I flew to Boston from Dublin Airport on its busiest day of the summer — here's how I got on

Arriving four hours early for her flight, Martha Brennan was surprised by the scenes at Dublin Airport ahead of her transatlantic flight
I flew to Boston from Dublin Airport on its busiest day of the summer — here's how I got on

'I heard a group of girls tell their families that Dublin was “the worst airport ever”.' Picture: Martha Brennan

Ever since booking an eye-wateringly expensive flight to Boston three months ago, I’ve asked every single person who’s been travelling the same question: how bad was Dublin Airport?

The “gateway” to our lovely land has been getting a bad rap lately — and for good reason. Last month, 1,400 unlucky passengers missed their flights because of delays at Dublin Airport and just this past week, more than 60 flights were cancelled last minute by Aer Lingus alone.

And so it was with great anxiety that I boarded my 5.30am bus from Cork ahead of a 1.30pm flight on Saturday morning. After I stepped on and told the driver where I was going, his response wasn’t much help: “it’s rough up there”.

I arrived into Terminal 2 just before 9am, still over four hours early for my flight, and thankfully so. 

There weren’t any queues outside but barriers were in place and people were told to enter a specific door for their airline by security guards. The closest to me laughed as he pointed me through the door labelled “No Entry” for Delta.

As a US citizen, I was lucky enough to be able to travel freely to see my family during the pandemic, and the scenes at Dublin Airport were hard to believe after the calm I had witnessed there over the past two years.

Long gone are the days of empty terminals, breezing through security with five other people, and getting to know the US pre-clearance guards.

A frequent traveller and perpetually late person, I’m not one to be overdramatic with timekeeping, but this is one place where it seems absolutely necessary to heed the advice to arrive at least three hours early for an international flight.

While I had my bags dropped in 15 minutes, I felt very sorry for anyone who had booked with Aer Lingus. 

The check-in and bag drop lines stretched halfway up the building, but a good system did seem to be in place. 

One man I spoke to had gotten through the premium line in 15 minutes and a group of students said they made headway in the bag drop line after about 20 minutes. 

However, a family I spoke with about three-quarters of the way up the normal check-in queue had already been standing there for well over an hour.

I made it through security in about 25 minutes and, luckily, didn’t witness any of the ‘triage’ the airport had planned during last month's chaos (I’d only ever heard of the word triage while watching Grey’s Anatomy, so was especially happy about this).

One of the employees I spoke with at security said that things had calmed down since last month and people were making it through in under an hour. The story is different in Terminal 1 though. 

“It’s always busy, 24 hours a day. It’s not as bad as it was but you would want to be lining up for security at 11am for a 1pm flight just in case,” he said.

The person checking my bags had similar advice: “This time last year we were actually sitting at home because it was so quiet and now it’s so busy, all of the time.” 

Queues at Dublin Airport on Saturday, July 2. 'A frequent traveller and perpetually late person, I’m not one to be overdramatic with timekeeping, but this is one place where it seems absolutely necessary to heed the advice to arrive at least three hours early for an international flight.' Picture: Martha Brennan
Queues at Dublin Airport on Saturday, July 2. 'A frequent traveller and perpetually late person, I’m not one to be overdramatic with timekeeping, but this is one place where it seems absolutely necessary to heed the advice to arrive at least three hours early for an international flight.' Picture: Martha Brennan

The last time I had travelled through this terminal a few months back, the queues in the Departures lounge had nearly matched the mile-long check-in queues outside of security. This time was no different, with travellers seemingly more anxious to get to Starbucks’ espresso machine than they were to their gate.

After waiting 20 minutes for a coffee — my pro tip of Dublin Airport is to strategically only queue at Butlers, where they have coffee, scones, and toasties, rather than waiting for an hour at the upstairs restaurant for an overpriced piece of toast — I eventually found a spot in the seating area. 

I heard a group of Americans nearby complaining about the lines and lack of food options — apparently one person even ordered their Burger King online for collection and it still worked out quicker than joining the queue.

The water filling stations have reopened in the building, but beware they’re tucked away by the bathrooms and, naturally, there were queues for both services.

After another pit stop there, I headed downstairs to US pre-clearance, bracing for another line. This one took the longest, well over half an hour, and it’s especially important to allow time here. 

A changed flight caused a lot of panic for some passengers, who weren’t allowed to skip the line even though their plane was suddenly about to take off.

Similarly to when I travelled in January, it was nearly impossible to get somewhere to sit near the one restaurant by the gates. Carnage was about the only word I could think of — especially at 11.30am in the morning.

Multiple flight delays didn’t help, with our flight being set back nearly an hour because of apparent staff shortages on the ground. 

I heard a group of girls tell their families that Dublin was “the worst airport ever” when we got in but we did spend a further hour on the tarmac in Boston, so we’re clearly not the only ones with issues.

I was just thankful to have made it that far and arrived into Boston tired but in one piece and, most importantly, with luggage. 

Nearly 17 hours after leaving Cork (for a seven-hour flight), a hug from my dad never felt so good.

Though I’m already slightly dreading my return into Dublin Airport — where my friend waited two hours for her bags earlier this week only to find them dumped on the other side of Arrivals — all in all, my trip through the struggling system went smoothly enough.

A cup of tea at the airport still costs an arm and a leg, of course, but some things will never change.

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