Storm clouds parted for the arrival of Aer Lingus’ distinctive big green plane from Dublin on Wednesday afternoon.
This is the first time the Irish flag carrier has touched down at San Francisco International since departing during the dark recessionary days of 2009.
Here’s what you need to know:
>Aer Lingus operates a 267-seat Airbus A330-200 on the SFO-DUB route. There are 24 business class and 243 economy class seats (no first class). The flight, which will operate five days a week, departs for Dublin at 5:20 pm and returns to SFO at 3:20 pm. The flight takes 10-11 hours depending on direction and winds…it’s the longest flight in the Aer Lingus route network of 70 cities.
>At the moment, fares on Aer Lingus’ SFO-DUB nonstops are looking about standard for June flights. Business class on the nonstop flights is running about $5,500 roundtrip and economy is running from a low of around $950 to a high of about $1300 round trip. (You’ll find cheaper fares in both business and economy on one-stop flights from competitors.)
>Business class seats on Air Lingus are angled lie-flat vs the more comfortable true-lie flight (horizontal) favored by frequent travelers. At an airport reception for the flight yesterday, I asked CEO Christoph Mueller about this, and he broke some good news: Since the San Francisco-Dublin route is the carrier’s longest flight, it will be the first route to get new true-lie-flat seats (from Thompson) in business class later this year. SEE UPDATE 2.2105
>Currently, there are power ports in every first class seat, and every other economy seat and the plane offers satellite based wi-fi. Each business and economy seat has its own seatback video screen with a wide selection of movies, shows and games. Aer Lingus offers a unique bidding process for upgrades to business class. Details here.
>Having a new nonstop on SFO-DUB should be music to the ears of execs from Bay Area tech companies like Facebook, Google and LinkedIn who will likely be flying to/from their European headquarters in Dublin. The Irish Examiner reports, “There are 179 companies employing more than 36,000 people in Ireland from the West Coast of the US. These companies are primarily based in the technology and digital media sectors.”
>Aer Lingus is not a member of the Star Alliance, Oneworld or SkyTeam. However, it is a United code share partner. But the SFO-DUB route is not a route where the carriers share a code. Nonetheless, due to the partnership, United Mileage Plus members can earn miles on Aer Lingus flights… but there are limits based on fare paid. Business class fares earn 150% of base miles flown, but economy fares earn just 50%-75% of base miles. Many of the lowest fares do not earn miles at all. You can redeem 60,000 MileagePlus miles for economy round trips on Aer Lingus, or 140,000 for business class. Details here. In my conversation with CEO Mueller, he said that the carrier is working on boosting its frequent flyer program, but did not offer any other specifics.
>One of the best things about flying Aer Lingus is that passengers pre-clear US customs and immigration in Dublin before boarding the plane. That means when you land at SFO, it’s just like a domestic flight… you can hit the ground running as soon as you touch down. Aer Lingus currently flies into the international terminal (Boarding Area G).