Welcome to the second instalment of my Travel Spot, covering my flights to/from Dublin in October 2019, at the start/end of a two-week trip to Ireland. I spent my first week driving around Ireland, enjoying the beauty of the Wicklow Mountains, Waterford, Cork, the Ring of Kerry and Galway. This was followed by a weekend in Dublin (visiting coffee shops, of course) and a week working in Leopardstown, just south of Dublin, before I flew home on Friday afternoon.
The first instalment was about my flight from Heathrow to Dublin, travelling in Club Europe with British Airways, while this post covers my return, which saw me take the slightly bizarre route of Dublin – Heathrow – Manchester, again flying Club Europe with British Airways. This was partly due to laziness on my part (it was the seventh trip of a hectic year, sandwiched between two trips to Japan) which made the default option of booking with British Airways the easy way out, and partly down to airline madness, which makes this sort of routing cheaper than flying London to Dublin with British Airways, then returning from Dublin direct to Manchester with Aer Lingus (which would have been the logical route to take).
Although this is fairly short (for a Travel Spot post), it’s split into the following sections:
- Getting to Dublin Airport
- Terminal 2 and the Lounge
- Dublin to London Heathrow
- Landing at Heathrow and the First Class Lounge
- Heathrow to Manchester
As I mentioned when discussing the flight from Heathrow to Dublin, I get seasick very, very easily, ruling out the combined train/ferry route via Holyhead. That left flying and, since I was well and truly caught in the status/airmiles trap with British Airways, it was the obvious (default) option. This wouldn’t have been an issue if I was going to/from London, but on my return, I was heading on to Manchester so that I could visit my Dad in North Wales (which would have been so easy if I’d taken the ferry/train option).
Unfortunately, British Airways doesn’t fly between Dublin and Manchester, so I had to fly back to Heathrow (practically flying over Manchester in the process) before catching the British Airways shuttle from Heathrow back to Manchester. A logical alternative would have been to fly from Heathrow to Dublin with British Airways, then return from Dublin direct to Manchester with Aer Lingus. Unfortunately, airline pricing being what it is, those two one-way flights worked out more expensive than the there-and-back-and-on-to-Manchester route with British Airways. In a sane world, British Airways and Aer Lingus would code share on these routes, but they don’t, despite being owned by the same company and code-sharing on transatlantic flights. Bizarre.
Of course, I could have done the whole trip with Aer Lingus, but it wouldn’t have been any cheaper and, since my status was with British Airways, I would have missed out on those benefits (even though, as I’ve said, the two airlines are owned by the same company). Similarly, this would have been the case if I’d flown with a budget airline.
Finally, I could have flown to/from Heathrow, then taken the train from London to North Wales. This appealed, but would also have been more expensive, as well as requiring me to haul my bags across London or take the tube (in rush hour on Friday evening), a mode of transport singularly unsuited to someone with lots of luggage. In the end, the Dublin – Heathrow – Manchester route, bizarre as it was, offered the path of least resistance.
With that settled, all I had to do was get to Dublin Airport for my flight, which was due to leave at 16:30. Fortunately, Dublin Airport is well connected to the city centre by public transport. On my first visit, in 2014, I used local buses (I was visiting a friend) to get around, while on my return in 2016, I took the Aircoach, which runs several services between the airport and the city (as well as destinations further afield).
In this instance, I was on Route 700, which, conveniently, runs from Leopardstown, through the city centre, all the way to the airport. Even more conveniently, its start/end point in Leopardstown was outside my hotel… Although I’d started my trip by car, I’d had to drop that off back at the airport the previous Friday evening, after my drive around Ireland. From there, I took the Aircoach to my hotel, purchasing a return ticket for a mere €16, which I used to get back to the airport the following Friday.
The Aircoach runs every half hour, so I decided to catch the 11.30, scheduled to get me to Terminal 1 at 12:50, in more than enough time for my flight. As it was, the coach goes right through the city centre, battling Friday traffic as it did. We also kept stopping to pick up passengers, which slowed us down even more (note that it’s pick up only, with no drop off, so you can’t take the Aircoach from Leopardstown to the city centre, for example). That said, we did better than the 11:00 departure, which we overtook along the way!
Once we got through the city centre, things improved as we joined the M1 motorway, heading nonstop to the airport, where we dropped off at Terminal 2 (Aer Lingus) before ending our journey at Terminal 1, arriving just a few minutes late.
