Review: US pre-clearance at Dublin Airport and the ’51st & Green’ airport lounge
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This is my review of the “51st & Green” preclearance lounge at Dublin Airport as well as the overall US preclearance experience.
It is the second part of a series covering a trip from Dublin to New York to try out the Aer Lingus A321LR. Part 1 reviewed the Aer Lingus lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 2. What’s it like flying transatlantic on a single aisle aircraft, albeit with a flat bed? You’ll find out in the next part of this series ….
As a reminder, this trip was paid for in cash – a bargain (given there was no Saturday night stay) £1,300 return in Business Class for Dublin to New York Newark, plus the cost of an Avios connection from London.
How does US preclearance work at Dublin Airport?
One clear advantage when flying to the US on Aer Lingus (or indeed any other airline) is that you clear customs and immigration in Dublin or Shannon 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 if you don’t have Global Entry. Rhys is currently working through the Global Entry approval process, and once it is complete we’ll cover it.
Once I got off the plane in Dublin I followed the signs to Connecting Flights and then the signs to US preclearance. It was quite a trot.
When I finally reached the preclearance area I was in for a shock. The queue was so long that it was actually running through multiple areas of the airport. You initially had to queue to be allowed down the escalators into the US security area. As a Business Class passenger I could sidetrack to a fast track security lane, but only when down the escalator. There is no premium line for US immigration.
It would be unfair to say that it was a shambles, given that most people would queue longer at US immigration in JFK. I was through in around 45 minutes. The issue was that only a fraction of the immigration desks were manned.
The delays were compounded because many people were at risk of missing flights. Every few minutes there would be a panic over a flight which was about to close and people would be plucked out of queue. This meant the queue stopped moving whilst these people were processed, and you could go five minutes without moving an inch.
Looking back at Anika’s 2017 review, it seems that there used to be a separate Business Class line at US immigration. It is time to bring that back.
That said, the immigration queue didn’t actually delay me. I had built in a three hour stopover in Dublin and, whilst I was expecting to have a little longer in the preclearance lounge, I made my flight and it left on time.
The ’51st & Green’ preclearance lounge at Dublin Airport
I ended up with around 30 minutes to spend in the “51st & Green” preclearance lounge (Ireland being seen as the green 51st state of America).
The preclearance lounge is located at the far end of the departure lounge, which was as far from my gate (401) as you could get. It is run by the airport, not Aer Lingus, and you can access it for cash if you are not flying in Business Class on any airline. It is not part of Priority Pass. The walk-up price is €39 and you can find out more here.
The lounge was busy when I got there but quietened down a bit after a couple of flights were called. A couple of the pictures below are from our 2017 review because it never got empty enough to get large sweeping photographs.
The layout is interesting. With floor to ceiling windows on three sides, you will probably never see a brighter airport lounge. With so much light, it was sensibly left as one open space.
All of the seating fits around the circular feature in the middle of the space:
There were further seats by the floor to ceiling windows.
Food and drink in the ’51st & Green’ lounge
Whilst some lounges would put the food front and centre, ’51st & Green’ chooses to put the small buffet area off in a corner to the left.
Back in 2017 you had to pay for hot meals in the lounge. This is no longer the case. Whilst not exceptional, the food selection was a step above the Aer Lingus lounge at Heathrow Terminal 2:
Whilst it looks like there is a lot of hot food below, it is actually just one dish – curry. One container contains chicken tikka masala, a second contains a vegetarian chickpea curry and two others contain rice and naan bread.
There is also a salad bar:
….. and a doughnut wall:
As well as a couple of coffee machines, there is a staffed coffee bar a few feet away:
This is also where you can grab an alcoholic drink, although it was a bit early in the day for me to see what they had to offer. There were no newspapers or magazines of any kind.
If you want some privacy, or possibly just have excitable children, there are a couple of hidden nooks off the corridor which leads into the lounge. One is a quiet area with banquette style seating:
…. and, tucked away near the loos, a slightly sad looking work area:
Conclusion – how was Dublin’s preclearance experience?
It’s difficult to review the lounge without comparing it to the chaotic scenes outside. For some reason, all US flights from Dublin leave from a very narrow corridor with departure gates on both sides. It is bedlam with minimal seating by most of the gates.
(The Dublin Airport website has a more polite spin on it: the lounge is “the perfect retreat away from the bustling terminal”.)
On this basis, even the worst airport lounge would be a marked improvement. “51st & Green” is better than this, offering a bright space with a good mix of seating. The food is also a step up on the Aer Lingus lounge at Heathrow.
And yet ….. the only people using this lounge for free are people flying to the US on Business Class tickets. There aren’t – unlike, say, the British Airways lounges at Heathrow – people in there who have paid £29 for an economy ticket or who have got in via a lounge club card.
On this basis I think ’51st & Green’ could raise its game, especially in terms of food. At the moment it is on a par with a higher end independent lounge, and doesn’t match up to the dedicated airline lounges at Heathrow.
In the next part of this series, I’ll take a look at the core reason for the trip – flying on a single aisle A321LR in Business Class to the US.
You can find out more about ’51st & Green’ on the Dublin Airport website here.
How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (June 2023)
Here are the four options to get FREE airport lounge access via a UK credit card.
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 Air Lines and Eurostar lounges. Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card is doubled to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – and you get £200 to spend at Amex Travel too! Apply here.
The Platinum Card from American Express
60,000 points AND a £200 Amex Travel voucher until 13th June! Read our full review
If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with four free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here.
Additional lounge visits are charged at £20. You get four more free visits for every year you keep the card.
There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and you get a 20,000 points sign-up bonus. Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes 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.
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard
A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review
PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.