I have to say, when I flew with Aer Arann a week ago today, it was simply effortless. Aer Arann focus on 40 different routes connecting Ireland, France and the UK. Most, if not all of the planes are around half the size of a British Airways 737. Not to mention that they are all run by propellors too.
Checking in wasn't to much of a problem. Although I did spend about 20 minutes blocking the que as the check-in person was looking for forms. (Since I was flying on my own at under 16, then forms were needed). Anyway, once that hassle was done, from then on everything was perfect. From the gates opening to leaving the ground on the plane, there was only about a 15 minute gap. Which I thought was brilliant. Since almost, if not all the planes are propellor powered, its a good experience if you haven't been on one before. For starters, the plane takes off in about half the time it normally takes. Since the planes are quite small, they fly quite low which therefore allows you to see everything out of the window (if its a clear day). In fact, I reckon that when I flew from Glasgow to Donnegal. I was only in the clouds for about 5/10 minutes out of a 45 minutes fight. The only downside to the plane is that propellors do make the cabin very very noisy. For example, I had massive headphones that normally block out all sound when turned off. I put my phone up on full volume watching Top Gear, yet I could only just make it out. So if you are planning on reading a book, then you might have to change your plans. Although all of the flights with Aer Arann are short haul so you shouldn't have much trouble.
So overall, a very good airline with a very efficient crew (unloading bags etc.). There are plenty of routes to choose from and the planes are interesting if you have been on them before. Recommended!
Basis for review:
I'm from the West of Ireland and have lived for a number of years in the UK in both Birmingham and London. I have flown Aer Arann several times from Galway to Birmingham, Galway to London Luton and Dublin to Cardiff.
Check in is what you'd expect from any relatively low cost operator operating short hop routes. Nothing special, nothing exceptional.
Aer Arann operate small propeller planes. There are four seats in any row, two on each side and there are forty rows on the plane. The seats are comfortable and the plane isn't too cramped. Due to the small size of the plane the staff may ask you to move seats to help balance. Fewer passengers means that boarding and disembarcation are usually quicker and easier then on larger aircraft.
As a prop plane, the plane is noisier than a normal Boeing 737, it also takes a little bit longer to get to where you're going as they're slower. Aer Arann are also more prone to weather delays due to the smaller aircraft size.
You are given a free newspaper as you board, everything else must be paid for. The staff are casual, but friendly and helpful. In short, they have a very Irish attitude, and a West of Ireland attitude at that. My mother tells the story of an announcement on her flight where they informed passengers that the flight was subject to a short delay because the air hostesses alarm clock hadn't gone off. Generally the whole atmosphere is pleasantly relaxed.
Aer Arann tend to fly to small, local airports. The one I have most experience of is Galway Airport, however I'm fairly sure that Waterford and Kerry would be similar. Galway airport is tiny. There is one security screening queue, and one room to wait in. It's perfectly possible (though not recommended) to arrive half an hour before your flight and not have anyone bat an eyelid.
When you land, your luggage is collected by a tractor and delivered to the one luggage belt. Security checks consists of one Garda who will give your passport a cursory glance. It's as relaxed as air travel can get.
Return flights have typically cost me E100 - E150. Better deals are available. This would be slightly more expensive then the Aer Lingus or Ryanair equivalents, however Aer Lingus and Ryanair would involve a transfer from either Shannon or Knock Airport to my home town of Galway. The cost (E20ish) and time element (over an hour for both) of that transfer, make Aer Arann good value for my money.