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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 (July 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)

  • 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!

    • @mkcol says:

      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.

      • Alan says:

        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.

  • Robbie says:

    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….

  • Neil says:

    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

    • Polly says:

      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.

  • Paul says:

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

  • Nigel says:

    Hi

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

    Thanks

  • Alan says:

    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!

  • Brian says:

    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

      • Alan says:

        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’ 🙂

        • Brian says:

          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..

          • Alan says:

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

        • Michael says:

          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)

      • Michael says:

        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!

  • Billy says:

    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.

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