Hello and Welcome to the return portion of this short series on Aer Lingus' Transatlantic Business class. On my outbound flight, I had been pleasantly surprised by Air lingus' overall Business class service. From the cabin to the soft product, everything was above my expectations. Let's see if the Irish flag carrier can provide a consistent experience for this return day flight back home to DC.
At time of booking, I was able to score a "throne" seat in both directions–so at least the hard product will be consistent. There are four throne seats in the small twelve-seat cabin on the 757.
I arrived at the beautiful modern Terminal 2 about three hours before departure. When flying out of DUB, I try to get to the airport as early as possible as wait times at U.S. Pre-clearance can be unpredictable.
Walking in around the middle of the terminal, the Aer Lingus ticket counters are to the right.
There is a special separate Premium check-in area for Business class passengers and Aer Club Elites.
Fancy, the separate walled-off area makes it feel exclusive.
In case you need a rest while checking in, there is some seating available by the check-in kiosks ?
I walked up to a kiosk to print my boarding pass before dropping off my bag, but as there was no one else checking in, the friendly agent at the counter waved me over. I was through and on my way in less than a minute.
Security went quickly as there was no one in either the Fast track or normal queues. Being on a US-bound flight, I knew I'd still have to go through security again prior to entering immigration and customs at the Pre-clearance facility.
After security, I hit up the duty free to bring back some good Irish whiskey ?
Aer Lingus Gold Circle Lounge
As I still had a good amount of time before departure, I stopped by the Aer Lingus Gold Circle lounge, which is located before U.S. Pre-clearance. Prior to the new shared lounge opening in the Pre-clearance area, this was the only lounge for Aer Lingus passengers in Terminal 2. There is also a third-party lounge next door for other airlines.
A friendly agent welcomed me into the lounge and informed me that there was also a lounge after US CBP (which, was nice, though I already knew). The Gold Circle lounge, spread out over two levels, is spacious and filled with lots of natural light. As it is now mainly used by passengers on intra-European flights, it was pleasantly quiet despite the rush of westbound Transatlantic departures.
A nice view from the lounge of the lineup at the Pre-clearance gates.
I only spent about 20 minutes in the Gold Circle lounge as I wanted to get through US CBP and check out the new lounge on the other side. Even with Global Entry, wait times to get through Pre-clearance at DUB are unpredictable.
As I mentioned earlier, there is another security checkpoint right before US CBP. On this day, it was an unnecessarily disorganized mess as the Business Class/Priority lane signage had not been properly laid out. The signage made it appear as if, what would normally be the Business class queue, was only for airline crew. As a result, there were many confused Business class passengers crowding the entrance to the security queues. Once through security, the Global Entry lanes are on the left. Unlike most of my arrival experiences with Global Entry, the US CBP agents were asking multiple questions to Global Entry passengers, which slowed down the process. Despite the disorganization at security and a slower-than-normal queue at Global Entry, the whole process ended up taking about 15 minutes.
Previously, getting through quickly was a blessing and a curse for passengers with lounge access. As all of the lounges were before Pre-clearance, you had to leave the lounge early to make sure to get through US CBP, but if it went fast, there was nothing to do on the other side except wait at the gate. The last time I was in DUB in early 2016, there was no lounge on the U.S. Pre-cleared side. Luckily, that changed in July of 2016 with the opening of the 51st & Green lounge available to US-bound Business class passengers on any airline.
51st & Green Lounge
The 51st & Green lounge is located at the end of the concourse on the lower level. I've heard the lounge's name is a nod to Ireland as the 51st State since technically the U.S. Pre-clearance area is under U.S. Pre-Clearance.
The lounge is quite large. It needs to be in order to accommodate Business class and Frequent Flyers with status for all US-bound flights.
There are many different sitting areas
I set up camp in a quiet, deserted corner
The food selection is fine, but more on par with U.S. lounges than European lounges. Unlike U.S. lounges, there is a decent selection of complimentary drinks at the bar.
Departures FIDS in the lounge
Views from the lounge
The lounge's location at the end of the concourse makes for some good tarmac and runway views #AvGeek
Air Canada Rouge B767-300ER
After a pleasant and quiet stay in the lounge, it was time to head to the gate for boarding.
Our ride to Washington-Dulles today is registered EI-LBT, a 19 year old former Finnair Boeing 757-200. This is the same aircraft I had on the way over.
Boarding began on time with Business class and Aer Club members. Unlike the boarding at Dulles, we boarded through door 2L, which meant a left turn into the premium cabin.
For a 19 year old aircraft, the recently refurbished cabin feels fresh and new.
My spacious throne seat with pillow, blanket, menu, and amenity kit
The Thompson Vantage seats in the Business class cabin are in a staggered layout, which feels more spacious than the 2-2 configuration more commonly found on 757s. The layout alternates 1-1 and 2-2 seating over four rows–there are 4 solo "throne" seats and 8 of the 12 seats have aisle-access. This means that 2/3 of seats have direct access to the aisle, rather than just 1/2 in the traditional 2-2 configuration.
Shortly after getting settled in, the friendly purser came through the cabin to offer pre-departure drinks, a choice of water or champagne.
Of course I had champagne ?
