Reaction to flying with Aer Lingus - economy class

In my job I get to fly economy several times a year. The company won’t stump up the dosh for Business Class, so we have to put up with Economy. So, I guess it’s reasonable to compare the airlines I’ve flown with against, this, my first experience with Aer Lingus. So what’s it like?


To get from Newcastle to Boston, there are several routes that are available:

There is, sadly, no direct flight. So, in weighing up which route to take, the key points (for me) are, in no particular order:

  1. What’s the transit airport like?
  2. How long will the whole journey be?
  3. What time do I leave home and arrive at my destination? (and thus, how long is the journey)
  4. What is the in-flight service like?
  5. What is the seat comfort like?

British Airways: London Heathrow T5

I hate Heathrow Airport, and T5 in particular. It’s basically a large shopping mall masquerading as an Airport terminal, and not in a good way. The restaurants are not located in the same place, so you have to traipse all over the terminal. Obviously, this is intentional to try to get you to buy things from all the shops.

Flying back from the US and arriving in the morning is usually a bit of a nightmare depending on your arrival time. This is because, if five flights arrive at roughly the same time, the terminal is overwhelmed and the stupid, slow, security-as-theatre system means long, long queues and delays in entering the shopping mall.

However, BA economy class isn’t that bad. The seats are reasonably comfortable and the leg room is good. You get regular drinks and the alcohol is included in the ticket price.

KLM: Schiphol Airport

Schiphol airport is huge. Just enormous. You have to be pretty fit to make a close connection (i.e. 1 hour or less) as it takes about 25 minutes to walk across the airport between international arrivals and flights to the UK. Otherwise, Schiphol is a nice airport.

KLM are also a good airline when it comes to long haul travel. The economy class is acceptable and the leg room is the same as British Airways.

However, for the Boston flight the flight from Newcastle was at 6.00am on a Sunday. Whilst I’m not completely allergic to getting up at 4.00am to catch a flight, flying East to the states would have made for a very long day which would have made Monday a very ‘tired’ day. Connections and timing, it turns out, are very important.

Aer Lingus: Dublin Airport

They make you pay for the alcohol on long haul. On long haul! What is the world coming to? It’s not cheap either; Six Euros for a tiny bottle of wine. SIX!! I don’t tend to drink whilst flying, but it’s the principle of the thing.

Leg room on the flight is worse than BA or KLM. Or Air France, for that matter. And, as I sit in the seats, I think they may be less comfortable. But that might just be recency bias, so we can probably ignore that.

The big selling point for this trip was that it was a shorter journey. This is because Dublin is on the way to Boston, whereas Heathrow and Schiphol are detours.

There is also something called ‘pre-clearance’ in Dublin for the US. This effectively means that one ‘clears’ US customs in Dublin which should make entering the US a little bit easier.

However, after the pre-clearance area, the waiting area of the gates is awful. There are business class lounges, but the other lounges are before the pre-clearance area. Therefore, it is extremely busy because there are too many flights and not enough seats. And it is very unfortunately, because the seats are basically, flat, bent, metal. It’s almost as if the designers never tried to sit on them.

The food is pretty much like every other economy class, long haul, flight: not very interesting, but edible.

On my way out to Boston, it was an old Airbus A330-300. Not as old as some of the BA stock, but you could tell the AV system was last generation as it was slow to respond, and mine had to be rebooted before it started working. It also reminded me that I do need to invest in some Bose Q35 noise cancelling headphones as planes are really loud and you can’t hear the movies.

So was Aer Lingus a good choice?

I guess it’s as bad as the other airlines, just bad in different ways. Essentially, flying economy class is not fun, and is basically a chore. You’re tired at the end of it, constantly waiting or queuing, and the food is passable.

However, the timing of the flights was excellent, and so for this route, Aer Lingus was the right choice. The choice between Aer Lingus, BA and KLM will largely be around when they fly, rather than the airline and/or airports. And I think that, largely, is the reality of flying. They are all roughly the same quality (or lack of it) and roughly the same cost.

I’m sure if I was flying business it’s just better, but again, they’re all the same. I just wish I flew business more.

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