BACKGROUND This would be my fourth trip from the UK to the US in a span of two years. However there was something different about this journey. Unlike the previous three trips, this one would involve a stopover outside the UK. Also, I would not be landing in New York but Chicago.
There were three reasons why I chose to fly with Aer Lingus. First, the flights they offered were the most affordable out there considering that it was the Easter Holiday. Second, I had the option of flying out of Bristol, thus saving me money and time had I chose to fly out of London. Finally, I wanted to try US CBP pre-clearance, which meant I would clear US passport control and customs before I land on US soil. This would save me time when I arrive.
CHECK-IN, SECURITY, BOARDING I arrived at Bristol Airport at close to 11.45. Despite arriving fairly close to the departure time, the queues were quite light. Unfortunately I was unable to change my seat for my longer flight which was something that I wanted to do since online check-in opened 24 hours ago. Staff there also advised me that that flight was quite full. Nonetheless I was able to get the bag drop over and done with rather quickly. I still wondered though why only one member of staff was manning the desks.
Security though had somewhat medium queues. But there wasn't much trouble in it. Since there were a lot of stuff to remove from one's person and bags, I packed my jacket in my hold baggage which meant one less thing to monitor at security.
Right after security, I went to the Duty Free stores to get something for my cousin who would be hosting me in Chicago. It was the least I could do. Goods sold at the airport are fairly overpriced at the airport as they always have been. But I got some West Country biscuits for her. I was unable to shop the previous day as stores in Britain close on Easter Sunday. It's actually the reverse of what I'm used to in the Philippines where stores reopen at normal hours on Easter Sundays after two to three days of closure or limited shopping.
TIP: If you plan to shop around the Easter Holiday in the UK, be aware that almost all retailers close for Easter Sunday. Stores are open on Good Friday though (usually from 09.00-17.00).
I just walked around the terminal. Unlike most other airports I know of, Bristol Airport would not publish the gate number until a few minutes before boarding, which kind of annoys me. I had no idea whether to climb up the stairs or stay at the main hall. The gates were revealed only at 12.45.
When I arrived at the gate, I decided to stand next to the podium. The staff were checking if I needed an Irish visa but they concluded that since I was in transit to the US, I was allowed to go through. All of us were bussed to the terminal but needed to wait for another 10 minutes before we went on our way. We boarded at the rear of the aircraft as the front was used to store bags.
TIP: Boarding for ATR aircrafts take place at the rear. So if you are anxious about deplaning first, choose a seat closer to the rear of the aircraft.
FLIGHT PROPER I had to walk a few rows forward to find my seat. The seats were pretty basic. No IFE screens or outlets to charge electronics. There was even no WiFi but it was a fairly short flight. I also had videos on my iPad to keep my company.
We departed after 13.30, which made me anxious since it would mean less time in Dublin. As I was waiting to use the toilet, I had a quick chat with the cabin crew, who were a bit reassuring and said that staff at Dublin would help us in the event of a tight connection. Nonetheless, I wanted to experience as much of Ireland as I could at the airport and a delay would not help that.
All refreshments on this segment were for purchase. I decided to purchase a small snack for €2.50 using a VISA card.
After using the toilet, it was back to my seat and all I had to was to wait. We continued to circle until the flight was finally given permission to approach the runway. We did so at 14.50. We were greeted to damp weather at Dublin. My umbrella and jacket were in my hold bags which meant I risked getting soaked but it wasn't so bad.
Lucky for me we were bussed at the concourse where the long-haul flights would depart out of so it wouldn't be a long walk. But I'll get to the details of that in the next post.
RATINGS FOR THIS LEG These are rated from 1 to 10 with ten being the best score. This covers aspects of the flight experience that Aer Lingus and its ground agents are responsible for with a focus on Economy Class. [*]Check-in (9/10): The staff were quite helpful. However, I was not sure why there was only one member of staff assigned to the desk, [*]Boarding Process (8/10): I didn't experience massive bottlenecks at the boarding gate. However I wish that we would have known the boarding gate in advance. [*]Food (9/10): The snack that I purchased was ok. Nothing special. [*]Cabin Crew (9/10): The flight crew were quite reassuring and helpful given my situation. [*]Punctuality (5/10): The flight departed late. It not only jeopardised my connection but also the already little amount of time I would have in the Republic of Ireland. In fact I recall booking an earlier time out of Bristol in the hopes of spending ample time in Dublin. But it was moved to a later time. [*]In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity (n/a): There was none but it wasn't exactly necessary.
Bristol - BRS
Dublin - DUB
Whilst I appreciate the convenience of Aer Lingus such as having the ability to fly out of Bristol rather than London, the lack of punctuality made for a slightly rocky start to the journey. Nonetheless had punctuality not been the issue, one would be thankful for this service.
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