Don’t fly Aer Lingus to Dublin from Chicago, it’s not worth the price … not even in business class

Having now flown Aer Lingus in both economy and business class seats I strongly suggest that if you’re flying to the UK or Ireland from Chicago, do yourself a favor and avoid Aer Lingus. Sure it’s the cheapest flight available, but it’s also probably one of the worst and most uncomfortable flights I’ve been on in years (and I fly a lot) … let me preface this by saying I’m pretty good at sleeping on planes; I used to live on one coast and work a 5 hour flight away — took the red eye twice a week and slept like a baby on the flights. …. but on Aer Lingus, in economy, I only managed about 2 hours even though the flight was during my normal sleeping hours (so it wasn’t a jet lag issue). Return flight I put in a bid to upgrade my economy return to business class, and I won it (only to find business was half empty and I probably could have gotten the upgrade at 1/2 what I bid for it) and while the seat was much better (it reclined) that one too was very narrow — much narrower than other business seats I’ve sat it… and the food once again — while it looked prettier than in economy — was dreadful to inedible (unless it was packaged processed stuff they bought from a provider rather than made themselves).
View of Chicago over the wing
That said, the puddle jumper from Ireland to the UK and back wasn’t too bad as it was only 2 hours and felt like sitting on a bus. But my trans-Atlantic flights both ways, the LONG flight where comfort matters were both abysmal. Flying from chicago to Dublin, as I said, I went economy and found the seats were incredibly narrow (both in width and depth) so much so that I could barely get my ass in nor stand with any degree of ease (I’m fat, but I’m not THAT fat … in fact side to side I’m not all that big because my frame sans fat is incredibly petite). The rows were the closest I’ve ever experienced — I’m guessing the legal minimum…. which governments are beginning to investigate.
*After the flight I saw a news coverage of how these minimums were initially determined… they filled fake flights only to 30% with young healthy adults, no children, no elderly, no people with any sort of mobility issues and no luggage to boot, not even purses, and then timed how fast they could get out of airplanes with different seat configurations. Surprise, they all got out quickly… Legislators in the US (led by Tammy Duckworth who is a military veteran who lost both her lower legs in the Iraq war) are beginning to investigate, and asking that the tests be redone only that this time they will be forced to include elderly people with normal legs for old people (not the folks who are doing yoga at 95 and still running marathons, but your average human who are a bit overweight, i.e., the american average, probably have type 2 diabetes and are complaining of knee pain), people with babies and children in tow, etc., everyone will have ‘Stuff’ like on a normal flight, and then retime how fast they can get out. I’m willing to bet money the Aer Lingus configuration I suffered will become illegal.One of the things I tend to do is I buy my flights at the last minute so that I can find flights that are still half empty and reserve a seat in an empty row, so that I can stretch out. I got to the plane, my row was empty except for me… and discovered to my horror that inexplicably the armrests in economy didn’t lift!!!! They’re designed so you can’t stretch out even if the seats next to you were empty — which like I said I’d gone to an effort to ensure mine was … Also they don’t lean back much at all (which I guess is because if they did — as a result of how closely the rows are shoved together, you’d be making human sandwiches) … as a result … and in spite of having a window seat where normally I sleep pretty well, resting my head on the window and my feet propped on the adjacent seat …. but on this flight I couldn’t do any of that and only managed about 2 hours of highly interrupted napping.

Add to this the fact that I’d already rotated my body clock to UK time before heading out…so that it was already set so that the planes take off time correlated almost exactly to when I’d been going to sleep (for about the last week) … and you see the problem. My body SHOULD have just nodded right off, but I couldn’t because of how incredibly uncomfortable I was in the seat.


Note the picture… It’s not me, it’s the chairs; my thighs are shoved under the the armrests which hug my hip bones tightly and my knees practically touch the seat in front of me, even though I am a SHORT woman … if I were long legged … I don’t even want to think about it

More worryingly,  I’d argue chairs like this are an example of why the feds are starting to get sufficiently upset about airline seating in economy so as to start to consider legislation to put an end to what’s been happening, namely, the rows of seats in economy becoming so close together as to be a survival risk in case of emergency.

