Aer Lingus and Avios Part 3 – I try US pre-clearance in Dublin and the ’51st and Green’ lounge

This is my review of the “51st and Green” preclearance lounge at Dublin Airport as well as the overall US preclearance experience.

It is the third part of my series on how you can redeem Avios on Aer Lingus for long haul flights to the US and Canada.  With far lower taxes and charges than redeeming for British Airways flights, and with a superior Business Class seat, it is something that all Head for Points readers should be considering.

The first two parts of the series are here and here.  As a reminder, Aer Lingus gave us our flight for nothing but Head for Points paid for all of its other expenses except for my hotel in Boston, which was donated by Hilton.

One clear advantage when flying to the US from Dublin on Aer Lingus is that you clear customs and immigration in Dublin and land at a domestic terminal in the US.  This is especially useful if you’re flying into a very busy airport where this process can take hours on a bad day.

That said, as I live in London, I had to get to Dublin first …..

London to Dublin

Living in London, there are two options of travelling to Boston via Dublin with Aer Lingus. You can either fly out of Gatwick or Heathrow. My preferred choice was Heathrow.

Aer Lingus flies out of Terminal 2 which I use very rarely. The flight from London Heathrow was operated by an A320 with Economy class only.

I was able to use Priority Check-In due to my connecting business class flight.  I was not, however, able to use Fast Track security with my Economy ticket out of Heathrow. My BA Silver status didn’t help either, even though it would have got me into the Aer Lingus lounge in Terminal 2 (reviewed here).

My onward business class ticket did give me Priority Boarding, which was helpful due to the plane being fully booked and everyone bringing a carry on suitcase on board.

Aer Lingus Business Class Dublin to Boston review

The plane looked a bit dated and the space between me and the folded down table was slim to none.

The Aer Lingus buy on board menu looked ok.  I didn’t order anything as the flight was only one hour, I had just left one airport lounge and was flying rapidly towards another.  Hot drinks were €3, porridge €3.50, various sandwiches including a vegetarian focaccia €5 and full Irish breakfast (which is served before 11am) €10.

Aer Lingus Business Class Dublin to Boston review

U.S. Preclearance

Once I got off the plane in Dublin I followed the signs to Connecting Flights and then the signs to US Preclearance. It was a bit of a walk which took me through the Duty Free store.

There is an Aer Lingus lounge on the way to US Preclearance.  However, as it is advised to go through Preclearance two hours before your flight, I decided to give the Aer Lingus lounge a miss and only check out the “51st and Green” lounge after immigration.

I did visit the Aer Lingus lounge on my way back home and that review will follow in a few days.

Aer Lingus Business Class Dublin to Boston review

There are two lines at US Customs and Border Protection, one for Economy and one for Business Class passengers. Over all it wasn’t too busy despite there being about six scheduled US flights at that time.

The first step was TSA security check.  I found this slightly confusing as every passenger should have been through security already at this stage, but is apparently due to the fact that you can purchase certain food at Dublin Airport which you’re not allowed to bring to the US.

Next stop was the self-service kiosk to clear customs. As I was travelling on an ESTA I simply scanned my passport, had my picture taken, filled out a couple of questions on the screen and got my Preclearance receipt (without a big X) which I handed to one of the officers who asked me a couple of questions and that was it.

It was all very painless.  More importantly, it felt easier to go through the process at the beginning of my trip rather than on arrival.  It is never good to face a long immigration queue after a long flight when you are usually keen to get to bed as soon as possible.

Aer Lingus Business Class Dublin to Boston review

The ’51st and Green’ Preclearance lounge

I had about 2 hours until departure of my flight to Boston so I went to the relatively new “51st and Green” lounge (Dublin seen as the green 51st state of America).

The Preclearance lounge is located at the far end of the departure lounge.  It is run by the airport, not Aer Lingus, and you can access it for cash if you are not flying in Business Class.  It is not part of Priority Pass.  The walk-up price is €39 and you can find out more here.

