Einstein predicts two types of time dilation, both of which have been tested and confirmed. One is…
Photons do not require a propagating aether. They can get from one place to another without an aether. However, there still is a need for an aether in order to explain certain optical phenomena like the double slit experiment, and there is a need for a reservoir of low energy photons that can be kicked up in energy.
These two needs are covered by the theory of the aether as a reservoir of zero-point particles. Such an aether would form a standing wave, and would act as a reservoir of readily available photons and neutrinos. It would also be extremely fluid due to the constant motion of its constituent parts. There would hardly be any drag associated with it.
An electron surrounded by zero-point particles
A strict particle model of physics does not require a propagating aether in order to explain electromagnetic phenomena. It requires an interfering aether and a reservoir of photons and neutrinos. Both of these requirements are covered by the model of the aether as low energy photons and neutrinos.