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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 (December 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

30,000 points and unbeatable 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 Air Lines and Eurostar lounges.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year 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 & four 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 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.

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.

  • r* says:

    That lounge is never worth paying for. Theres a limit of 2 alcoholic drinks and pretty limited food and a hard limit of 2 hours stay in the lounge, last time I was there they put out an announcement over the PA instructing everyone to leave if they had been there longer than two hours. Its the least welcoming lounge Ive ever been to.

    • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

      But did anyone comply and leave? Did anyone get refused a 3rd drink? Personally I’m not bothered re the alcohol; the advantage of the lounge is to escape the crowded featureless gate areas. I’ve sat in that lounge for 4hrs twice this year.

  • Stuart says:

    Been looking at rerouting options as a contingency in the summer. Have Aer Lingus stopped their A321 to New York now? Every date I look it’s an A330

    • Rob says:

      From Manchester or Dublin? Was a 321LR last week from Dublin.

      • Stuart says:

        Dublin

        • Stuart says:

          10:55
          Dublin (DUB)
          7h 30m
          DUB – Terminal 2
          EI 105 Operated by Aer Lingus AIRBUS A330-300
          13:25
          New York (JFK)

        • Stuart says:

          16:40
          Dublin (DUB)
          7h 35m
          DUB – Terminal 2
          EI 107 Operated by Aer Lingus AIRBUS A330-300
          19:15
          New York (JFK)

  • Chris says:

    Went through GE process for the first time this year. I submitted my application 15th February, application was pending review until July 3rd

  • lumma says:

    Do you still need an ESTA to travel from a preclearance airport?

    • Mikeact says:

      Of course.

    • Andrew. says:

      If you really don’t want to apply for an ESTA, you can apply for the Canadian equivalent and just get the Greyhound Coach across the border from Montreal, train from Seattle, service bus from Windsor, or just walk at Niagara.

      • Brian78 says:

        Isn’t it easier just to get an ESTA?

      • John says:

        If you don’t want to apply for an ESTA, you probably don’t want to apply for an eTA either.

        In which case there is a way to avoid both – get to CDG and fly Air St Pierre CDG-FSP (late June to early September only) and then take a ferry to Fortune, Newfoundland.

        Another expensive way would be a transatlantic cruise ship.

        • Brian78 says:

          Or just get an ESTA

        • ADS says:

          +1

          Too many people forget about FSP !

        • TP says:

          To enter Canada, you still need to use the ARRIVECAN app, an additional burden to the passenger. Apparently the app is very glitchy and 100% mandatory with no alternative – there were somehow paper forms when Rogers went down earlier in the month.

  • Andrew. says:

    Does anyone have experience of secondary interviews at Dublin?

    I’m keen to try the UK-DUB-USA routings, but concerned what happens if I’m delayed by immigration at DUB. Will Are Lingus simply put me on the next direct or indirect flight and accept the delay was out of my control?

    So far when there’s an immigration delay at the US side, and there’s a connecting flight, the airlines just get on with it and reroute/rebook.

    • ADS says:

      I’ve never heard of anybody having a secondary interview at Dublin !

      If you’re on a through ticket from the UK and you missed the DUB-USA flight, then Aer Lingus would presumably be required to put you on the next flight.

      Even if you were using Rob’s method of separate tickets, I would be fairly confident that Aer Lingus would treat you fairly.

  • dougzz99 says:

    I’ve had GE for about 6 years. Without doubt the crappiest experience is Dublin, it was the AA flight to DFW pre C19. There is a GE lane to the right once downstairs, but from Rob’s description you’d now be queueing to get to that point.

  • brian says:

    Not sure how bad the pre-escalator queueing situation was prior to the past few weeks? Having recently gone through T2 Dublin on a standard flight to London, there wasn’t a single area of the airport that wasn’t dramatically affected by the recent post covid staffing issues. Even at 3.00am there were queues unlike anything I’ve ever seen to get into the airport, bag drop, security and to get any food in the main concourse area.

  • sohan says:

    DUB is generally a huge mess this year. I use it regularly and have never seen the airport so poorly managed. I hope it improves, and fast.

    In the meantime I strongly recommend that people avoid Dublin and go to Shannon on the west coast instead. It had pre-clearance first and is always quiet and much friendlier. Lounges are only ok though – but worth a review sometime!

    • John says:

      Shocking performance – until you realise the CEO is Dalton Philips who was ousted from Morrison’s etc – “I have something like 1000 bullocks and, having listened to your presentation, Dalton, you’ve got a lot more bullshit than me…”

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