Aer Lingus A330 Economy Review

Every summer airlines tend to assign wide-body aircraft to short-haul routes to cope with the demand for seats. Aer Lingus are one such airline that does this, at peak times the Irish carrier’s Airbus A330 fleet operates to popular holiday destinations such as Malaga and Faro.

All through August, Aer Lingus are operating Dublin – Malaga – Dublin as flights EI582 and EI583 on the A330. Departing at 0700 and scheduled to arrive at 1110, this allows holiday makers to enjoy a full first day on their well-earned vacation. The return flight departs at 1220 to arrive at 1430.

Having never flown Aer Lingus before, I hopped on-board flight EI582 from Dublin to Malaga to try them for myself.

EI582 Dublin – Malaga:

Travelling with hand baggage only allowed me to check in to my flight 2 days prior to departure using the mobile app. After arriving at Dublin’s Terminal 2, I made my way through security and to the Aer Lingus lounge; access to which was included in my fare. You can read my review on the lounge here.

EI-FNH sat at the gate

As 6am approached, I took a short walk to gate 422, where my aircraft EI-FNH was waiting for me. When the gate staff announced that boarding would be commencing shortly, I joined the Priority Boarding lane which is reserved for Aer Club members and those sat in premium seats.

Making my way down the air bridge to the aircraft, I was greeted with a friendly warm welcome from Louise, one of the Senior Cabin Crew on-board today. She directed me to my seat, 3K. As soon as I stepped into the A330’s Business Class cabin, I was immediately impressed with the modern feel to the cabin; the black and silver colour scheme of the cabin is really easy on the eye.

Business Class Cabin (Image Credit: independent.ie)

Settling into my seat, I couldn’t believe how much space was available to me. The seating configuration varies depending on which row you sit in. Some are set out in a 2-2-2 style, whereas my row was configured in a 1-2-1 layout. For anyone travelling on the Aer Lingus A330 and you are unsure which business class seat to choose, I highly recommend seat 3K. This is mainly for the fact that you get two windows all to yourself!

Now, it’s at this moment that I should point out that for this whole flight I was actually an economy passenger. When operating the A330 on these sectors, the airline cannot simply remove the upper class cabins; so instead they sell the business class seats off as premium seats. I purchased mine for €79.99, which to some may seem expensive, but believe me, it’s worth it.

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All of the seats in this cabin convert from traditional upright seats into fully lie-flat 6.5ft long beds. Providing a seat width of 22″, these are almost certainly one of the most comfortable airline seats I have sat in for quite sometime! Not only do you get tonnes of space, but there are storage compartments everywhere. There’s even your own magazine rack to keep your literature and laptop in whenever you’re not using it. Whilst the layout of the cabin and the spacing may not be as luxurious as other A330 operators such as Virgin Atlantic, it does provide ample amounts of comfort to get you through a long-haul flight.

We made an on-time departure from Dublin and began our journey to the south of Spain. The bar service passed through the cabin when we had reached our cruising altitude of 39,000 feet. I treated myself to a warm breakfast option of a Sausage and Bacon baguette. At €5 this was hardly breaking the bank, and surprisingly actually tasted really good! A can of Fanta cost just €2.50; it must be noted that all options offered in Aer Lingus’ bar service were really well priced.

For once an airline breakfast that was great value & tasty!

The combination of a very early start and a hearty meal had me feeling a little on the tired side. I reclined my seat into the full lie-flat position and stuck on the latest Star Wars film to entertain myself. Had I wanted too, I could have chosen from any number of Hollywood hits, complete box sets of TV shows such as The Walking Dead or even updated my Facebook using the chargeable on-board Wi-Fi. The IFE remote is located within the armrest of the chair, luckily for me it was behind a flap that doesn’t dig into your thigh leaving you feeling uncomfortable.