I was checked in and through security within 10 minutes, even though there was a short queue at the Club Europe check-in desk. That left me with 3½ hours before my flight’s scheduled departure, except when I checked the departure boards, it was already showing as delayed by 20 minutes. In years gone by, I would never have arrived this early for a flight, particularly as I don’t have great memories of the facilities at Terminal 1 from my previous visits (caveat: I was flying with Ryanair on those occasions).
However, ever since I got status with British Airways (and, more generally, since I have been flying business class, which gets you lounge access), I’ve been much more relaxed about things. I headed for the Terminal 1 lounge to get something to eat, figuring that I would spend the rest of the time working and writing postcards (which, pleasingly, you can post airside, unlike many other airports).
Unlike the dedicated British Airways lounges that I’d become used to, this was a general purpose one, with access for about 30 different airlines and lounge clubs (I suspect that this includes every airline which flies from Terminal 1). In the past, I’ve not had the best of experiences with these sorts of lounges (scary how quickly I have gone from flying economy to becoming a lounge snob). My favourite lounges are those run by the individual airlines, where the aim is to provide a high-quality service. It’s possible that I’ve been unlucky, but my experience of pay-for-use lounges (even if you’re not paying for them) is that they can sometimes have too much of an eye on the bottom line, particularly when it comes to the food.
Having experienced such a lounge at Manchester airport on my way out to Tokyo (when I flew via Helsinki with Finnair), I feared the worst, but this was actually quite decent. There was a help-yourself buffet lunch, with a variety of cold items, including sandwiches, salads and cheese and biscuits, but it was all of very good quality. I did, however, pass on the coffee.
I set off for the gate (204) at 16:05, when the screens were showing “go to gate”, figuring that I could get there just before boarding started. As it turned out, it was only a five-minute walk and boarding was delayed to 16:30 (our scheduled departure time). That said, the gate area was a cut above the average, with plenty of seating (and power outlets), along with food and drink options interspersed among the local clusters of gates, raising my overall opinion of Terminal 1.
Boarding was by groups and I used my Gold Status to be one of the first on the plane. As we had when we landed, we were walked across the tarmac (fortunately it wasn’t raining at that point) and up the steps, where I found my familiar seat, 1F, at the front, by the window.
On the way out, I’d flown on an Airbus A320-200, but this time I was on a smaller A319-100. I’ve already said pretty much all I want to about flying in Club Europe, so I won’t repeat myself here. I quickly settled in and, by 16:40, was ready to go. Sadly, the same could not be said of the plane. Although boarding was complete by 16:45 and the doors were closed at 16:50, we then waited at the gate for 20 minutes before pushing back at 17:10, 40 minutes behind schedule.
We spent our usual five minutes on the tarmac while we watched the safety briefing on the overhead monitors. Fortunately, the terminal buildings at Dublin Airport are at the eastern end of the runway, and we were taking off to the west, so had a very short taxi. Unfortunately, we had to wait while an incoming Aer Lingus flight landed, before the pilot announced seats for takeoff at 17:20. A Ryanair flight ahead of us in another queue to our right took off, then, after quite a gap, we rolled onto the runway at 17:25.
Unlike when I landed, where I had excellent views, we went into low cloud about three minutes after takeoff. We had started a 180° turn to starboard shortly after taking off and we were still turning when, a minute later, we were through the clouds. However, my joy was short lived as we quickly disappeared into another, higher bank of clouds five minutes after takeoff.
It was a fairly bumpy flight, so the seat-belt signs remained on, not that this deterred the cabin crew, who were quickly into their stride with afternoon tea. Sitting at the front, I was served first with a plate of three finger sandwiches, followed by a hot scone, which was on my plate by 17:35, just 10 minutes after takeoff. I put cream on my scone, followed by jam, thus alienating half my readership in one stroke (I did think of putting cream/jam on one and jam/cream on the other so that I could enrage everybody, but thought better of it).
Just fifteen minutes after takeoff, we were across the Irish Sea and over the northern tip of Anglesey. I moved onto my dessert, a rather tasty apple pie, as we flew along the North Wales coast, passing pretty much over my Dad’s house at 17:45. Shame I couldn’t have stopped the flight there, although I’m not sure where I would have landed an A319. It definitely wouldn’t fit on the drive…
On my flight out, we flew almost directly over Manchester before turning west for Dublin. This time we avoided that indignity, instead taking more of an arc, flying over Birmingham as we descended towards London. The seat-belt signs were briefly turned off at 18:00, but at 18:05, the pilot announced seats for landing, so the signs were turned back on again.
As is often the case, we were landing to the west, but coming in heading east. That meant flying past Heathrow to the north, ticking off landmarks such as Wembley and the Emirates Stadium before turning over the Olympic Park in east London. Sitting on the right-hand side of the plane meant I got some fantastic views of central London, which was all lit up for the evening. Unfortunately, all I had with me was my phone, which really wasn’t up to the job in the low light (sadly my camera had broken on my drive around the Ring of Kerry).
