
Aer Lingus tweet me to say that Business Class passengers only have access to Aer Lingus lounges, the implication being that third party lounges are not included.

I quickly reply with a screenshot from their website with the corresponding third party lounges and at this point Aer Lingus Twitter goes quiet.

A few minutes after arriving in Dublin, they reply and ask if I managed to get access to the lounge. "Did you show them your transatlantic boarding pass?"
I reply and tell them that I believe they deliberately waited until they knew I had taken the first sector, rather than trying to fix the problem. They simply apologise for my experience at Gatwick and will 'feedback to their agents there'.

When I boarded I did hear the crew telling another passenger that they had been hearing complaints about Menzies Aviation who provide the Aer Lingus experience.

I am in Seat 4A, naturally, looking for things to go wrong and I do notice how dirty the seat in front of me is. What do passengers do? How can you get liquid stains on the back of a seat?! Thankfully there's no one in 4B so it feels like Club Europe... ;-)

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I look out the window and wish I was flying with this airline:
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The in-flight security announcement is the worst I have ever heard. It's delivered at a speed to render it almost unintelligible... with no pauses, and it feels like lots of words missed out. If I can recall, it was something like

"ElectronicDevicesInFlightModeTrayTablesFoldedArmRestsDownUprightSeat" - imagine that for the entire announcment.

The crew are actually OK and I sample the Aer Lingus BOB offer, which is a lovely sausage and bacon baguette. I've flown to Ireland a few times with Aer Lingus and they do offer good quality food. Worryingly, the use by date has been swiped...! Still, I survived.

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We arrive in Dublin on time, except there's no one to meet us or move the Jetbridge to the plane.
After about 15 minutes, the Captain explains that the American authorities have locked all the doors because the previous plane at the gate was Delta, and they are now unlocking the doors as the plane has left.

It's quite a long walk following the Flight Connections route, and I have to go through security again, but thankfully avoiding the massive queue at passport control.

I decide to head straight for US Territory and follow the signs for US PreClearance.

Another security check, with shoes off this time.

The Global Entry machines are there, and as I am using them a family of about eight goes to the global entry queue.
They don't have Global Entry, and nothing is said, so I have to stand for about 20 minutes as they are processed.
My fingertips aren't scanned but I am asked a few questions about my trip, which generally doesn't happen when I go through immigration in the US end.

I tentatively head for the lounge. I am not going to go to the Aer Lingus one but rather aim for the new 51st&Green Lounge. I receive a nice welcome, it's lovely and spacious and has a nice selection of snacks, including wheaten bread which I haven't had in ages.

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Finally, it's time to relax...




The BOS flight is the last one of the day and I head to Gate 402 where it is boarding.
Hooray! There's Priority Boarding and YAY! It's enforced! Excitedly, I head to the plane.

The flight is, more or less, WONDERFUL.

Really lovely, engaged crew who laugh and joke with the passengers.
A good seat, with lots of storage space. And leg room!

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3K and 5K actually have shelves on both sides so it's more of a throne... this was Seat 3A btw. Notice how the storage space is on the other side in seat 4A which means you are next to the aisle. Confusingly, on my return flight, 3A was 'aisle' rather than 'window'.

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A welcome drink is offered, and I opt for sparkling water.

Hot towels are offered about 15 minutes into the flight, and shortly afterwards there is a drink run and menus are distributed, and also, wifi access cards!

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This is all lovely. I now require a diabetic meal and the crew confirm that I have a special order, and present it to me. I am dreading it. I shouldn't have...

Before that, here's a picture of the little snacks I received with my drink:

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Here's my special meal...

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I know it looks unusual, but Aer Lingus picked a decent selection of things for me.
Very thick slices of chicken, lots of veggies and fruit.

I finish the meal and am very contented. Until the steward come back and says "Ready for your main course?"

More loveliness.

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A bit sheepishly he says that he thinks my dessert is more fruit, but that's music to my ears as I've been told that I need to eat more fruit.
And it's very refreshing actually.

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My only niggle with the meal is that my main dish was chipped.

Later on, another salad, this time with couscous and I opt for a peppermint tea.

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There's some turbulence but nothing major, and before long we are approaching my beloved Boston, arriving at the domestic terminal, where, after a ten-minute wait for suitcases, you just... walk out of the airport.

