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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 2What’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.

Dublin Airport Terminal 2

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.

US preclearance immigration Dublin Airport

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.

review 51st and green lounge at Dublin Airport

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.

51st and Green preclearance lounge at Dublin Airport

All of the seating fits around the circular feature in the middle of the space:

Dublin Airport 51st and Green lounge

There were further seats by the floor to ceiling windows.

51st and Green preclearance lounge at Dublin Airport

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:

51st and Green preclearance lounge at Dublin Airport

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.

Dublin 51st and Green airport lounge

There is also a salad bar:

Dublin 51st and Green airport lounge

….. and a doughnut wall:

As well as a couple of coffee machines, there is a staffed coffee bar a few feet away:

Dublin Airport 51st and Green lounge

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:

Dublin Airport 51st and Green longe

…. and, tucked away near the loos, a slightly sad looking work area:

Dublin Airport 51st and Green lounge

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.


Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (October 2022)

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable 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 Air Lines and Eurostar lounges.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.

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 you get 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 (81)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • T says:

    It is strange to see that all over the world, some airlines are closing lounges, not reopening lounges, switching to lower end contract lounges, lowering their offering at excisting lounges, whilst this for many is clearly a valued part of the trip.

    • John says:

      If bookings in cabins eligible for lounge access and bookings by status passengers start to drop, then airlines may revisit this, but for now it appears that bookings remain high despite the lack of lounge access or decline in quality.

    • JohnG says:

      Although I agree, I think you need to consider that flying hasn’t recovered as much as it might seem since the pandemic. Heathrow was averaging 221,600 passengers a day in 2019, and is now struggling with 100,000 a day. It seems a little short sighted but I can see why airlines are cutting capacity/costs on running lounges, especially if it is difficult to recruit and retain staff.

      • AJA says:

        But the important question is how many of those 100k have lounge access versus the 221k in 2019?

        And it’s not as if the airfares have dropped to take account of the lesser service we receive in terms of lounges themselves and the service on board – food is an easy one to cut cost with and possibly the only area that doesn’t impact safety or security as is lounge access. But that does diminish what you ostensibly are getting for your business class airfare.

        And the reason for the 100k is not because there is a lack of demand – it is an artificial limit imposed by HAL due to a lack of staff to meet the demand. That is down to poor management by HAL and the airlines.

        • T says:

          I agree,

          We are paying higher fares now then Pre covid, yet service levels are going down the pipe!

  • can says:

    IIRC this was a PP lounge. While I was living in Bristol pre pamdemic, flying to NYC with aer lingus was the most efficient way for me. I’ve been to this cute little lounge many times during that period. It is really odd to think it is a business class only lounge now, because it cannot be.

  • Ian says:

    Are global entry people able to skip the long queue?

    Or would they have to queue only to be able to split off closer?

    • Stuart says:

      There are a line of Global Entry kiosks to the right but only after bags have beeen scanned. However, it is a significant time-saver when finally through, probably a saving of at least 20 minutes.

      • Deckard says:

        Last time I used global entry at Dublin it was almost instantaneous. Facial recognition now, not passport scan, so ticket printed off almost immediately and straight to the front of the queue. Given the size of the immigration Q at the time I would say it saved me 45 minutes to an hour.

  • riku says:

    Is the lounge business class only ? The article contradicts itself
    >>you can access it for cash if you are not flying in Business Class
    >>the only people using this lounge are people flying to the US on Business Class tickets

    • Rob says:

      Obviously anyone can pay €39 if you are so keen for a plate of curry ….

      • rob keane says:

        …and a quiet place to be and some drinks….why the concentration on a plate of curry ?…sounds petty.

        • Rob says:

          It’s not quiet and a 2 drink limit as per the comment below.

          It just feels like a wasted opportunity, probably because the airport runs it and not the airlines, and the airport couldn’t care less.

      • Sammyj says:

        Don’t underestimate the number of people who do pay for lounge entry. Business folks flying economy, not so much, but people heading to Orlando or California for their jollies with no idea about different classes and lounges are generally very keen to get their holiday started in style!

  • Olly says:

    Surely it’s Ireland which is considered the 51st state, not Dublin

  • The real Swiss Tony says:

    They have the ability at DUB to block off the upper floor of that pier at some point, so the gates essentially in the area above the lounge can also be used for US flights. It’s also a far nicer place to sit than down on the ground floor.

    Sad to hear pre-clearance is such a mess, though.

    • Michael says:

      Yes, at peak times I’ve seen almost the whole regular departures level turned over to preclearance, reserving just the nearest two gates on the pier for the LHR shuttles. Aer Lingus doesn’t night stop except at LHR so most of the fleet overnights at DUB, then there’s a first wave in the early am to get the first of two or three European rotations done. In the later morning, short haul can use the 300 pier and the bus gates.

      Saying “For some reason, all US flights from Dublin leave from a very narrow corridor with departure gates on both sides” fails to understand that preclearance necessitates corralling precleared passengers after they’ve cleared customs and US security. That’s why there’s no duty free after CBP. It’s not a huge problem unless there are delays. The EI lounge before preclearance used to be able to tell you the optimal time to preclear.

      DUB has done a lot with T2 in a very constrained site and pre covid has probably exceeded its design capacity. The ground level of the pier is turned over to preclearance and is the same area available for short haul after the shops! It’s not as bright as it’s on ground level with planes either side, and the ceiling is a bit low. Without having a dedicated preclearance terminal DUB T2 does a pretty good job and excels compared to what went before in T1!

  • Ross says:

    I gained Global Entry a couple of years before the pandemic. As I guess there is no way to use GE in Dublin, or *not* to pre-clear there (as the whole plane will be treated the same, one imagines). As such, Dublin excludes itself as a transfer base for me, taking many times longer than the literal 30 seconds it takes me on landing in any US airport.

    When you do cover GE, don’t forget to review the free (and helpful) “pre-TSA” status that comes with it for internal flights! A secret added benefit.

    • Sammyj says:

      I believe there are GE kiosks in Dublin too, so you could skip that line and go straight to those, the same as you normally would on arrival.

      Worth noting too that Aer Lingus is not part of the TSA pre-check scheme, so even though we have GE, we can’t use TSA Precheck flying Aer Lingus.

    • Michael says:

      There are GE kiosks at DUB. I used them on Monday this week. It’s also facial recognition only. The queue was quite short for both xrays and passport when I arrived so GE wasn’t a real benefit on this occasion.

  • S says:

    I’ve never had to wait in the immigration queue at MIA for more than 30 minutes!

    (I’ve never had NY as my entry point to the US, and I no longer want to!)

    • The real Swiss Tony says:

      Pre-COVID, we waited almost 2 hrs at Boston. In April, walked straight off the plane and up to a desk in Orlando. This is the problem – there’s no pattern. Austin and Tampa used to guarantee a quick route but don’t think that’s assured anymore, either….

      • JandeW says:

        Unfortunately, US entry via MCO or MIA not much good if you’re travelling on E Coast business…

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