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.
CONNECTION, PASSPORT CONTROL, BOARDING
As I mentioned in my previous flight report, we arrived quite late in Dublin. I felt the urge to reach the gate as quickly as possible as I only had less than an hour to make my next flight. Or so I thought, but I will get to that later in this section.
The signs to connections were clearly marked but I saw a long queue at first. Then, I called the attention of a member of airport staff who later called all Chicago-bound passengers to join a shorter lane. Unlike other airports we have used, passengers transiting at Dublin encounter a passport control officer who would ask routine questions. We were done with it rather quickly. On my way to the preclearance gates, I saw a shopping and dining area for Irish goods. But there was no time to look around.
TIP: If you are connecting to a US flight in Dublin, just follow the signs with a US flag.
The preclearance gates were actually one floor below the other gates. Passengers had to go through another security check, this time conforming to US TSA standards. That meant removing our shoes, something that isn't necessary on checks for European flights. But only selected passengers were asked to undergo x-ray scanning. Then it was time to queue up at passport control lanes. On this occasion, there were no forms to fill out. We didn't even have to use the kiosks. The officer asked us routine questions such as what I do in the UK and how long my trip was. All went well at CBP preclearance though I didn't get a physical stamp on my passport. Nonetheless when I checked the CBP's website, my admission was electronically recorded. Just as I finished CBP preclearance did I confirm that my flight to Chicago would also be delayed. There was not much issue for me but I couldn't say the same thing for the other passengers.
TIP: If you want a record of your admission into the US, visit cbp.gov/i94. It will also list your travel history to the US for the past five years. You will need your passport number.
Beyond CBP, the shopping and dining options were fairly limited to kiosks to buy snacks.
TIP: There are no more duty free stores past CBP preclearance at Dublin. So make sure to do your shopping before entering the preclearance area.
I had to wait around and take what little pictures I could that would be 'evidence' I was in Ireland. There weren't that many options to shop. All there was for me to do was wait.
It was way past 16.00 and time for me to board the plane. There weren't that many passengers on board yet and I was seated at the middle rows. I stowed my hand luggage on the overhead lockers opposite my seat as I felt it is faster to do that. I made sure to have my DVD drive in reach. There was an American seated next to me so in the early and late stages of the flight we had a little chat.
We got underway way past time but the flight crew announced that the flight would only be about seven and a half hours, which was the same amount of time it would take for a London-New York flight to complete.
I liked the IFE interface as it told passengers what was coming up. I also enjoyed viewing the map. But the video content on offer was not my cup of tea. Thus, I decided to just play content on my own devices. For most of the first half of the flight, I played a DVDs of a TV series How I Met Your Mother. But that wasn't my biggest issue with the IFE; it was that the power outlet on my seat was not working. It meant I had to 'disturb' a passenger two seats away from me and 'borrow' his outlet for my laptop. Of course, playing content on my own devices, especially my laptop, was tricky during the bar/meal service since there was limited space on my tray table to lay all of these things.
We were initially served with a drink and some pretzels. Most of the softdrinks and the pretzel pack were complimentary but alcoholic drinks and other crisps had to be purchased. For the meal service, we were given the choice of Diced Irish beef in a creamy stroganoff sauce, Chicken-filled ravioli, and Mild vegetable chili. I chose the chicken option. I found it delicious. But I was hoping the cabin crew would come collect our tray tables early so that I can resume using my laptop. I recalled that at some point, I headed up to the galley and returned the tray.
We were served with an ice cream mid-flight. Lucky for me it was vanilla flavoured.
For most of the flight, it would be viewing more episodes of box sets. Later, I decided to switch to my iPad for entertainment so I stowed my laptop. I also had a chance to do a quick crossword on my iPad. In addition, I tried Aer Lingus' WiFi and I got the 50 MB option. Since I realised that this wasn't much, I only purchased access during the 2nd half of the flight. I used it to check my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds quickly. It wasn't too fast (I would run out of data if I played videos anyway) but wasn't so slow either.
TIP: The Aer Lingus WiFi service is priced in Euros and US Dollars. For now, passengers should choose the US Dollar option as it seems to provide better value. As at the time of this posting, €1 = $1.24 but the official prices are either €6.95 or $7.95 which effectively means passengers who choose the Euro option would pay more than $8.60.
Except for the occasional turbulence, the flight was mostly uneventful. Throughout the flight, we were served with water and coffee/tea. But with under an hour left in the flight, we were also served with a chicken snack. Although the snack was stuck to the box, I was able to finish it. It was a filling snack.
As we were descending and landing, I continued watching some TV episodes on my iPad. It helped to kill time a lot that Netflix accorded me the ability to download some episodes on the ground, especially if the IFE selection is not to one's liking.
We landed at O'Hare Airport at 18.50 local time. I got my bags quickly. When I disembarked from the aircraft, it was as if I was a domestic passenger. We were led into a colourful array of shops rather than a sterile area. All I had to do was get my bags and head for the exit.
TIP: Preclearance is useful for those who have domestic connecting flights in the US. Delta, American, and United have flights originating from Dublin to some of their hubs in the US so it shouldn't be so much trouble. Aer Lingus also has partnerships with US carriers.
O'Hare had a quite a bit of public transport options. However, most public transport is only good for those headed to the city centre. Those headed for the suburbs had to use a cab, car hire, Uber/Lyft or hope that others will fetch them. As much as I wanted to go to downtown and save money but taking public transport, I didn't want to keep my hosts waiting for long, so I used Lyft. I inputted the wrong destination initially, but was able to correct it later, but it cost me some money.
With that my 12-day US trip began.
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. [*]Boarding Process (9/10): I didn't experience massive bottlenecks at the boarding gate. [*]Food (9/10): Delicious full-course meals. Though they could have offered more complimentary brands. [*]Cabin Crew (8/10): The flight crew were quite attentive though I felt that times they could be slightly less bureaucratic/robotic. [*]Punctuality (6/10): The flight departed late. But we only arrived 30 minutes behind schedule. It wasn't an issue unless passengers had a connecting flight. [*]In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity (6/10): I liked the interface of the IFE but the video selection was not as wide as one can experience in Emirates. But the real pet peeve was the power outlet in my seat not working. WiFi was ok though Aer Lingus could make the prices as competitive as Emirates. If all was working, this would have been the best IFE of the carriers I have used for Europe-US flights.
Dublin - DUB
Chicago - ORD
I kind of appreciate the advantages Aer Lingus offers. It did feel like a short-medium flight. I would choose Aer Lingus again for a future journey.
7 LIKESLIKE TO THANK THE AUTHORTHANKS ! FLIGHT-REPORT LIKED
Flight-Report is a free website hosting more than 500 000 pictures and 17 000 reviews, without ads, this website can't exist. We understand that ads can be annoying, this is why we only display a maximum of 2 non-invasive ads per page.
To continue using Flight-Report, we invite you to add Flight-Report to your blocker's "white list".