My experience — and I am NOT overstating this — was that it actually was extremely difficult for me to stand up (I have mild and very common old age mobility issues, I need to use my hands to get out low chairs and swing my body forward a bit to get momentum — totally average for folks over 60 who live sedentary lifestyles); the chair in front of me was leaning into my space even when its fully erect. As such, I couldn’t actually stand without coming into contact with the chair in front of me which is pushing back at my frame and forcing me to use one arm to keep myself from falling back into the seat when trying to get up. Add to that I have frozen shoulders (again common in the elderly) and it’s a tragic  accident waiting to happen.

Had there been an emergency that necessitated my jumping out of my seat quickly to avoid being burned to death, I could not have done it. People on the plane seeing how much difficulty I was in were actually volunteering to help me… which has never been necessary before on any other economy flight.

Inside the plane as we were loading
On top of that discomfort, the food in economy was absolute crap. Honestly the worst airplane meal I’ve had in years — and like I said I fly regularly. There was a girl sitting two seats away from me, and I wish I’d gotten a picture of her expression when she tasted… it was absolutely funny. So much so that I broke into a full belly laugh and we bonded over just how horrible the food was.
It was some sort of chicken and couscous thing that had an odd taste, and made me wonder how many of us we’re gonna be sick later (in fact that next day I had impressively loose bowels when flying internationally usually constipates me a bit).
Then there was some sort of feta and cucumber salad thing, which just tasted odd — like something was just seriously off about it. We were all joking about “how can you screw up chicken and couscous, let alone a feta and cucumber salad?” In fact the ONLY tasty thing on the platter was at all tasty was this chocolate mousse thing.
The breakfast sandwich that they gave us a few hours later had a bizarre texture but a fairly decent taste — some people can really be picky about texture and would have been put off by it, me not so much. It was advertised as an egg and provolone with a sauce, they advertised as a bistro sauce (if you’re unfamiliar it’s usually made with: ketchup, lemon juice, mayonnaise, spicy brown mustard, garlic, horseradish, parsley, Hungarian paprika, cajun seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce) — but to me it just tasted like a combo of a lot of mayo, flavored with Worcestershire and Sriracha.
For my return flight, as I said, I upgraded to business where again I got the window seat. These seats were way more comfortable in that I could actually stand up easily (assuming the seat was not reclined … as they reclined to fully flat, or partially, depending on how you set them). So massive improvement
but that said, they were still impressively narrow… I’m overweight, but not horribly so, but I were a seriously obese person there are in fact NO SEATS anywhere on this airplane that could accommodate me, not even if I were to purchase to adjacent seats in economy because, as I said, the armrests do not lift.
At the start of the flight (Business) free drinks including alcohol were given out, I opted for hard cider —  which included this snack pack of cheese flavored crackers with onion dip, which was delicious. I have since researched it and both items are available for purchase, they are NOT things produced by the airline.
A Salmon and beet appetizer with a salad
Once up in the air we were offered a 3 course meal… appetizer, main and dessert.
The Beef option with mashed potatoes and a veg
They don’t ask you which dessert you wanted till the end… I had my heart set on the cheese tray as I’m actually boarder-line diabetic, but was forced to eat a chocolate moose as that was all that was left by the time they got to my seat (which was towards the back of the cabin) was the high sugar option.
I’ll grant you, the meals LOOK good… but it was a lie… in fact the flavors for the stuff in business was actually WORSE than the packaged stuff they had served us back in economy — which was so bad we were laughing about it. The salmon tasted entirely off to the point where it didn’t actually taste like salmon (I’ve flown business and even first, I’ve had salmon on airplanes, it has NOTHING to do with how your palate shifts at altitude, it was what they served that sucked), and the beef distinctly tasted like it had been marinated in disinfectant. The next day, when I was home at my apartment, where the flight to the UK has resulted in loose bowels, after this return flight I suffered a bought of full liquid dysentery. You know of what I speak, straight liquid shooting out of your ass.
