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Review: I review US pre-clearance in Dublin and the ’51st and Green’ airport lounge

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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

How does US Preclearance at Dublin work?

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.

US preclearance at Dublin Airport

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.

US preclearance at Dublin Airport

The ’51st and Green’ Preclearance lounge at Dublin Airport

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.

review 51st and green lounge at Dublin Airport

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.

51st and Green preclearance lounge at Dublin Airport

and

51st and Green preclearance lounge at Dublin Airport

There were further seats by the floor to ceiling windows.

51st and Green preclearance lounge at Dublin Airport

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…

51st and Green preclearance lounge at Dublin Airport

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.

51st and Green preclearance lounge review at dublin airport

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

review 51st and green preclearance lounge at dublin airport

Conclusion – how was Dublin’s preclearance experience?

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 – click here for my Aer Lingus Business Class review to Boston.


Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (August 2021)

As a reminder, here are the three options to get FREE airport lounge access via a credit or charge card:

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here

You also get access to Plaza Premium, Delta and Eurostar lounges. The card has a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with two free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here

Additional lounge visits are charged at £20.  You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.  

There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and a 20,000 points sign-up bonus.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network.  Guests are charged at £20 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.

The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer.  Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.

PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.

Comments (54)

  • Polly says:

    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?

  • 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.

    • Lee says:

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

      • John says:

        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.

    • Mike says:

      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

      • Alan says:

        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?!

  • Sohan says:

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

    Great review, thanks…

  • Paul says:

    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?

    • John says:

      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.

    • MattyS says:

      MCO in August – 2 1/2 hours !

    • Dal says:

      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.

    • Rebecca says:

      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.

  • Mycity says:

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

    • Lumma says:

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

      • Michael says:

        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.

  • Michael says:

    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’!

    • Antonio says:

      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.

      • Alan says:

        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…

  • callum says:

    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?

  • 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.

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