Aer Lingus Business Class Dublin to Boston review

The lounge was very busy when I got there and I was lucky to get a table. It got better over time though and I even got one of the comfortable arm chairs.

It was rather difficult to find a quiet spot as the lounge is pretty much a round hall with several sitting areas.

and….

There were further seats by the floor to ceiling windows.

The food selection was great with various salads, bread, soup, cheese and fish as well as a pancake maker and a selection of muffins.

I asked for gluten free bread and was lucky as they still had some in the kitchen.

There was also a pay for menu:

  • Hot and spicy chicken wings with American blue cheese dressing – €7.95
  • Barbequed cajun chicken burger, carrot slaw, Dubliner cheddar, barbeque relish – €10.50
  • Irish coastline fish pie, topped with creamy mashed potato – €9.50
  • Mamma’s style macaroni and cheese – €8.50

I didn’t order anything but do regret that I didn’t try the chicken wings as American blue cheese dressing is pretty awesome…

The staffed bar had two different red wines, two different white wines, beer and Guinness as well as a fancy coffee machine. There was no champagne available.

The newspaper selection was limited to The Irish Times. I couldn’t see any magazines in the lounge.

Conclusion

All in all the preclearance experience at Dublin Airport was fantastic.

I’ve never been through US customs that quick and the preclearance lounge served its purpose – although a glass of champagne or at least prosecco would have been nice as would have been a selection of glossy magazines.  Getting through the formalities at the start rather than the end of your flight makes a big difference to the experience.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at Aer Lingus Business Class itself …..

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

What are the best UK airport lounges you can visit for free with Amex Gold's Lounge Club passes?
What is the future of airline credit cards in the UK?
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. That lounge is a huge improvement. Waiting conditions before were abysmal. So this is probably another of WW initiatives to include Dub airport TATL as his other LHR runway! Shame they don’t serve prosecco tho. Even no 1 traveller serves That free! Hope you had nice drinks on board tho..
    Wonder if they accept Lounge Key?

  2. Cassandra says:

    As an American let me say that I am delighted for anyone’s good experience with TSA.
    TSA stateside is a totally miserable, unpleasant mess every time I go through it. They never seem to know what they are doing. There appear to be different standards and rules and procedures with each different line at every city, all served with gobs of ‘attitude.’ It is a process which no flyer can do completely ‘right’ it seems.
    One of the endless hitches and glitches is ‘food.’ Heaven only knows why the negotiators did not work out the forbidden food issue before opening the TSA component in Dublin.
    My last TSA check-through was for a domestic flight in Denver, after arriving on BA from LHR. The entire line came to a standstill while a smug and nasty TSA agent stopped the conveyor belt and walked along the line lecturing one and all because he had found a yogurt container in some poor soul’s carry-on. Shaking the container he yelled: “Don’t you people know better? Yogurt is a LIQUID! You cannot carry liquids on board….”
    That much I know because we end up buying a bottle of water after TSA for $3.50-$5. I don’t remember any lounge ever being available after TSA.
    And, I actually would not have thought of yogurt as a “liquid.” Messy, gelatinous, but not a forbidden liquid. Silly me.
    So yes, if you can do TSA first, stop in Dublin and do it.

    • Travel regularly to the USA and have global entry. Never an issue and always a pleasure. I use multiple airports.

      • Yup, with Global Entry and TSA Pre, travelling to and around the US has become much more pleasant.
        Global Entry makes the DUBLIN pre-clearance thing somewhat pointless. Fly direct, and be through immigration in under one minute.

    • Thanks for our post about the TSA – have you seen this ?

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UGZsrjpLm7k

      Apparently she sued them and was awarded $75000

      • Certainly seemed an unnecessarily long time she was kept waiting and generally poor treatment (hence the payout) but I don’t understand what harm she thought an x-ray machine would do to her milk in the first place?!

