Earlier this year, I decided to take a trip in April to visit a friend in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was working with a minimal budget and was excited to discover that one of the cheapest economy fares ($1,199 RT) from San Francisco to Edinburgh was offered by Aer Lingus. I had never flown with Aer Lingus before and jumped on the opportunity since I’d heard so many positive things about their service. When I told Chris about my upcoming trip, he mentioned that several readers enjoyed the Trip Report he wrote on Aer Lingus’ new business class, but we didn’t have a trip report on the economy experience. So, I decided to document my first trip on that big green plane!
(Note: For this Trip Report, we asked our amazing TravelSkills office manager Kimberly Grimes to write about her Aer Lingus flight to/from Scotland. Enjoy! –Chris)
As I boarded the Aer Lingus A330-200 at SFO, I was politely greeted by all of the crew members and directed to my seat above the wing. When I got there, a pillow, warm fleece blanket, and complimentary earbuds were waiting to help me enjoy the in-flight entertainment.
There was also a small envelope for donations to UNICEF, Aer Lingus’ charity partner for nearly 20 years, which came in handy for getting rid of spare coins on my flight back.
Once settled into my window seat I found the 32” pitch to be more than enough for my 5’4” self and I was comfortable even with a larger person seated next to me. Before takeoff, I flipped through Aer Lingus’ magazine Cara (“Friend” in Irish Gaelic). I usually get through half of the in-flight magazine before putting it away to watch takeoff, but on my flight to Dublin I only had the chance to flip through some photos as we happily departed almost 10 minutes early. I’m impressed that Aer Lingus operated with such timeliness during my entire journey with them. On my flight home, we landed at SFO 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
Dinner was served about two hours into the flight with a choice of beef stew or creamy spinach pasta. I don’t eat beef so I went with the pasta, but my seatmate got the stew and enjoyed it. I don’t usually expect much from pasta on airplanes, but the sauce in the dish was delicious and the pasta was cooked perfectly.
My meal also came with a light salad of lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and a bit of feta which I enjoyed after my pasta. It was fresh, tasty, and delivered an extra bit of hydration that I really needed. The pasta had enough carbs for me so I didn’t eat the dinner roll, but I did save room for the dessert of berries and light whipped cream.
I tried to doze off after dinner, but I spent most of the flight exploring the entertainment system. I was thoroughly distracted with the selection of over 50 films, a variety of TV shows, and an extensive list of music albums, podcasts, and radio stations to indulge in. Wi-fi was also available on the flight at the price of $9.95 for an hour or $18.95 for a full flight pass but the entertainment system was enough to keep me from boredom. When my eyes got too tired to watch any more movies, I browsed the music selection and made a playlist perfect for sleeping. I don’t think I actually slept much, but meditating to the RnB and soft rock sounds for a few hours was nice relaxation.
The cabin crew served morning snack boxes and warm beverages about an hour before we landed in Dublin. Inside was a ham and cheese croissant and a cup of strawberry yogurt. I wasn’t in the mood for yogurt, but I enjoyed the croissant. It was simple, yet comforting and I really appreciated the warm food and tea in the morning.
I was not at all excited about taking a propeller plane to connect from Dublin to Edinburgh. I’ve had an aversion to propeller planes since I rode on one as a kid flying over Alabama. It was like a loud, tumultuous rollercoaster that my parents couldn’t wait to get off of. My journey with Aer Lingus was nothing like that. The flight was operated by Irish regional airline Stobart Air (formerly Aer Arann) and had two Aer Lingus crew members on board. These crew members were exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable, reassuring some other nervous passengers and myself that we’d have a safe ride on the ATR 72-600.
I was particularly impressed with how one crew member successfully comforted a terrified, screaming child during the flight by assuring her that the noise and extra turbulence was just part of what makes propeller plane flight special. The entire experience was so stress-free that on the way back I felt no anxiety hopping on the propeller plane, even with someone obnoxiously joking that our plane was probably going down.
On my return flight from Dublin to SFO, I got a special treat for my in-flight meal. Before my trip, Chris told me about some upgraded meals that Aer Lingus offers to economy passengers and asked me to try out the service (which he generously paid for 🙂 ). These meals are part of Aer Lingus’ Bia Pre-Order service and have been created by their executive chef and Irish chef Clodagh McKenna.
Passengers who would like to enjoy these meals must pre-order them online at least 24 hours before the flight. Meal options include Roast Chicken with a Twist ($25), Melt-in-the-mouth Salmon ($25), and Succulent Steak ($28). The chicken and steak options are similar to entrees served in business class, but I was really curious about the salmon and decided to try that.
Ordering my meal was as simple as choosing my seat through the “Manage Booking” section of Aer Lingus’ website. My credit card was charged immediately after ordering and a salmon meal voucher was promptly e-mailed to me. The e-mail provided instructions to print the voucher in full and bring it on board with me to submit to the cabin crew. It didn’t specify when I should submit the voucher, so I asked a crew member at the door as I boarded and she took it right away.
I got settled in my seat and was really absorbed in watching a television show on my laptop when a crew member came by with some food on trays and asked if I ordered a special meal. I was really caught off-guard since the meal service hadn’t been announced yet, but he handed me a nice tray with my salmon meal on it and offered me some wine.
There was nobody sitting next to me on this flight, but I wonder how people would have reacted to my special meal service if the plane was more crowded. I was prepared for a few envious glares and questions about why I got such a fancy meal when others did not. As the distinct scent of salmon floated around my section, I looked around to see if anyone was really noticing. The cabin was nearly empty and the few passengers near me were too caught up in their own experience to show much interest in what I was eating so I was able to enjoy my meal without judgement.
I love salmon, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from salmon on an airplane. As I took my first bite, any negative preconceived notions I had about “airplane salmon” went away. It was delicious and the texture was perfect – not too dry or rubbery. It wasn’t extravagant with flavors, but it was well done and exceeded my expectations. The potatoes that accompanied the salmon were less impressive. They were very bland, but also too oily for my taste. I ate all of them, but they were definitely my least favorite part of the entire meal.
Surprisingly, the real highlight of the meal for me was the salad of aubergine, roasted pepper, and sunblushed tomato with a harissa and lemon dressing. The dressing had the perfect kick and reminded me of homemade cocktail sauce.
For dessert, I had a sweet mango and passionfruit yogurt (instead of the listed raspberry pannacotta) with real chunks of fruit in it. Delicious! Plus, a lovely chocolate truffle by Irish chocolatier Lily O’Brien. I couldn’t help but eat them both!
I was so full from my meal that I could barely even look at the farewell chocolate bar given to me by the crew right before landing at SFO. My Bia pre-ordered meal was a great way to have a bit of extra fun on my flight home and add a little luxury to my first trip with Aer Lingus.
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