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  • Cara Good

Flight Review #2 - Flying Internationally During COVID-19 | Aer Lingus Bristol-Toronto

Threshold Images

2020-03-21

An Aer Lingus Regional ATR-72 awaits passenger boarding at Dublin Airport. (Photo/Cara Good)

TORONTO - Hello, My name is Cara Good and welcome to my first ever flight review! In early March, I flew the Dublin based airline, Aer Lingus from Bristol, England back to Toronto, Canada during the widespread and challenging COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the world. In this review, I’ll discuss my experiences flying through the airports, on-board the aircraft and the measures I experienced regarding the worldwide pandemic.


Bristol Airport (BRS)

After entering the airport, it was not difficult to find where I needed to be, as it is such a small airport for the city. It allows passengers to remain calm and free of stress while beginning their journey towards their destination. The passenger check-in and bag checkpoint were easy to manoeuvre because there were not many flights departing due to COVID-19 flight reductions. When I was sent over to the security checkpoint, they announced that they were testing a new type of equipment. They asked if we could leave our liquids, laptops, and tablets in our bags and the lines moved faster than they have before. This is an excellent advancement in the airport system to avoid wasted time from simple things and moving passengers along faster. This is only in the testing phase but hopefully, it manages to be a success. The boarding process was simple, the gate attendant checked the boarding pass and I walked onto the ATR-72 painlessly. Reflecting now, there were only a few posters that had been published regarding COVID-19. The airport stopped doing samples for their beverages and food, but the airport was still running how it normally runs.


Aer Lingus Regional - BRS-DUB

Entry/First impressions

While entering the aircraft, I was greeted with a friendly “hello and thank you for choosing Aer Lingus”. Once I was sat down and ready for take-off, a flight attendant came up to me and my companion and asked if we could move to the back to distribute the weight more evenly.

It is understandable as the ATR-72 is not a big aircraft, but it was inconvenient having to move after paying extra for those seats and already being settled down in preparation for the 55-minute flight. The legroom was minimal but enough for someone that does not need a lot of extra room, being 5’ 3” was a benefit but an individual that is taller might have a more difficult time getting comfortable. This aircraft would cause some discomfort but for a short 55-minute flight, it is manageable. The seats were comfortable and were an average size of a seat on an aircraft which was nice.


Services

The two flight attendants on this Aer Lingus Regional flight were experienced individuals. They did everything that needed to be done in a professional manner, such as greeting all the passengers as they boarded the flight and carrying out the safety tutorial. The services offered on the flight were very minimal; a simple juice, tea, or coffee cart came down the aisle once near the beginning of the flight but that was all.


Dublin Airport (DUB)

This airport is Aer Lingus main global hub and after arriving in Dublin, there were no issues following the signs posted to locate where my departure gate was. It is a nice airport to move around in with a lot of extra space, they have a big window to view the arrivals coming in with the mountains set behind. When I found my gate, all the seating was full. For a large international gate, seating was very limited and did not allow for even the minimal amount of separation between individuals.

I ended up walking farther away to an empty gate and found some of the other passengers from my flight doing the same as I was. When called to start boarding, all passengers lined up and after a few minutes of not moving, an announcement came through saying that they are short-staffed and that boarding will be taking longer than expected and they are sorry for the inconvenience. Boarding the plane was easy, apart from it being time-consuming but they handled it well. Regarding COVID-19, The Dublin airport had more plans set in place to protect the health of the passengers and workers, than Bristol airport did. This airport had more signs posted around and the water bottle filling stations were covered. The employees at the airport did not have any forms of protection on, and the shops were still accepting cash payments.


Aer Lingus - DUB-YYZ

Entry/ First Impressions

Upon entering the A330-300 Aircraft, there were two friendly Aer Lingus flight attendants on either side of the door directing you to where your seat is located. This allowed for an easy and stress-free boarding process before getting settled down for the 7-hour flight ahead. I flew in economy class and on all the seats in this class, there were a complimentary pillow and a pair of Aer Lingus headphones for passengers to use.

My first impression of the seat was that it was comfortable and there was a good amount of legroom available to me. I am 5’ 3”, so I do not require a lot of room, to begin with, but I believe that even someone who is around 6 feet tall could sit comfortably. The area that I was in was clean and the magazines were straightened up. We were delayed in our take off because there were 2 seats that needed to be cleaned up, apart of COVID-19 measures. When the aircraft reached cruising altitude, the captain came on the in-flight announcements and told all of the passengers the route we will be taking, from the direction of take-off to flying over the southern end of Greenland and then coming into Canada over the northern part of Newfoundland. The in-flight entertainment systems do offer to show you a map but it is also nice to hear the pilot keep you informed of an updated route if there was one.


