With Ireland’s national carrier Aer Lingus the focus of a planned takeover by IAG, does its service warrant the interest? For this flight review, Director hopped aboard Aer Lingus flight EI0167 from Heathrow to Dublin
Two of the most powerful men in European aviation are Irish – and both are keen to get their hands on Aer Lingus. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has attempted (and failed) to buy Ireland’s national carrier three times, but his airline still owns 29 per cent of Aer Lingus stock.
Meanwhile, Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, which owns British Airways, started his career as a cadet pilot at Aer Lingus in 1979, rising to CEO 22 years later.
IAG has offered €1.36bn (£961m) to buy Aer Lingus. A cursory glance at Aer Lingus’s figures and €1bn balance sheet reveals why. In February, it announced profits had risen by almost 18 per cent to €72m from the previous year, while passenger numbers hit a record 11 million.
The Aer Lingus board is recommending the takeover. The Irish government supports the deal and has agreed to sell its 25 per cent stake in the carrier to IAG. On 11 June, the Competition and Markets Authority ordered Ryanair to cut its stake in Aer Lingus to five per cent – a decision the low-cost airline called “manifestly wrong”.
For Irish-based companies such as Arklu, which make frequent trips to manufacturers in China, it’s hoped the IAG deal will open up Dublin airport as a hub. Meanwhile, frequent transatlantic passengers could avoid lengthy immigration queues at American airports by ‘pre-clearing’ at Dublin or Shannon.
With Aer Lingus offering up to 22 London-Dublin flights daily, strong aviation links are an integral reason why many British companies opt to establish themselves in Ireland.
“Ryanair’s fanfare might be cheesy, but it’s true – you never wait,” says Elephants Don’t Forget CEO Adrian Harvey. “I always arrive in my Dublin office on time at 8.30am.”
But does Aer Lingus warrant the fare money? On this flight review, Director packed for business and found out…
Aer Lingus check-in
Aer Lingus’s London-Dublin route receives most traffic from its regular Monday morning/Friday evening commuting pack. But on a Thursday afternoon, Heathrow’s new, shiny Terminal 2 is deserted, ushering an effortless four-minute breeze through security. Director didn’t check in bags, but prices range from £20-£45 (low fare) to £8-£30 (plus/flex fare), with £8 per additional bag. Access to the airline’s voluminous lounge costs €25, which would be justified if the food offered was more than cheese and crackers (there’s no meal service on London-Dublin). However, its workspaces and Zen-like solitude made it a perfect environment to work. 9/10
After an escalator trip from the lounge, Director queued for 15 minutes (priority boarding is available through the flex fare). The flight was delayed, thanks to a scatter-brained passenger placing their passport in checked-in luggage. Still, our businessman neighbour greets us with an “Alright, howarye?’, a friendliness doubtlessly unavailable on many other carriers. 7/10
Director was in seat 1A, with ample space for the short 1hr 20mins hop, even if the tray looked like it could snap in half at any moment. Annoyingly, our seemingly advantageous front seat actually meant Director had to stow laptop overhead and wear jacket for take-off and landing. 6/10
Aer Lingus in-flight experience
Assuming coffee and tea would be free with this flag carrier, a cashless Director ordered a coffee, only learning of its cost when the Aer Lingus flight attendant barked, “That’ll be £2.50!” Sadly, Ireland’s national airline doesn’t offer Guinness on its London-Dublin service either. 7/10
The flight made up for the delay by landing on time – thankfully devoid of the annoying fanfare that greets such punctuality on Ryanair flights. From there, it was a quick one-minute dawdle to the Gardaí’s passport once-over and straight into Dublin’s modern airport. 10 /10
Non-complicated baggage fees, lack of passport queues and, yes, no in-flight fanfare made this Aer Lingus journey pleasurable alternative to Ryanair 39/50
Aer Lingus operates daily flights from Heathrow to Dublin, Cork and Shannon and from Gatwick to Dublin and Knock. Lead-in fares start from £45.99 one-way including taxes (valid for travel to 31 October). To book, visit aerlingus.com
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