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Aer Lingus, You’re Killin’ Me

September 1, 2009

Score one for Ireland when Shannon and Dublin airports annonced US Customs and Immigration Pre-Clearance, a new facility that allows passengers to complete all US “inspections” before leaving Ireland…the only one of its kind in Europe.

That means planes leaving the Emerald Isle can, in theory, land at any international OR domestic airport in the US, and re-connecting visitors don’t have to recheck their luggage and clear Customs and Immigration before catching next their flight.

Sounds like a great opportunity, right? The reality… opportunity missed. The service opened in Shannon last month, but Aer Lingus, the country’s major airline, has chosen not participate until the facility opens in Dublin next year.

They’ve offered a list of reasons NOT to capitalize on this unique service. In fact, outside of a few folks in Shannon, no one seems be talking about how the country can leverage Pre-Clearance to increase business and possibly re-establish Ireland as a hub for travel between Europe and the US.

Instead, Aer Lingus is riding the Economic Woes bandwagon in the press. Every day or two a new release comes out outlining their falling passenger numbers and/or revenue and/or rising costs (at least Ryan Air mixes it up a little with threats of pay-per-use potties and “standing” flights). “The economy” is quickly becoming the cop out excuse of 2009, and will likely discern the innovators from the bail-out beggers.

I must say, I’m starving for something coming from Aer Lingus that projects them into future… you know, NEWS! Alas, short-sighted fiscal reactions appear to be smothering any long-term strategy.

Ireland Expert Pat Preston has done an excellent job of outlining Pre-Clearance on her blog… you can read her post here. I must echo her sentiment, the airlines embracing the new system, Continental, Delta* and US Airways, deserve our business.

For fifteen  years, I’ve been loyal to Aer Lingus, but this fall I’ve been hit with a double-whammy… the lack of participation in US Pre-Clearance AND the suspension of the Chicago to Shannon route I usually fly.

Aer Lingus has been quick to point out that I can still fly them from Chicago to Shannon, but they fail to mention that in most cases that would require deplaning in Dublin, passing through Immigration and Customs, re-checking my luggage and boarding another flight (hey, didn’t I hear them reference that proceedure as an excuse for not participating in the first wave of Pre-Clearance?)… oh, and there’s also the fact that I’d have to take a 7am flight out of Shannon followed by the 6-hour layover in Dublin. Not cool, Aer Lingus.

I just checked; Continental and Delta have flights from Milwaukee (closer to my home than Chicago) to Shannon via Newark/JFK for LESS than Aer Lingus’ Chicago to Dublin to Shannon fare. Normally, I’d pay the extra to fly Aer Lingus, but not this year.

Who knows, I might like this new route and start earning frequent flyer miles with another airline… oh yeah, Aer Lingus did away with frequent flier rewards several years ago.

*NOTE ADDED Sept 14, 2009: Delta Airlines announced in early September plans to cease their New York to Shannon route begining Oct 4, 2009.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2009 11:16 AM

    We have pre-clearance in Toronto for many flights to the U.S. It’s great. Looks like Aer Lingus has missed the boat on this.

  2. Carla Moser permalink
    September 1, 2009 11:22 AM

    I’m leaving for Ireland in 15 days. I paid a little more to fly on Aer Lingus, mainly to avoid NY/JFK. If I had known about Aer Lingus not participating in US Pre-Clearance when I was booking my flights, I would have gladly flown through JFK on another carrier.

  3. September 1, 2009 11:57 AM

    Donna – Funny you should comment at the very moment I was listening to your latest podcast. I get to read one conversation while listening to another.

    Carla – I’m very sad Aer Lingus hasn’t been keen on adapting quickly to the changes. I think Pre-Clearance has marketing cache that screams “we’re all about the customer experience.”

  4. September 1, 2009 11:58 AM

    I usually fly Aer Lingus within Europe, Delta from US to IE — at least Aer Lingus has not yet followed Ryan Air to charge 60 euro if you do not print out your boarding pass & bring to airport…

  5. Geno permalink
    September 1, 2009 3:17 PM


    I also fly out of Chicago to Shannon usually on Aer Lingus, but the extra drive to Milwaukee would not bother me at all. Let us know how things go for you on Continental and Delta — I might be making that change as well.


  6. September 1, 2009 6:07 PM

    We have flown both Aer Lingus (connecting through JFK) and Delta to get to Ireland. We actually prefer the planes on Delta, but we had gotten some fare deals in the past with Aer Lingus. We will probably go back to flying Delta again, especially since we belong to their frequent flyer program…

    We really do prefer to fly to Shannon, but it’s becoming more difficult to find a way to fly direct to SNN, and we will not fly through Newark or JFK again, unless we have no other options!

    We’re like you, Corey. We’re getting very tired of the more rapid erosion of customer service and hearing that it’s due to the poor economy. Whatevah!

  7. Noreen permalink
    September 1, 2009 7:04 PM

    I live in Ireland but I’m from NY and I make the trip usually four times a year. I used to enjoy flying Aer Lingus (Aer Fungus as we not-so-fondly call it!) but the service is so dismal that I’m now a loyal Continental customer. I only fly Aer Lingus if there happens to be a substantial price difference on the day I need to fly, which happens very rarely. (It did happen this week for some reason, so on last night’s flight into Shannon I had a refresher course on why I prefer Continental.)

    Aer Lingus is simply not looking after its customers – even the smallest things matter, and they seem not to realise this. Continental for example goes up and down many times during the flight giving out water. Aer Lingus does not do that. The “morning refreshment” on Aer Lingus today consisted of a glass of juice – I remember when we used to get an actual breakfast and hot towels! Those days are long gone. (Continental still does breakfast.)

    I also once saw a little old lady ask an Aer Lingus stewardess for help putting her bag up, and the stewardess refused to assist her – not cool. I assume it says in her contract that she need not lift bags, so there was no way she was going to help the woman, no matter how fragile she looked.

    On my Aer Lingus flight this week the entertainment system didn’t work, and I was pretty unsurprised. The flight attendants on this flight were ok, I have to say, but they are frequently snarly and rude.

    I was once on a Continental flight that was delayed due to technical problems – a few weeks later they sent me a voucher for 100 dollars. I have been delayed on Aer Lingus but I’d certainly never hope for any compensation from them!

    Continental has a great frequent flyer programme – I earned enough miles in four or five years with them to take a trip to New York for a few days, then on to Buenos Aires, then back to Ireland – paid for solely in miles; I just had to pay the taxes.

    When I flew to New York on Continental three weeks ago, the flight was full (overbooked actually – they were offering 300 bucks to anyone willing to switch over to Aer Lingus’s flight); this morning on Aer Lingus, I had two empty seats next to me and there were plenty more empty seats around the place.

    The thing is that we always used to fly Aer Lingus, and they really could have kept my loyalty had they just kept up better standards! But they’re awful, they really are.

  8. September 15, 2009 9:08 AM

    I too am from the Milwaukee area and have in the past taken Aer Lingus. There used to be specials in conjunction with Irish Fest, but not this year.

    We are planning on taking Continental in March 2010 for our next trip. About the same price, but we don’t need to take the inter-airport bus to Chicago and we can have a much easier trip this way.

    Our last trip on Aer Lingus was not the greatest experience, but we didn’t mind that much because of the good fair price.

    You said that you were near Milwaukee, where are you from?

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