Despite today’s flight being full in both cabins, I didn’t get that same feeling. Aer Lingus feature 30 lie flat beds in the front cabin and 287 economy seats in the main cabin. When stretching my legs, I didn’t find myself having to worry about knocking into someone when walking down the aisle. If you’re travelling with a partner in the near future on this aircraft in economy, I would highly recommend booking seats A & C or H & K. This A330’s economy is set in the traditional Airbus 2-4-2 configuration, meaning that you get a window seat and a row all to yourselves!

Shamrock 582 Heavy fully established in the cruise!

As the Interactive map flicked onto the screen, we started to decrease our altitude and the Costa del Sol came into view on my right hand side. Making our way out parallel to the airport and then turning to make our final approach over the Mediterranean Sea, I realised that I had grown fondly attached to this Airbus A330-300. Two years ago I flew from Sydney to Melbourne on Qantas’ Airbus A330-200 and I had thoroughly enjoyed my first 330 experience with them. This flight however has certainly lived up to my previous experience, and certainly surpassed all expectations I had.

Aer Lingus’ fabulous crew and unique Irish charm has clearly won me over. My experience with the airline has left me with no doubts that they are one of the best airlines that I have flown with. I personally, cannot wait until I am flying on an aircraft that carries the “Shamrock” call sign again. Hopefully It will be a transatlantic flight with them so that I can test out their Business Class product properly.

I guess it’s true what they say, “Smart flies Aer Lingus”.

Note: At the request of the crew on-board, I was asked to respect my fellow passengers privacy and not photograph the cabin whilst in-flight.

Aer Lingus Dublin Lounge Review (again)

Split over two terminals, Dublin Airport is rapidly growing into one of Europe’s major hubs. The sleek, modern Terminal 2 is the home of Aer Lingus as well as other major transatlantic carriers.

Before my Dublin – Malaga flight, where I reviewed Aer Lingus’ Airbus A330, you can read that review here, I decided to head on down to the lounge to experience some award winning Irish hospitality for myself.

Entrance to the lounge in T2

Once you have cleared security and get airside, getting to the lounge is a simple case of following the clearly displayed signage, heading down a level in an elevator, turning a corner and hey presto you’ve arrived!

As soon as I stepped through the door, I was immediately greeted by Gloria, who was manning the welcome desk this morning. After a quick check of my boarding pass, I was given a card with the Wi-Fi details printed on it, and I was wished a very pleasant stay.

The firs thing I noticed when I walked through into the seating area was an unmistakable sense of peace and tranquillity. The lounge has TV sets mounted on the walls at various points throughout the lounge, all of which are set to mute to allow guests the opportunity to relax before their flight and to let them catch up on work. Giant floor to ceiling windows allow lots of natural light to flood into the lounge; they also give guests inside the lounge a view of the distinctive shamrock that is on the tail of every Aer Lingus aircraft.

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This mornings buffet consisted of a cold selection of cereals, pastries, yoghurt and fruit salad. There was some snacks such as biscuits and every airline’s favourite sour cream and chive pretzels. I had previously read about the disappointing array of food options available here at the lounge, and Its very clear that nothing has changed. All food is accompanied by fresh fruit juices, hot drinks and a selection of sodas from the fridge.

Split over two levels, the lounge offers an upstairs seating area that is designated as the quiet zone. Also on the top level are complimentary shower rooms that guests transiting through Dublin can use. My experience with airport lounge shower rooms is that they can become quite hot and humid very quickly, however without using Aer Lingus’, I can’t comment on them.

The upstairs seating area is designated as the quiet zone. There is also a giant Airbus A350 model that I really wanted to take home with me!

As the flight information display screens indicated that it was time for me to head to the gate so that I could board my flight to Malaga, I got the sense that the Aer Lingus lounge is ideal for an hour or so whilst you wait for your flight. In my honest opinion, If the access had not have been included in my fare, I wouldn’t have lost any sleep over it. The lounge is practical and modern, but not quite what I expected from a Skytrax 4* rated airline.

Aer Lingus Flagship Dublin Lounge Review

After arriving in Dublin from Southend at around 16:00, I had around 2 hours before boarding began for my connecting flight to Manchester. Unfortunately, although my previous flight was operated by Stobart Air (which uses Terminal 2 under the ‘Aer Lingus Regional’ brand), this flight used the older Terminal 1. Prior to my flight, I had seen conflicting reviews about the terminal transit process in Dublin, but I found the whole experience very smooth.