The large IFE screen
There is a remote control for the IFE inside the left armrest.
To the left of the armrest are seat controls, a universal power outlet, USB port, reading light, and headphone jack.
At the gate next door was a United 757 also heading to Washington-Dulles and departing just before us.
Lots of activity around this time of day. Shortly after the UA 752 pushed back, a Norwegian 737 MAX 8 pulled in.
Norwegian use these new 737 MAX aircraft on short Transatlantic flights out of Dublin to Providence, RI and Newburgh, NY
Like on the outbound flight, the cabin crew came through to offer refills on pre-departure drinks, which was much appreciated. The Irish aren't stingy with the alcohol ?
As I've said, the throne seats are very spacious and private.
We pushed back from the gate a few minutes early.
A cool EI A320 in retro livery taxied by as we pushed back.
EI A330-300 at Terminal 2
Taxiing past the older Terminal 1 on the way to the runway
Taxi time was short and we took off towards the East before making a turn West
Dublin Port at the mouth of the River Liffey
Short flight time of 7:30
Beautiful green Irish landscapes
Shortly after takeoff, apéritifs were served with canapés. So many French words in one sentence ? With my new appreciation for Irish Whiskey, I enjoyed a Jameson special reserve 12 yrs
Soon after, came the appetizers. Once again, I forgot to take pictures of the menu, but there were two choices of appetizers, salmon or a vegetarian option.
I chose the salmon.
For the main dish, there were three options: beef, chicken, and a fish dish. Orders were taken from the front working back, so being in row 1, I was sure to have my first choice. Again, I chose the beef option, but when the main came out, I was handed the fish dish. It actually looked and smelled really good and I hesitated for a second to say anything, but I did point out that I had ordered the beef. The purser apologized and immediately brought out the beef dish; it turned out the fish was for the passenger across the aisle. I laughed and told her that I hesitated because it looked really good, to which she responded that if there were enough I could try both. Very nice of her, but I ended up being too full to try another main.
Although beef at 35,000 ft is always a risky choice, I was pleasantly surprised–it was much better than the beef dish on the IAD-DUB flight. It makes sense that the catering from a hub would be better than an outstation.
I enjoyed the main with a nice Bordeaux.
To finish the meal, as on the way over there was a choice of a cheese plate or dessert. Being French, I never like to have to make that choice as those should be two separate courses; nevertheless, I opted for the cheese plate, which I enjoyed with a Port.
By the end of the meal service we were almost halfway across the Atlantic.
The IFE had a decent amount of recent movies, TV shows, and music, but I put on a classic as I knew I'd be taking a nap and wouldn't watch the whole movie.
The seat is comfortable in full flat position and felt wider than other Thompson Vantage seats I've experienced on other airlines, which can often feel like a coffin in bed more.
I woke up as we were flying over Labrador near the border with Québec.
The afternoon tea service came about an hour before landing. Compared to other airlines I've taken in Business on westbound Transatlantic flights, Aer Lingus' pre-arrival meal is a more sizable portion than other European carriers like BA (who usually can't be bothered to take the plastic wrapping off the sandwiches) or AF, but a smaller portion than U.S. carriers, who often do a second hot meal.
Overall, the afternoon tea was quite nice and well presented.
We began out descent over central Pennsylvania. Here we can see the State capital Harrisburg in the backgroung, with the infamous 3-Mile Island Nuclear facility in the foreground and Harrisburg Intl Airport (MDT) between the two on the banks of the Susquehanna river.
The Potomac River in sight as we cross from Maryland into Virginia.
We flew past the airport, which meant we would be landing from the South.
Spotted an arriving Qatar Airways 77W in the distance as we did a turn to line up for the runway.
The Iconic Dulles tower and main terminal designed by the famous Eero Saarinen
Always a nice lineup of international tails at Concourses A and B in the afternoon.
The greatest advantage of Pre-clearance at Dublin is the easy arrival. We parked at a domestic gate and just walked right off the aircraft into the concourse without having to take a moon buggy (mobile lounge) to the US CBP facility. Baggage delivery was quick and I was out to my car within 20 minutes of arrival.
Thank you for reading!
51st & Green - U.S. Pre-clearance lounge
Dublin - DUB
Washington - IAD
Another lovely flight with Aer Lingus. The day flight was even better than the previous flight. The cabin is fresh and spacious with the throne seats affording a great deal or personal space and privacy. The cabin crew were very friendly and attentive. Overall, I was also impressed with the catering, which I find to be better than sister airline British Airways'. Once again, the canapés stand out as above average and a nice change from the usual nuts you find on other carriers. Despite my admittedly small sample size of two flights, Aer Lingus seem to offer a consistently solid product in Business class. I was disappointed when the CEO of Aer Lingus recently announced that plans to join the oneworld alliance had been scratched.
DUB Terminal 2 is pleasant and modern. Pre-clearance is great, despite sometimes being a bit chaotic. It's even better now that there is a lounge after US CBP.
I enjoyed both lounges. Both the Aer Lingus Gold Circle lounge and the Pre-clearance 51st & Green lounge were large, pleasant spaces, and quiet. I imagine that the lounges are much more crowded during the summer, with so many carriers offering additional seasonal flights to DUB.
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