Dublin – Newcastle Return

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  WillieWelsh 4 Apr 2017
at 18:19
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  • PatJordan
    Participant

    Booking and check in

    Aer Lingus Regional operate the Dublin – Newcastle route on behalf of Aer Lingus.

    Aer Lingus have a very user friendly website, and selecting a flight for our preferred dates for our trip to Newcastle was no trouble. Three fare types are now available: Advantage, Plus and Saver.

    For this particular trip, we chose the Plus fare option, which includes complimentary seat selection (including the premium seats which were chargeable on the former Plus fare) , one checked bag and Aer Club points.

    Aer Lingus offer on-line check in up to 30 days prior to flying, and I used the facility to print boarding passes.

    We booked our parking with Dublin Airport Authority, opting for the surface car park beside T2. It is a few steps to the terminal building, and very convenient for Aer Lingus passengers. I feel it represents good value at 50euro for three days.

    We arrived at Dublin Airport Terminal 2 @ 05.00am for our 06.50am flight. Having checked in already, all that remained was to drop off luggage. Aer Lingus have installed an automated bag tag and drop system:

    · Place bag on scales and scan boarding card.

    · Attach the tag which prints within seconds

    · Bring the bag to the belt, the tag is electronically read and a receipt issued.

    Unfortunately, I had mistakenly printed two boarding passes for myself, and none for my wife, so we had to call to the Aer Club desk and shamefacedly explain my dilemma. In no time at all, I was issued with replacement boarding passes, and both our bags checked in.

    One of my favourite benefits of Aer Club membership is the use of the Fast track security lane. Dublin Airport Security staff are very efficient, very thorough yet very pleasant. We were airside within a couple of minutes. Large screens give expected time to clear security which is very helpful.
    There is a good range of shops and restaurants airside, and we had a browse before making our way to the Gold Circle Lounge.

    Lounge (Dublin)

    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 always very welcoming, and a wifi code is available at reception.

    There is a water feature which extends over two floors, and is impressive. Upstairs is a quiet area, where shower suites are located.

    There are numerous power points for charging mobile devices, and a couple of computers with printing facilities for those wishing to work.

    Short Haul flights are not called from the lounge, but there are several flight information screens.

    The food on offer consisted of:

    · Fresh fruit

    · Cereals

    · Breads, scones, pastries

    · Yogurts

    · Cheese, crackers

    · Biscuits,

    · Savoury nibbles

    Aer Lingus now display allergen information beside all food products.

    A full range of soft drinks is available along with fruit juices, tea and coffee. Full bar service is available from 9.00am. We had a very acceptable continental breakfast, and given that I was in holiday mode, I asked for a glass of merlot.

    The flight information screens advised “go to gate” shortly after 6.30am, and we made our way to gate 355 which is a short walk from the lounge.

    Boarding & In Flight

    When we arrived at the gate, boarding had commenced, and passengers were bussed to a remote stand which is the norm for Aer Lingus Regional.

    Cabin crew warmly welcomed passengers on board

    The ATR 72 was relatively new and was immaculate. The seats are configured 2-2, and appear very thin but are quite adequate for a short flight.

    We had opted for row 1, described as “stretch seats”. As there was a bulkhead instead of a seatback facing us, it made the seating very spacious, and very pleasant. The only downside is the lack of tray tables, which would make having a hot drink a little precarious. However, the extra space was very nice indeed.

    The Captain introduced himself, welcomed passengers on board, and outlined our
    and expected flight time. This was followed by a safety briefing. Cabin crew approached passengers in row 1 and explained how to operate the emergency exits.

    We departed on time, and after a short taxi, were airborne.

    Arrivals

    We landed ahead of time at Newcastle, and deplaned quickly. It was a short walk from the aircraft to the terminal building. Being a compact airport, baggage collection was nearby, and our bags arrived within a few minutes.

    Newcastle airport has very good public transport links to the city. The Metro tram is a couple of minutes walk from the arrivals hall, and a £5 one day ticket covers the trip to the city centre and unlimited travel in the Newcastle area for the remainder of the day.

    Check in Newcastle

    Swissport are Aer Lingus handling agents in Newcastle. Our printed boarding cards indicated that bag drop opened 2.5 hours before departure. Our flight was scheduled 7.10pm, and we therefore expected bag drop to be available from 4.40pm. We arrived at NCL at approximately 3pm, with the intention of having a leisurely lunch, dropping off our bags, having a browse at the shops before relaxing in the lounge for a couple of hours. Due to a combination of factors, the outcome was significantly different.

    As this was our first time using Newcastle Airport, our expectations were of a standard similar to that in BHX, MAN et al. However, NCL is much smaller and there is little on offer landside. We settled for an all day breakfast from Ritazza which was not at all bad, but not the relaxing lunch we expectd.

    I then enquired at the Swisspost desk when the Aer Lingus checkin/bag drop was
    due to open. I was told it would be two hours before the flight, i.e. 5.10pm. There was little to do but make ourselves as comfortable as possible and wait for 5.10pm to come.

    5.10pm came, and it was almost 5.20pm before a Swissport official took up position at the check –in desk, did something with paper rolls and his computer, then got up and left for a few minutes.