To connect between terminals, you do have to pass through the Irish Border at passport control. After exiting into the Baggage Reclaim area, simply continue to walk through the hall, following signs for ‘flight connections’. At this point you will take a flight of stairs and arrive at a small passageway into the Terminal 2 Security area. This process seemed almost too simple, but you must have your onward boarding pass with you to use this system.

Whilst Terminal 1 at Dublin airport is claustrophobic, chaotic and in dire need of refurbishment, the relatively new Terminal 2 has a completely different feel. Terminal 2 is where you’ll find Aer Lingus, Etihad and most other long-haul carriers at Dublin – so it has a more premium and modern feel. To access the lounge from the connections security area, I simply turned left and followed a corridor down to the premium lounges at Dublin – these included the Etihad lounge, a generic Dublin Airport lounge (used by a variety of airlines) and the Aer Lingus flagship lounge.

The entrance to the lounge is extremely modest and understated for its size.

Entrance to the Aer Lingus Lounge at Dublin.

After a warm welcome into the lounge, I was met with a surprisingly spacious expanse, with a feature wall paying tribute to important Irish figures, such as the first female President – Mary Robinson. The lounge is full of natural light and, thus, has a fantastic view of the apron for us aviation enthusiasts. iMacs were available for guests’ use – along with a communal desk area –  and there was fast and quick Wi-Fi – something that I value greatly in a lounge. All showers to the lounge are located on the upper mezzanine level (one of the lounge attendants will guide you to an available room, should you want to access the facilities). Whilst I didn’t make use of the shower, this could well be a useful facility.

On the ground floor, the furnishings were tasteful – with a colour scheme of green and warming mahogany, which gave the lounge a homely feel – despite its size. There was a relaxing mezzanine level with an additional mini self-service bar and large seating area – which was completely unoccupied during my time here. The main self-service bar area offered scones, pastries and a selection of hot drinks – whereas the upstairs bar only had a limited offering. The evening’s hot food offering was Beef Goulash – which tasted superb – but I was rather disappointed with the lack of hot food available. I can only suggest that there is a more plentiful food offering at different times of the day.

What really impressed me about the lounge was the amount of power ports available and the positioning. Close to every seat, a power port was available, which is obviously an imperative feature for business travellers.

Although this lounge has big plusses (such as the tranquil and unpretentious atmosphere) and was an inherently positive experience, for a flagship lounge, I wish more food options could be available throughout the day.  Otherwise, I’d have no hesitations using the lounge facility again.


Featured photo courtesy of Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus Regional ATR-72 Review

The ATR aircraft family is the fastest selling turboprop worldwide since 2005. With over 200 airline operators, these efficient turboprops impressively land and depart every 8 seconds! Stobart Air’s fleet comprises wholly of ATR aircraft, two smaller ATR-42 aircraft and 15 larger ATR-72 aircraft, operated on behalf of Aer Lingus Regional in Ireland, and, in the UK, Flybe. On 30th August, I had the pleasure of experiencing first hand, the comfort, efficiency and modernity of this aircraft and the close-knit Aer Lingus Regional family.

The Aircraft

Stobart Air’s ATR72-600 aircraft are some of the most modern in the skies. EI-FAW operated my first flight of the day, an aircraft just three years old. Contrary to the obsolete stigma that turboprop aircraft carried, they are – in reality – quiet, comfortable & efficient, helping the viability of ‘thin’ but vital connections between the UK and Ireland and developing secondary and tertiary airports. For example, 100 new routes are launched every year with ATR aircraft.

In addition, the aircraft helps Stobart Air operate profitably, with unbeatable economics for regional routes. Operating costs on the competing turboprop aircraft are 20% higher than then ATR while regional jets are at least 40% higher and, as my Captain, Shane, pointed out, an A320 aircraft simply taking off and banking used nearly as much fuel as our ATR aircraft would need for the whole flight from Dublin to Leeds Bradford.

