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Booking and check in
Aer Lingus’ new website is very user friendly and surprisingly easy to navigate, even for a technophobe like me.
Selecting flights for our weekend in Paris was no trouble. Three fare types are currently available: Fully flexible, Plus and Low. For this particular trip, I chose the Plus fare option, and paid an additional fee to select seats in Row 3.
I used the advance check in option and was pleasantly surprised to find that it is now possible to print both outbound and return boarding passes in a single visit to “manage booking”. A small detail, to be sure, but a further example of Aer Lingus’ commitment to improving the customer experience. Our boarding passes were clearly marked “Priority Boarding”.
We decided to treat ourselves to breakfast on board, and used the pre-order facility to guarantee our meals. A voucher is emailed within a few minutes, and this is printed for redemption on board.
We arrived at Dublin Airport Terminal 2 @ 0730am for our 10.10amflight. Most of my flights are HBO, and it had been some time since I used the Gold Circle check in desk at Dublin Airport. Formerly at the extreme right of the Aer Lingus check in area, it is now at the left hand side, and is clearly signed. A new feature is that there is a frosted glass screen around the area, which gives a little privacy, something which VIPs would no doubt value. Mind you, we felt a little bit special going in!
One of my favourite benefits of Gold Circle membership is the use of the Fast track security lane. Security staff are very pleasant, and at the same time very thorough. We were airside within a couple of minutes.
The Gold Circle Lounge in Dublin T2 is a large two storey area with large windows giving good views of the apron
Lounge staff are very welcoming, and Linsey made a point of welcoming me to the lounge, not having seen me for a few weeks. This is a particularly nice touch, given the number of passengers who visit the lounge. It typifies Aer Lingus’ commitment to customer service.
There is a water feature which extends over two floors, and is impressive. Upstairs is a quiet area, where shower suites are located.
Newspapers and magazines are available as well as internet access for those wishing to work. There are numerous power points for charging mobile devices.
Short Haul flights are not called from the lounge, but there are several flight information screens. Our flight was due to depart from gate 410 which is a short walk from the lounge.
The food on offer consisted of:
• Fresh fruit
• Breads, scones, pastries
• Cheese, crackers
• Savoury nibbles
Aer Lingus now display allergen information beside all food products.
Full marks to Aer Lingus for providing high quality china, glassware and cutlery in the lounge.
A full range of soft & alcoholic drinks is available along with fruit juices, tea and coffee.
I was delighted to see the return of small bottles of sparkling water to the lounge. I always find that once the bottle is opened, the sparkle quickly disappears.
The flight information screens advised “go to gate” shortly after 9.30am. Fortified by an excellent espresso, a pastry (or even two!) we made my way to the gate 410, which is close to the lounge.
Boarding & In Flight
Boarding had not yet begun, but did so within a few minutes. Gold Circle members, flexible fare passengers were invited to board first, and did so through a clearly marked “priority” lane.
Cabin crew warmly welcomed passengers on board
All Aer Lingus short haul aircraft are economy class and seats are configured 3-3. The Airbus was immaculate, with seats upholstered dark blue leather with adjustable headrests.
The Captain introduced himself, welcomed passengers on board, and outlined our and expected flight time. This was followed by a safety briefing.
Once we had reached cruising altitude the inflight service began. As well as pre-order meals, there is a menu of drinks, food and snacks available to purchase. My breakfast was served in a cardboard box with individual compartments for the hot food, bread, juice. This box replaces the small tray previously used, and reduces the chances of spillages and items falling off the tray. The coffee is now sourced from a new supplier: Java Republic. This is a full bodied coffee, strong and very good. The breakfast itself is very nice, and comes with a newspaper. It is a veritable bargain at 7.50euro.
Arrivals & Baggage collection
We landed on time at Paris CDG, and were on stand quickly. We deplaned via an airbridge, and took the lengthy walk to baggage arrivals. It took less than 10 minutes for our bags to be delivered. A few minutes walk took us to the CDG VAL shuttle which brought us the short distance to Terminal3, which was a few steps away from our hotel, the Hilton CDG.