  3. Guinness has two n’s – you gotta get that one right Anika! 😉
    same occurred in LHR lounge article…

    Great review, thanks…

  4. I must be very fortunate as I don’t recognise the long queues or hours of waiting for entering the USA. I have in the past ( more than 5 years ago) but not recently.

    AA to JFK Jul 17 less than 5 minutes.
    BA to JFK AUG 16 family of 4 under 10 mins.
    AA to DFW AUG 15 15 minuted as we got a
    Big X
    SEA APR 15 under 10 minutes.

    LAX was bad at around half an hour but to be honest I have more issues at T5 (UK immigration is the worst in the world frankly) than in the USA or indeed anywhere else. Getting out of AMS back innApr was not pleasant though.

    My point is that my experience of US immigration is such that I won’t choose a pre cleared flight simply for that reason. Other factors will influence my choice way before this and I wonder just how long pre clearance will continue for?

    • Several UK airports were bidding to introduce it when this subject was in the news a year or so ago, IIRC.

      I agree that – usually – US immigration actually on America isn’t now as bad as people fear/recall.

      Very likely to encounter pleasant/very professional TSA/CBP personnel at any US border point.

      But I think it’s seen as beneficial to US security to increase the number of non-US preclear facilities.

      Also, understandably, many TSA/CBP staff will welcome the possibility of temporary foreign postings in nice places.

      Bigger issue for me as a Brit, is how our Border Force staff so often come across as so unprofessional and lacking in basic customer service skills.

      • Richard G says:

        Last couple of times for me has been 45 minutes and an hour and a half. (Denver and Dallas)

        I still really don’t understand why the machine asks you the same questions as the border official, and I REALLY don’t get the point of doing my fingerprints twice.

    • MCO in August – 2 1/2 hours !

    • I agree totally – went through MCO on Monday almost without stopping walking, there was no delay or queue at all. Only stopped walking to use the self service kiosk in fact. I think the US airports have really upped their game.

    • Once through Miami took nearly three hours. I nearly missed my connection. My bag didn’t make the plane…. I now avoid transiting though the US if there’s any way to avoid it!
      I think once I’ve been through reasonably quickly in Minneapolis. Every other time its been an hour minimum.

  5. Do they they have Global Entry lines at Dublin, or does everyone join the same pre clearance line?

    • Same line as everyone else. I’ve read that it would be better to avoid pre clearance routes if you have global entry

      • Same line for preclearance additional security. There are separate GE booths and they feed into the crew lane. GE need to still see an officer in DUB as they have to match your hold bags (photo) as you are clearing customs and immigration simultaneously.

        BTW in response to other posters, the additional preclearance security is down by Irish contractors, not TSA.

  6. The main reason for the additional security check is because European security standards differ from US standards. From a passenger’s point of view the biggest one is that all shoes come off in the US (apart from precheck lines) and in Europe only boots need routinely removed. The second check is largely about this.

    I’ve heard in Shannon, a much smaller airport, they run the main security to the US standard so that the preclearance check isn’t required but Dublin is too busy to do this.

    It’s the CBP officers’ job to work out of you’re bringing food into the US, not the security officers’!

    • I’m not sure that makes sense; you can fly to the US from the UK, France, Spain, Germany… all over Europe, and the world, in fact, without having to go through two tiers of security checks, one ‘European grade’ and one ‘American grade’.

      Arguably, you could fly into DUB from somewhere with much more lax security, which would justify a second inspection, but the same is true of LHR, and no such additional checks happen there.

      • But LHR do have additional security checks if you’re connecting? Within T5 going connecting from an inbound UK flight is fine, but any terminal switch (where you inevitably mix with passengers from non-UK flights) or when doing it in reverse and connecting int->dom you have to reclear security…

  7. I cannot see any logic with the US government operating a security checkpoint because they’re worried people might buy some food in Dublin airport and bring it with them! Surely that can’t possibly be true – and would be done by customs anyway, not the TSA?

  8. Joseph Heenan says:

    It’s important to note that whilst the preclearance is great when you’re flying business, the experience of myself & colleagues this year is that it is abysmal if you’re in cattle class – unless you have some kind of fetish for spending hours in queues in enclosed hot spaces.