Wingview approaching Dublin

The cabin was impressive and extremely spacious. The seats used were lightweight, but very comfortable and the legroom offered was adequate enough to stretch your legs straight out, thanks to the generous 31” seat pitch and slimline seats. The cabin also boasted the widest seats and aisles of any other regional aircraft, allowing the seats to have 18.6” of width. In terms of short haul travel, it was definitely one of the best cabins I have experienced, and enjoyed my journey in great comfort. It is configured in a 2-2 layout, accommodating 70 people and, like Aer Lingus Mainline, there is no business class cabin.

The comfortable and modern cabin of the ATR.

The cockpit is also one of the most technologically advanced I have seen, bringing the latest technology to regional aviation, the ATR -600 features a glass cockpit by Thales. In addition, being made in Toulouse, it inherits lots of similarities from the Airbus family cockpits.

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 Outbound – LBA-DUB

My outbound flight was scheduled to leave at 0855, however, due to highly efficient boarding, we departed 10 minutes earlier. Juan and Jakub did a great job of preparing the cabin for departure and issued a warm welcome to everyone on board. Then came the beautiful buzz of the propellers. Sat in seat 4F, I had an exceptional view of the wing, and as this was my first flight on a turboprop aircraft, I was very over-excited! The only thing to bear in mind when flying with Stobart Air is the food and refreshment selection is very limited – don’t expect hot food as the aircraft simply does not have the equipment or, for that matter, the time on such a short hop. Around 20 minutes ahead of schedule, we touched down in Dublin. Once on stand, I made my way up to the cockpit. Because of the ATR’s design, you must walk through a small corridor where cargo and hold luggage is held to get to the flight deck. The Captain and First Officer gave me a great explanation as to how everything works, and said they’d be heading to Bristol in 50mins. Sure enough, whilst walking through St. Stephen’s Green in the centre of Dublin, EI-FAW soared above me, with the crew I’d just met at the helm.

“Under the Wing!”

If I thought my outbound flight was good, I was in for a treat on the inbound sector!

 Inbound – DUB-LBA

1 hour prior to boarding, I was met by John Dillon – the Duty Manager for Stobart Air’s flights out of Dublin – who informed me that he would be able to get me out to the aircraft for a tour as soon as it arrived from Edinburgh. Whilst EI-FAS (my ride home) was on final approach, we made our way out to the remote stands, where the regional aircraft boarded. As this was my first experience of an airside tour, I was overwhelmed as I watched my aircraft arrive on stand. I boarded the aircraft to be met by Shane – the Captain for our flight home, who offered a full tour of the aircraft, and explained everything inside and out, in such a friendly and enthusiastic manner. I consider myself to be knowledgeable about aviation, but I learned so much from this tour. To be up close and personal with all aspects of the aircraft and the cockpit was amazing. As the other passengers boarded, I met Calvin and Catherine, the endearing cabin crew operating my flight, who went above and beyond to help their guests, clearly taking great pride in their work. They made every effort to ensure their passengers had a great flight; going to great lengths to make sure everyone was sitting with their travel companion – something you wouldn’t find any other airline doing! Thanks to their warm and helpful attitudes, and the overwhelming experience I had beforehand, this flight will go down as one of the best.

Conclusion

In conclusion, flying Aer Lingus Regional was a great experience. From the friendly faces of the crew, to the punctuality of the flights, it really accumulates to become an effective way to fly between Ireland and the UK, in addition to being able to connect to the US, from UK regional airports such as Leeds, Southampton and Newquay, utilising Dublin’s US Border Pre-Clearance facility. Stobart Air is ambitious about its future, welcoming Embraer 195s into its fleet from October this year which I will also be reviewing, and I am confident that this small, but charming airline will continue to prosper as it grows.

Aer Lingus Regional flies thirteen times per week between Leeds/Bradford and Dublin, with prices starting from £25 one way. For more information on fares and schedules and to book log on to www.aerlingus.com.

disclaimer: this trip was provided by Stobart Air