Services

Before the aircraft was going to taxi out to the runway, the Aer Lingus crew put on the mandatory safety video for the passengers to watch on their IFE screens. Shortly after the video was put on, there was a glitch in the system and the video froze. After an apology, they said that they would try again, and after the second attempt failed, the crew got out and did a proper demonstration in person.

It was a little delayed and slow because they were caught off guard but they managed to get all the important points across. Approximately an hour and a half into the flight the juice, tea and coffee cart came by with some pretzels and after that was the main meal. They gave two options which were Beef Stroganoff, or Chicken Ravioli served with a pasta salad and a slice of bread. Then, two hours before we landed, they came around with afternoon tea, and that included a red pepper chicken wrap and chocolate brownie.


In-Flight Entertainment

The in-flight entertainment was smaller in size compared to other airlines, but the content that they offered was just as good. They offer a range of things to do, such as; watch movies, the latest television shows, games for adults and kids, music albums, map of the world, and Aer Lingus’ history. The history app was a nice added to feature to read and look at while on the journey. It offered you to get information about the company’s history, the different uniforms, plane structures and more from the 1930s and leading into 2016. There was in-flight Wi-Fi available to use on the aircraft but it could only be used at an extra charge.


YYZ Delay and COVID-19

When landing in Toronto, Ontario, it felt good to finally say I was home and away from all of the stress that was given to me while being gone during the pandemic. COVID-19 struck fear into many individuals' hearts especially international travellers still trying to make their way back home. The constant social media posts became so overwhelming that it sent me into a panic trying to plan to book an earlier flight to guarantee myself that I would make it back home. The news was going around saying that airlines were starting to cancel flights to Europe and I was worried that the United Kingdom would be next. When arriving at the gate and getting ready to leave the aircraft after the long journey, the captain came on the speakers and said that there was a delay in the screening process for the passengers getting off of the different aircraft.

The passengers on board my flight were confused and standing around waiting for information, and all the pilot said was “you might want to sit down because this could take a while, we don’t have any information to give you at this time, but we will update you as soon as we know”. An hour later after the first announcement came through, the pilot spoke again and said, “they can only let one aircraft through at a time and it takes 15 to 20 minutes to get through each aircraft. There are still 4 planes in front of us”. A sigh of anger came from the passengers but the flight attendants did well in keeping the passengers calm. They offered water to anyone that needed it and kept us updated whenever they had new information. Two hours after arriving at the gate, we finally were allowed to leave the aircraft. Many people were nervous about the screening process that we would have to go through because of how long it took, but it was simply someone from airport security asking if we had a fever or cough, if not then you were allowed to keep walking but if so then you were pulled into further questioning.

All of the staff that was working had gloves on their hands and only half of them had masks on. There were lots of posters in regard to COVID-19 around the walls to read while you were standing in line waiting to get your declaration slip checked. When I stepped up to the declaration desk they asked if I had a fever or cough and if I had been around anyone with the virus then they asked where I had been. After I proceeded to tell them, I got the go-ahead to move on and collect my checked bag. I was very unimpressed with the system that was put in place. It was very fast, so it was convenient but it wasn’t efficient. For being the busiest airport in Canada, I assumed that they would be taking more precautions in trying to contain the virus and stopping it before it continues to spread like it already has.


The Good

Both onboard experiences for the ATR-72 and A330-300 were exceptionally well done, from pleasant and friendly Aer Lingus crew members to the clean and comfortable seats. Manoeuvring my way through both the Bristol and Dublin airports was easy and stress-free, and they were not too busy which allowed me to go at my own pace and not worry about being too close to another traveller. The food onboard the Aer Lingus’s A330-300 long-haul service was very good and the flight attendants were prompt when a call bell was pressed. The take-offs and landings on both aircraft were also very well carried out and made it an enjoyable experience overall.


The Bad

COVID-19 caused a lot of the issues during this travel experience. It is something that no one expected to happen but, airports are the first line of defence in stopping the spread of the virus, and I feel at this time, Toronto Pearson wasn’t doing the best job they could have. Aer Lingus also caused many issues for their passengers abroad, not keeping them updated on their plans for the future. At the time of my travel, they should have had even some precautions about travelling abroad with COVID-19 being so unpredictable.


Final Thoughts

Overall, I had a good and easy travel experience apart from the COVID-19 situation going on in the world. I recommend Aer Lingus to any individual who wants a stress free experience to go and travel abroad. I recommend it, but not during a pandemic.

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