    If you’re flying economy I’d recommend avoiding this routing unless you’re 100% sure your USA destination has queues that are as bad (which seems unlikely in my recent experience).

    The food in Aer Lingus in economy is also pretty bad (the worst I’ve had, except for an inedible olive pasta dish KLM served earlier in the year) & you’ll need to pay extra if you want anything alcoholic, even on the long haul segment.

  9. Paul Walsh says:

    MCO last month
    2 hours in a building site!

    What irritated me was the machines took your photos and scanned passports, and finger prints – I thought, “how cool is this!”
    Then I walked around the corner to see queues of an hour for some miserable guy to take my photo again and take my prints (again), and scan our passports (again). It all felt inefficient. It all felt miserable, and it all took too long!

    We need preclearance at London airports by the sounds of things!

    • RussellH says:

      That was our experience at MIA two years ago. What was also interesting was the overheard comments from Americans saying that they would never, ever, fly back into MIA International again.

      But having gone through the chaos you describe once, it seems that you are OK for the rest of the validity of your ESTA. ORD machines waved us through without hassle six months later.

      If arriving with a new ESTA, try as small airport if possible. We flew into OAK this summer, and while the immigration shed was very unprepossing, our BA ex LGW was the only flight at the time, two perfectly polite and professional Border Control staff processing the foreigners – there are no machines!

    • Exactly the same @Paul Walsh – in October also but they didn’t have any of the automated machines switched on, which was confusing the CBP guy in the booth as well. It made me long for Sanford.

    • Michael Jennings says:

      I entered the US at Providence Rhode Island airport last week, and the machines did the photo and fingerprint thing. I then took this to the desk, and the only interaction between me and the immigration officer was a stamping of the passport and a couple of thank yous. This took maybe 10 seconds.

      • Good result, although without GE it’s not always guaranteed to be as fast as that – queues were >2h in MCO earlier this year and ~30min at JFK – certainly made me glad to have GE both times! (plus it also gets you through an expedited customs queue and TSA Pre for internal flights).

        • Simon Schus says:

          I have avoided flying into PVD since the European flights started, as there is no Gloabal entry (at least not when I checked last- unless it has changed since!) and no lounge. Admittedly, my wife flew from PVD last week and said it was such a good experience because it was empty (around 2pm).

          I find the GE process at DUB a little odd given that they still stamp my passport even after using it and entering on a Green card. I do it about once every two months though only for cost saving.

        • Yep PVD still not on GE list – https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/locations

          Agree re DUB and GE – they seem to almost try to repeat the entry procedures again! They were also very confused that a Brit had GE (this was a couple of years ago) and ended up getting a supervisor across to double-check!!

  10. Agree that US border has improved in most smaller cities – better than returning to UK at T5 IMHO – though MIA and LAX are still worth avoiding on a bad day – much prefer TPA and SAN respectively.

    DUB pre clearance is terrific, and roll on the day pre clearance extends to, say, EDI….

    Meanwhile, Aer Lingus should speed up their return to One World if they want to fill those business class seats – don’t see how they can join the BA/AA jv without rejoining One World….

  11. Hi,

    Off subject slightly. Do you know why you can only earn tier credits for Aer Club with Aer Lingus flights only but can earn Executive Club tier points on BA or Aer Lingus? Trying to work out which scheme to award flights to. Is there any benefit of sticking to Aer Club as opposed to transferring the Avios to BA?

    Cheers

    • Neil
      Aer club hasn’t really got off the ground yet, even tho they think they have. EI are not part of one world either. So if you require flexibility, then transfer your points over to avios. You won’t earn tier points either over there. So maybe best being with avios program for now. And EI said the other day they won’t be re joining OW either.

  12. Sounds like GE would still be faster than than pre-clearance?

  13. Hi

    Can you use a companion voucher flying Air Lingus to the states?

