I was off to Bristol for the weekend, to attend a conference. Having looked at flights to Bristol a couple of months ago, my choice was between Aer Lingus and Ryanair. Despite some previously uninspiring encounters with Aer Lingus, I went ahead a booked my ticket, which set me back the princely sum of €60 return, including taxes and fees. I arrived at DUB at approximately 09.30 and after checking that my luggage would be allowed as carry-on at the Aer Lingus sales and information desk, I checked in using one of their FastPass machines. (Now, my bag wasn't all that big – in fact, it was only a hold all but I felt it would be polite to check rather than assume it was OK. I hate people who bring huge items of cabin baggage on board, and take up all the space in the overhead lockers!). FastPass check-in was quick and easy, as always, and in no-time I had secured seat 3C. After a bite to eat, a smoke (outside the airport, as there are no smoking facilities airside due to the smoking laws) and a trip to the book shop I headed to security.
Security at DUB was busy as they are being more thorough of late. However, the long queue was moving relatively quickly, and soon I was kicking off my shoes, and having them scanned with the rest of my belongings. My watch set off the detector (which it never has before while going through DUB), and as such I was sent back without it. I didn't beep this time, so I was able to re-assemble myself and head for the gate. The display indicated that the flight would depart from gate C41. I headed off towards the C-pier to settle down for a read. An SK MD80, a BD A321 and a what I think was an A330 belonging to Skyservice (5G) were some of the birds parked up along the C-pier, heading to CPH, LHR and YYZ respectively. After a soft-drink and some reading at a small coffee bar, I decided to head to C41 and wait for boarding. When I got there, it was showing that the next flight departing that gate was going to be a BA flight to LGW. Great, I grumbled – a gate change. I walked back to the beginning to the C-pier and checked the displays, and EI286 was not listed. Evidently, it was not departing from another pier. I trudged back to security and checked the main displays here. My heart sank when I saw we were now scheduled to go from A4. I trekked all the way down to the A-pier with some trepidation, and as soon as I got there I remembered why I hate it so much. The A-pier at DUB is one of the many levels of hell. An FR flight to Rome was waiting to board at A3, which meant the area around gates A3 and A4 were packed with pax. I gave up and found a seat away from the scrum and read some more.
I glanced at the display and saw that A4 was already listed as being the gate for a delayed Futura flight so I was worried that we might be moved again. Eventually, as the time to board came closer, we were informed that the flight would be delayed by approximately 20 minutes. The inbound flight which would become the FR flight to Rome arrived and disgorged it's pax out into the crowded gate area. There is no separation of outbound/inbound pax on DUB's A-Pier, which can create some interesting scenes between those queueing resolutely for their flight (and determined not to move) and those trying to disembark. Especially when the numbers involved are 2 full planeloads of a FR 738! After the outbound FR pax had boarded, our plane arrived at the gate. As I suspected, it was one of EI's new one class A320's. We were invited to board after about 20 minutes, with the front rows going via the front set of steps and the second half of the plane going via the rear (The A-pier has no airbridges!). However, boarding was quick and the flight appeared about 66% full. This meant no passenger in 3B so the traveller in 3A and I had some extra space between us. The seating on the new A320's is leather, and quite comfortable but I still maintain the pitch is a little tighter than on EI's older A321's. Still, for a 40 minute flight to BRS, it was more than adequate.
The cabin crew went through the safety demo before take-off, but they seemed a little muddled and disinterested in the whole affair. While I appreciate it's something they do day-in, day-out, it doesn't inspire confidence in the pax when they mumble the text and the crew doing the demos look utterly bored. We pushed back and taxied into position behind to other EI A320's and a FR 738. We were up in the air quite quickly after a smooth take off. The crew were up as soon as the captain signalled and before long they were preparing to do their refreshment sales. I purchased a 330ml can of Diet Coke and a small tub of Pringles from their Skycafe menu, which set me back €3, which isn't all that bad. The flight took about 40 minutes, and before we knew it, we were preparing to land at BRS. A smooth landing, and a quick taxi to our gate. As we disembarked down the steps, a Thomsonfly 757 was releasing the last of its passengers. Glad that I only had hand-luggage, I sped through the terminal and was outside Bristol airport in less than 5 minutes. All in all, a reasonable flight with EI. The worst parts were the delays, the A-pier at DUB and the slightly disinterested cabin crew. The plane, the flight and the flight time were all up to expectations. For €60, you really could not complain too much!
My return flight after a weekend away. Arrived at BRS about two hours before check-in closed, so I was in plenty of time. The two desks dedicated to EI287 were manned by Servisair Globeground staff, as EI only have one flight a day out of BRS (therefore, no FastPass machines are provided). The queues moved quickly however, and soon I was being checked in. The agent went through all the usual questions, and assigned me seat 5D, which wasn't too bad. At the desk beside me, two elderly ladies were checking in for a flight to JFK, connecting at DUB. The Servisair Globeground agents seemed to be having some trouble getting that to work (evidently, having to check pax through to an onward EI destination doesn't happen often at Bristol!). As I had time to kill, I went out for a smoke and then headed for WH Smiths for a book.
Security was busy, but the queue moved quickly and was scanned and given a pat down (I made it beep again..obviously not my weekend!) in no time. Didn't seem to be much to do at BRS so I went to gate 5 where our flight was scheduled to leave from Settled down to read my book and waited it out. Plenty of EZY and BA flights called to various destinations. As time was getting close, no plane was to be seen – I had a funny feeling we were about to encounter another delay! Sure enough, a little later a delay was called – the flight was now not leaving until 14.45 instead of 14.10. However, not long after that an XLA flight was called, having been delayed since 07.30 – so I didn't have it that badly off! Went to the bar for a sparkling water and some Pringles (all I could handle!) and waited for the inbound plane. It arrived at the newly appointed time, and we were boarding within 20 minutes. Again it was a new A320 with leather seats. However, boarding was a free for all this time, with people boarding from the front and back, with people from the back trying to get to the front, and vice versa. Why Servisair Globeground thought this was a good idea, I don't know. The flight was about 80% full, but again I struck it lucky and had no passenger in 5E, giving the pax in 5F and I a bit of extra room. Safety procedures were a little better this time, but not exactly delivered with anything that could be called life. Monotone throughout. We pushed back and taxied pretty quickly and were up in the air without delay.
With no interest in the Skycafe this time, I began to doze off a little. We encountered some turbulence over the west coast of the U.K., and again over the Irish coast (with a considerable drop, bringing forth gasps from some passengers!). Our landing at DUB wasn't too bad though, but alas we were arriving back at the dreaded A-pier. Disembarkation was via those stairs again, and we headed into the crowds awaiting their flight. Had a walk to immigration (where a man stamping non-EU passenger passports just shouted “Anyone with an EU passport just go through” - don't you just love the strict checks?). Got to baggage reclaim to find out bags scheduled to come out at belt 3 – the far end of the hall. Belt 3 was already crowded with a EI flight in from LHR awaiting their bags. The baggage hall at DUB is one of my least favourite places on earth. Lack of light, low-ceilings, and no air conditioning (on clammy days like Sunday) make it really unpleasant. Twenty minutes later, our bags began to come out on Belt 4 along with those from FR507, in from Bristol also. After that, I escaped and went home.
Some of the EI FA's do like to take things a little far. Once, when boarding a DUB-LHR flight, one of the more "mature" FA's got in a right stop with me, so much so that two of her colleagues actually apologised to me about her behaviour (one just after and on on exiting at LHR) - perhaps it was the same lady