    On returning, he muttered something inaudible, which we took to mean we were to give him the paperwork to drop off our bags. This was carried out with much tapping of computer keys, and using the phone. Eventually, our bags were tagged, placed on the belt, and receipts given to us with our boarding passes and passports. It may seem incredible but this entire (and lengthy process) took place without the Swisspost official making any form of contact with either my wife or I.

    As we left the check in desk, my wife was utterly appalled at being treated in such a rude fashion. It was now after 5.30pm.

    I approached the Swissport “customer support desk” and outlined my concerns to the lady on duty. I was met with indifference, and told to contact Aer Lingus if I wished to make a complaint. Obviously customer satisfaction matters little to this section of Swissport.

    I was unsure whether my Aer Club status entitled us to fast track security at Newcastle, so I asked the gentleman on duty at the entrance. He was more than happy to invite us to use fast track, and we proceeded through security in a matter of minutes.

    As with the majority of airports, exiting security leads one to a shopping area, and in truth the duty free prices on fragrance were substantially less than high street shops. With the current Euro/Sterling exchange rates, this is even more favourable for Irish passengers. The shopping area is very pleasant indeed, and what surprised us was the number and obvious quality if food outlets airside.

    The contrast between the relatively poor facilities landside and the superlative airside facilities was vast. If only we had the time to appreciate them!

    Lounge Newcastle:

    Aer Lingus Aer Club passengers currently use Swissports’ Aspire lounge. My Aer Club status granted me access, but not for a guest, so I pre-booked my wife. The gentleman (from Swissport) at reception was very friendly and efficient as was the lady at the bar.

    This was a large bright room, with many seating types. There was a very good range of newspapers and magazines, complimentary wi-fi, and plenty of power points.

    In keeping with other Aspire lounges, the bar is staffed, and drinks are complimentary.

    The food on offer was quite good:

    · Minestrone soup & rolls

    · Filled read rolls

    · Fresh fruit

    · Crisps & nuts

    · Cheese, pickles, cherry tomatoes

    · Crackers

    · Biscuits

    · Cake slices

    My wife enjoyed a glass of white wine, and I had some very refreshing cold lager.

    This is a very pleasant lounge and well worth paying for if one doesn’t have access. It was very close to our boarding gate which was a welcome bonus.

    BOARDING

    After boarding passes and passports were checked, passengers were assembled and in a very short time boarding was announced for passengers seated in rows 1-10. We walked the short distance to the aircraft, made our way to Row 1and made ourselves comfortable.

    When boarding was completed, I was very surprised to be approached by the cabin crew, and (very apologetically) asked if I could identify our bags, as there had been an IT issue when we checked our bags.

    Walking the length of an aircraft with lots of curious eyes upon me was an experience I would not chose to repeat. The ground crew (again very apologetic) asked me to identify both bags (which were standing on the ground in heavy rain). I did so, and was thanked for this. I returned to my seat (again with many curious eyes riveted on my back). It would appear that all the tapping of keys by the check –in agent were of little benefit.

    Once I was seated, the aircraft closed up and the take off procedure began.

    After the usual flight information and safety briefings, we were soon airborne and on our way to Dublin.

    Our flight was very pleasant, and despite wet and windy weather in Dublin we landed smoothly, and proceeded to out parking stand. We were transferred to the terminal by bus, and I was pleased to find that we were close to passport control.

    Our bags arrived after a few minutes, and we proceeded to the car park, which is a very short walk from T2.

    Conclusion

    I have mixed feelings about this trip. All the elements within Aer Lingus’ control, the flight, Aer Club lounge, baggage handling, Dublin check in were exemplary.

    Swissports’ service in Newcastle Airport was one of the worst experiences we have had in recent memory. This was compounded by the indifference shown by the staff when spoken to, and the issue with our luggage. Normally Swissport deliver a good service, which makes this episode all the more perplexing.


    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    PatJordan – Thanks for the detailed check.

    I suspect this service is as much geared to the needs of transfer passengers as it is for those going point-to-point.

    There is much transatlantic expansion from Aer Lingus in 2017 and, with Newcastle not having transatlantic service, I can see the attraction for Geordies to connect in Dublin.


    PatJordan
    Participant

    Thanks Alex,

    Indeed, Newcastle would be an ideal gateway to the USA via Aer Lingus.


    Bath_VIP
    Participant

    Hi Pat,

    Thank you for this informative report. As a regular user of Newcastle, I agree that there is a considerable difference landside and airside in terms of eating options. The airside options are very good and most areas have good views over the apron.


    FDOS_UK
    Participant

    Pat

    A point to remember.

    An airline can delegate the responsibility of a task, but retains the accountability for it’s execution.

    So, at the end of the day, Aer Lingus is on the hook for Swissport.


    WillieWelsh
    Participant

    Great review Pat – as ever.

    I read it mostly because I saw the reference to Newcastle, somewhere I used to go but no longer do. I used to find it a place in two halves, staff and service were either as good as you will find anywhere or the worst you can imagine. The trouble was you never knew which you were going to get on the day. I’m not sorry I no longer need to visit.

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