In addition to these “lovely” dishes, in business class there was a goodies box in the galley full of cheese and onion crisps, flavored popcorn, KitKat bars, and some other goodies which we were free to take as required. Since all of these were not made by the airline they all tasted good.
This is me, laying on a cold stone floor waiting for the ambulance, to take me to hospital.
My motivation for paying for the upgrade was two fold, firstly I was really dreading the return flight based on how bad the first outbound one, but also… while in the UK I fell down and went boom (once again, if you read my blog regularly you know falling down is kinda my thing). While I didn’t dislocate any bones this time, it was bad enough that I was once again taken to hospital. This time a human who disappeared pretty much as soon as my head hit the floor had accidentally tripped me as I was taking a step backwards in a store that had sold stone floors (I was in the historic town of York, from which Yorkshire gets its name — it was the capital city back when the Vikings ruled a large chunk of Britannia — they called it Jorvik).  As such, it was VITALLY important that I be able to rest on the return flight. Although it was more than 10 days after the concussion, I was still suffering post concussive syndrome… in fact I’m still suffering it as I write this, and as being able to rest on the flight was now a doctor mandated medical necessity — I felt  justified in shelling out an extra $650 to fly business class.
The blue thing is my carry on bag held securely under the seat on the UK & Irish version of the airport wheelchair
Because of the fall I also ordered wheelchairs for getting around the airports and hats off to the staff of Leeds, Dublin and O’hare airports, none of which dropped the ball. (Although O’hare needs better wheelchairs… theirs has no place to put your carry on luggage and the attendee was forced to carry it for me while also pushing my chair… the UK ones have a little storage area under the seat) Every airport got me where I needed to go, and for the puddle jump flights where you had to climb stairs from the tarmac, they even offered to bring a special elevator to lift me up… but I said wasn’t necessary as long as they carried my bags up for me as all I could manage was my own body, which they graciously did.
That said… while the staff on the commuter flight from the UK to Ireland were helpful, the staff on the Aer LIngus flight from Dublin to Chicago were definitely NOT, to the extent of berating me that it was NOT THEIR JOB to help me overcome my disabilities… and that if I couldn’t manage my two bags on my own (including being forced to put my computer bag into the overhead bin because this version of “Business class” lacked ANY under seat storage that could safety stow a computer sized bag????) then I should have checked my very expensive electronic equipment … SERIOUSLY?
Oh, and the video interface on the plane was ancient. In fact before the flight even took off the stewardess apologized in advance if ours didn’t work and promised to try to move us if that was the case. The one I had in economy sort of did work, but was almost impossible to navigate. Rather than touch screen it had one of those old handsets that you pull out of the armrest … while using it the interface kept either clicking on the item to either side of the thing I clicked on, or freezing up entirely; at one point I got stuck on a song which just kept repeating and refused to allow me to leave it… and that was it, it would not do anything other than play that one song on repeat for the next two hours … The Business class one, mercifully, was a more up to date touch screen, and it did work. This time the flight started at about the time of day I’d be waking up, so sleep wasn’t really possible. Instead I lay in a reclined and relaxed position and watched movies for most of the flight.
Flying out of Chicago’s O’hare
The only good news was they didn’t loose my luggage on either flight…
Not that one was the result of the other, but this time around I bought and installed Apple AirTags into my bags, and was able to watch my luggage follow me though the various airports till it finally rejoined me on the plane and at the carousel. While not necessary, I have to say it was comforting and stress reducing to know in advance that the bag was on my flight. That said, you need to remember to turn OFF airplane mode when changing flights, or app can’t see your bag if it’s stowed at the back of the airplane and you’re sitting in the front.

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