Aer Lingus is the flag carrier and second biggest airline in Ireland. Operating since 1936, its name an Anglicisation of the Gaelic Aer Loingeas means “air fleet” .
A lot has changed for Aer Lingus in the last six years not the least being the Irish economic situation. The government reduced its 85 per cent stake to 25 percent through a listing on the Stock Exchange in 2006. Ryanair, arch rival and biggest Irish airline has now picked up close to 30 percent and attempted three takeover bids in five years.Abu Dhabi-based and owned Etihad Airways acquired 3 percent in May-2012.
Aer Lingus operates a “hybrid model” here they compete as a Low Cost Carrier on European flights and operate as a full service carrier on North American flights. Aer Lingus moved out of One World but continued some relationships with One World carriers. Ryanair claims that since privatisation, Aer Lingus cumulative after tax losses are 91 million Euro and Ryanair’s profits have been over two billion Euro.
Booking: 5 out of 10
AerLingus.com has to be one of the most cumbersome booking systems I have ever encountered. It took seven screens from enquiry to completion. On the plus side, there are very good explanations for each step.
One frustration I had, was that Aer Lingus quoted everything in Hungarian Forints (HUF). Yes, this is the currency of Hungary but I don’t use Forints very often. I have no reference point to understand fares in Forints. There seemed to be no option on their website (unlike many other airlines) to switch currencies. I used XE.com to understand the costs of luggage and seats etc. For example 1600 Forints is meaningless to me but 5.66 Euros or USD 7.35 makes sense.
Aer Lingus offer three types of fares. For this 1,916 kilometre, three hour flight the options and fares for the same Economy seat were (rounded to nearest dollar):
- Low: Free Check-in and Assigned Seating (a dig at rival Ryanair who charge for check in and to get an assigned seat) $US91
- Plus: 1 checked bag, Free Seat Selection, Gold Circle Points $115
- Flex: 2 checked bags, Full flexibility, Lounge access, $142 Refundable ticket
Aer Lingus have an option where you can hold the flight for around 5 Euros/7 Dollars. If you proceed with the booking within 24 hours, that money is deducted off your fare. Handy way to lock in a fare or a handy way for Aer Lingus to make more Euros?
In many ways, Aer Lingus is repeating the Ryanair model of charging for every extra possible:
- an admin fee of around seven dollars for my Credit Card. I imagine their actual processing cost would be closer to one dollar.
- an extra $US 1.40 for a SMS confirmation of my flight- Seeing that would cost the airline a few cents to do, here is another way of making easy money for the airline
- an extra $18.37 for a 20kg bag.
- $5.51 for seat selection or $11.70 for an emergency exit seat
I found it important to do some research here because cheapest was not always the better option:
- For a customer who chose the Low fare, accepted what ever seat and turned down SMS confirmation would pay around $US98 for Budapest to Dublin.
- A customer on the same fare with one bag and making the choice of a seat would pay $121.88 which is more than the Plus price which includes those features and gives you frequent flyer points.
- The same passenger on the same Low Fare wanting to choose their seat and carrying two bags would pay $133. For a mere $10 more, you could purchase the airline’s Flex fare for $142 and get Lounge access, full flexibility and frequent flyer points.
Check In: 7 out of 10
I thought the Aer Lingus online check in system to be very “clunky”. I still needed to see an agent at the airport to sight travel documents. Check in was a little slow. Three passengers ahead of me had to repack their bags as they were over the regulation 20kilos. Instead of stepping to the side to do it and letting the agent serve others, they removed items at the counter. It is all a joke really because the person then wore the item removed from the luggage or put it in their carry-on. My check in agent was very pleasant and friendly. No questions were asked of my hand luggage.
Security was thorough and very structured with agents actively helping each customer with their computers, liquids etc
Boarding: 8 out of 10
The incoming plane was late. Boarding did not start until well after departure time. No announcement was made to advise us of the situation or to apologise.
When boarding commenced, the boarding area became a bit of melee with multiple lines cutting across each other. Despite specific rows being called, that did not actually matter.
I got the warmest welcome in lilting Irish tones from three of the cabin crew. If there is one way that Aer Lingus and Ryanair would differ, this would be it. I find the Ryanair greeting non existent or surly. The welcome was so warm, it made up for the lateness.
As I chatted to the flight attendant standing near my seat, I asked her if there any pain killers on board as I had an aching tooth. She got some for me before takeoff and brought them down to me (in exchange for my name and address to satisfy regulations). She did not charge me for the water! 🙂
On Board: 6 out of 10
The 174 Economy seats on the Aer Lingus A320 have a pitch of 30″ and a width of 18″. My emergency exit seat had more room but not a huge amount more. Ryanair have the same pitch on their 737s but an inch less width on ever seat. Aer Lingus seats recline- whereas Ryanair’s don’t. The interior looked tired and didn’t grab me.
Meals: 4 out of 10
Aer Lingus sold a selection of snacks, sandwiches and hot and cold drinks on this flight. I wanted the chicken sandwich but the last one was sold to a gentleman a row ahead of me! Not wanting a BLT or a “Toastie”, I opted for a Snack Pack. Aer Lingus make a big deal that they sell the Irish Independent newspaper on board. Service was very warm and friendly.
Entertainment: 0 out 10
There was the window to look out of or sleeping. No wifi.
We landed a little late. Passport control was swift and I was in Dublin after a short ride.
My rating: Overall 62% (3.1 out of 5)- my overall rating of Aer Lingus based on my previous flights is: 3.0 out of 5. I think the friendly welcome boosted this score. By comparison, I also give Ryanair 3 out of 5.
Skytrax Rating of Aer Lingus: 3 star
Positives: Friendly staff
Negatives: Entertainment system, lack of wifi, booking system, check in
Would I fly them again? Yes- it was okay