Would I fly Aer Lingus transatlantic again?
I would if the price was right.
As I have Global Entry, there was no benefit to me of PreClearance - in fact I had to queue longer than I have in Boston - although Dublin Airport was OK for changing flights.
Aer Lingus really dropped the ball at Gatwick, but I have to say the transatlantic experience definitely worked as service recovery.
Last edited by Sealink on 07 Apr 2017, 13:34, edited 1 time in total.
#934148 by buns
07 Apr 2017, 05:37
Sealink

Thank you for a very interesting TR - once again ably supplemented by the snaps.

I share your view about the Gatwick end and how Are Lingus failed the most important lesson in the travel industry - "First impressions count". No doubt this is the "Walsh Influence" ;-)

The Transatlantic sector did much to redeem themselves, but as you say, once a passenger has become disengaged, it is a hard hill to climb for the airline

buns
#934157 by hiljil
07 Apr 2017, 08:04
Thank you for another entertaining & informative TR. I am most impressed by your meal.

Great photos as always. :-D
#934158 by kered
07 Apr 2017, 08:32
Glad to hear you got on well Sealink :-)

EI's Business class is Mrs Kered's & my, favourite J class product across the Atlantic by a long shot. I firmly believe that they could show some of the others just how to do business class. Each & every flight we've taken with them is as good, if not better than the last, It really is a gem in the sky.

So I'm always a little nervous when I see a TR for EI's J product coming up, as I really hope that the traveller has as good an experience as we have always had. But you just never know, so I'm relieved that this turned out to be a positive experience :-D

Edit to add..... Oh & yes, I do get the reference in your alternative title :cool:
#934160 by SlimpyJones
07 Apr 2017, 08:46
Thanks for a very interesting TR, glad the EI picked up the ball on the TATL flight! As others have said the pics were very handy :)
The seat reminds me a little of Delta One, at least, judging by the pictures anyway.
#934168 by honey lamb
07 Apr 2017, 10:47
Erm, Billy! It was "Look up, it's Aer Lingus"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQcB5WxU9A0
#934173 by tontybear
07 Apr 2017, 12:12
That food looks good. For a special meal it looks really good! And as for the starter I'd have taken that for the main as well!

Shame that the LGW experience wasn't so premium though.

It is very annoying that check-in agents basically ignore premium passengers.

As for the lounge access that would have vexed me too. How the heck am I supposed to know I need a special invitation?

Why are lounge rules so unnecessiarily complicated? You need a card sir! You need an invitation! It's the 3rd Thursday of the month so you need to wear purple trousers and a flower behind your ear! No your left ear!

I know they have to watch out for chancers but why is it so hard to come up with some clear rules?

Anyway based on this and HLs TRs I may very well give EI a chance.
#934176 by marshy11
07 Apr 2017, 13:17
Another fab trip report with equally fab photos.

I'm glad you survived the baguette, at least the date was from this year!

Such a poor experience at Gatwick. Airlines really have to look at the overall experience and sort some of these agents out. We've had similar years back and it does put you on the wrong foot.

I too was impressed with that meal it looked delicious and huge and am pleased the TA crew put the icing back on the cake. I'd love to hear about Boston, especially as we will be First timers in both destination and BA(F) later this year.
#934195 by pjh
08 Apr 2017, 09:28
Thanks for the TR and pictures. The DUB to BOS leg looks great (and more attainable than EK F... :-D )
#934196 by DocRo
08 Apr 2017, 12:38
Another fan of EI transatlantic here.
I was in 5k on return from ORD(sometimes referred to as a Captain Kirk seat) and it was super roomy.
Pre clearance is great if you don't have GE and the new lounge at the gates is a useful improvement with panoramic views
#934197 by honey lamb
08 Apr 2017, 22:48
DocRo wrote:I was in 5k on return from ORD(sometimes referred to as a Captain Kirk seat) and it was super roomy.

They're known in Aer Lingus as throne seats.
#934220 by ColOrd
09 Apr 2017, 13:33
A good trip report and a fun read! The bits at Gatwick sound a bit shocking, but its confirmed that I want to give EI a spin in their J Cabin!
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