    Thanks

  14. With Global Entry though pre-clearance is actually more of a hassle than anything as stuck once through it, although this new 51st & Green lounge looks like a decent improvement. Main benefit for me flying ex-DUB is still the lower APD charges. Stobart Air flight from EDI always a bit cramped but prefer DUB to LHR for transit experience!

  15. So I did the Irish routing last year LHR->DUB->JFK (..i think..) in biz.

    My main annoyance with the route was having to clear Irish immigration before being allowed thru to US Pre-clearance and customs.

    Technically as a British Citizen this isn’t passport control (you can use your driving licence if you are born in the the UK or Ireland – not if you’re naturalised). However when you have an entire Italian school in front of you this is of little consolation..

    Rob – did you have to go thru Irish immigration?
    No mention in article

    • the real harry1 says:

      question does not compute

      • LOL are you being picky because it was Anika that went on the trip? 😉

        Regardless I think the reason you’d have to re-clear regardless is because you need to switch terminal from T1 (BA) to T2 (EI) and AFAIK there’s no way to avoid security & immigration when doing so?

        • the real harry1 says:

          yep one of the reasons I always like Callum’s posts is that he seems pretty intelligent and understands facts, gives a black & white answer despite niceties

          this wasn’t Callum but I thought I’d ‘do a Callum’ 🙂

        • fair shout Anika not Rob! apologies.

          I’m pretty sure I didn’t change terminals. I’ll check the original booking when I am on my work computer..

        • Ah yes – sorry was thinking you were coming in on BA and out on EI, but for EI to EI agree would stay T2.

        • Depends which gate you arrive at in T1. Most BA flights arrive at a 200 gate which definitely involve clearing immigration and security. If a BA flight arrives at a 300 gate, some have the connection to T2 left open. It still will involve clearing immigration but through the dedicated transfer channel. Mostly no security apart from USPC security though DAA do reserve the right….

    • Michael Jennings says:

      Technically, British and Irish people do not have to go through immigration control when entering Ireland from the UK. However, one needs to produce evidence that one is a British or Irish citizen, which in practice isn’t greatly different from immigration control. (My British driver’s licence says that I was born in Australia, so I need a passport)

      • The Irish apply the CTA properly, much to the consternation of the British. Best way to rprove you are eligible for passport free travel is to show your passport!

        BTW the Irish have been known to enforce this across the land border too!

  16. I have Global Entry and Pre-Clearance in Dublin was much longer than on arrival in US. I loved the Aer Lingus J experience but didn’t rate Pre-Clearance at all.

  17. Completely OT but no bits section.

    The NOW TV boxes are back in stock again. Just bought one 2 minutes ago.

  18. The additional security requirement is to ensure conformance with TSA security standards. Normal Dublin airport security doesn’t comply with TSA standards (most notably, screening of shoes). Same theory as when you arrive in a Schengen country from an “unclean” country and have to re-clear security to be screened to Schengen standards.

  19. Nice of everyone to point out the amazing Global Entry, but Irish citizens are not entitled to this. In fact, in Europe only UK, Switzerland and Germany are entitled.

    Therefore, the majority of Aer Lingus passengers save a lot of time indeed by using Pre-Clearance. I daresay most of the passengers Aer Lingus connect from the regions in the UK also don’t have Global Entry.

    So good for you if you have it, but quite a lot don’t.

  20. I’ve done this and had a few beefs with the system

    1) Pre-clear isn’t quick. I saw a Spanish couple who were connecting and they missed they NY flight. Not very convenient

    2) I lost count of how many times I went through security when connecting there. Surely once is enough.

    3) The “pre” lounge is good but you have to allow so much time to “pre-clear” that its utility is limited unless you’re not connecting

    4) If you checked your bags thru then how the heck does US customs clear you if you dont have you bags with you?

    My preferred solution these days is to take a BA flight the day before (I’m BA gold so get to use First Wing and the First Lounge), stay overnight in a hotel and then fly to the US the next day