From there, we were on the familiar (to me) approach over central and western London towards Heathrow’s south runway, where we landed at 18:20. We taxied straight to the main Terminal 5 building, heading for the A gates on the terminal’s southern side, where I’d started almost exactly two weeks before. We were on the stand with the airbridge attached by 18:30 and I was soon off the plane and making my way through the terminal.
Although I’d transferred flights at Heathrow multiple times in the preceding couple of years, typically that was either coming in from Manchester before heading off internationally (where I’d go straight from the plane to departures), or arriving internationally before carrying on to Manchester (where I’d have to go through passport control, then go upstairs, where international transfers has its own dedicated security area, before being allowed into departures).
This time, since I was coming from Dublin, I didn’t need to go through passport control. Instead, I had to leave the arrivals area via baggage claim and customs, before going back upstairs to departures and re-enter via the normal security channels, although I could skip check-in, since I already had my boarding pass from Dublin. I really wasn’t expecting that, which made me wonder if I’d followed the correct signs, although I was fairly sure that I had.
All of this was quick enough though, and, by 18:50, I was back in departures and heading upstairs to the First Class lounge. This was my third time in the lounge, following my initial 20-minute visit on my way back from Tokyo (when I was also heading on to Manchester) and my more extensive stay on the way out to Dublin two weeks previously.
My flight top Manchester was scheduled for 20:40, so even with my late arrival, I had at least an hour in which to enjoy the lounge, aided by the Manchester flight itself being delayed by 55 minutes. To help pass the time, I supplemented my light lunch and afternoon tea with some soup, followed by cheese and crackers to go with the port which I’d found on a previous visit, but not had chance to try (the British Airways First Class lounge stocks a rather fine 2009 Colheita from Warre’s). I also found 20 minutes to fit in another chair massage from the spa, having missed out two weeks before. Then it was time to head down to the gate.
It was a day of delayed flights, and this was no exception. I hung on in the lounge until the monitors showed the flight as boarding at 21:15, 35 minutes after it was supposed to have left. I went straight down to the gate, but this time it was Gate A6, at the northern end of the terminal. By the time I got there (and realistically, it only takes five minutes to walk the length of the building), the gate was showing as closing.
I walked straight on, only to find myself at the back of a queue on the airbridge. I was the last person on at 21:30, at which point the doors were closed. This was another Airbus A319-100 with the typical Manchester configuration of just four rows of Club Europe seating at the front. I was in the front row again, but this time in the aisle seat on the left (1C). I had considered a window seat, but there seemed little point since it would be dark for the entire flight.
We pushed back by 21:35 and watched the safety video on the overhead monitors while we sat on the tarmac. We moved off just before the end, taxiing to the eastern end of the runway, but once there, we joined a long, long queue of other aircraft waiting to take off, including a rather lovely Boeing 747 done out in an old BOAC livery to mark British Airways’ 100th anniversary (technically, the 100th anniversary of one its predecessors).
The wait, on top of all the other delays, was extremely frustrating, not helped by the person in the seat across the aisle from me (1D) who was fast asleep and snoring loudly. I think everyone was hoping that we’d take off and the noise from the engines would drown out the snoring! Finally, 25 minutes after we left the gate, we swung onto the runway and, at 22:00, we were on our way.
The seat-belt signs came off at 22:05, and the cabin crew sprang into action. I had my last meal of a day of meals, a rather lovely roasted pepper dish with cous cous, goats’ cheese and mozzarella, plus a bread roll, side salad and chocolate mousse. I’d polished all this off by 22:15, which was just as well since the pilot announced 10 minutes to landing at 22:20. True to his word, we were on the ground at 22:30, which is the shortest time I’ve been in the air for this flight. We made it to the stand at Terminal 3 at 22:35, exactly one hour after we pushed back from Heathrow, having spent half our time on the ground!
The only positive is that Manchester is a comparatively small airport, so when things are running smoothly, it’s really very quick. My bags were out in double quick time and I was in my taxi, which had been patiently waiting for me (and who, in fairness, I’d kept frequently updated) by 22:50. I finally reached my Dad’s just before midnight, just over 12 hours after I’d left my hotel and a mere six hours after I’d flown over the house! Maybe next time I’ll pack a parachute… Or do the sensible thing and fly straight from Dublin to Manchester…
That concludes the final part of my 2019 trip to Ireland and one of my rare short-haul trips.
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