And so began our weekend break to Paris, the high point of which was a visit to Disneyland on Friday, followed by a visit to Paris city the following day.
Little did we think that when we returned to our hotel on the night of Friday 13th November, exhausted but happy after a lovely day in Disneyland that we would learn of the horrific events taking place in Paris. Watching the news reports on live TV, seeing the images, and worst of all the continuously increasing death toll was chilling. The state of emergency and closing of French borders was a natural response from the authorities.
Awaking from a troubled night’s sleep, we looked out our hotel room window took in the views of CDG and saw a succession of aircraft arriving and departing. Sometime during the night a decision had been made to operate the airport as normal, albeit with increased security.
Our planned flight home was 10pm that evening, so I asked at reception if we could have a late check out: we were immediately offered a 6pm check out, and later if needed. The receptionist made it very clear that there would be no additional charge for this. What a wonderful gesture from the Hilton CDG, and very much appreciated.
After breakfast, I checked with Aer Lingus as to the possibility of changing to an earlier flight. There was indeed availability on the 1.30pm flight, but because I had checked in online already, I could not complete the change using the “manage booking” facility on the website. A call to Aer Lingus helpdesk sorted this, and within a few minutes, we were rebooked on the lunchtime flight, and at no additional charge. I have little doubt that many other passengers wished to change their flights, and that Aer Lingus chose to waive the normal change fees demonstrated their commitment to customer care.
We left the hotel, and once again expressed our thanks to reception for their kindness, and made the short trip to CDG Terminal 1.
As could be expected, the terminal was very crowded, and long queues everywhere.
Aer Lingus handling agents in CDG are Swissport, and three desks were open, one being a designated Gold Circle/ Bag drop desk. This had a short queue, and once checked in we followed the signs to departures.
Only one channel was operating, and three separate queues were funneled into this channel, which led to further queues for passport control. EU passport holders were directed to the left hand side of a great mass of people. This process took well over an hour, and eventually we were airside.
Aer Lingus use Salon Icare. This is reached by elevators which were opposite passport control. Our flight was showing as departing on time, so we spent only enough time in the lounge to grab a quick drink and snack before making our way to the departure area.
Security & Boarding
Security screening takes place at the boarding area (gates 10-18) and information screens showed a wait time of 15 minutes. Screening was very thorough, but staff were very pleasant when interacting with passengers.
Our aircraft was on stand, and boarding commenced about 1.45pm. With more than usual scrutiny of boarding passes and passports, the boarding was slower than normal.
As ever the cabin crew were very welcoming, and several PA announcements were made advising passengers that it was a completely full flight, and to put smaller hand baggage under the seat in front so as to maximize space in the overhead bins for larger bags.
The Captain also made regular announcements to apologise for the delayed departure and the additional time spent waiting for passengers caught in the airport security delays. Cabin crew handed newspapers to passengers, which was a nice touch.
We departed at 2.45pm, and were airborne shortly afterwards. The Captain once again apologised for the delay and gave details of our routing, and expected arrival time in Dublin. This was followed by a security briefing by cabin crew.
Once we had reached our cruising altitude, the inflight service began. There was a planeload of hungry and thirsty passengers and the cabin crew made several PA announcements to ensure everybody was aware of the range of hot food available.
During the flight, an announcement was made that any passengers connecting to transatlantic flights should make themselves known to cabin crew, and assistance would be offered.
We landed in Dublin at 3.20pm, and parked at a stand very close to passport control.
Bags were delivered very quickly, which was greatly appreciated.
The outbound flight was very pleasant, the service enhancements (more efficient printing of boarding passes, the elegant Gold Circle check in area in Dublin) made an appreciable difference to our experience.
The return flight showed Aer Lingus’ unstinting efforts to facilitate passengers who wanted to leave Paris earlier than planned. This clear demonstration of customer care taking precedence over profit is a tribute to the airline management. I (for one) am deeply grateful.
I also thank the staff at the Hilton CDG who offered us the use of a room for as long as we needed it.
The staff of CDG Airport were faced with the challenge of dealing with large numbers of passengers while reeling from the terrible events in their city only a few hours before. They did so with dignity and patience.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I salute you and thank you.