The Dan-Air Stewardess

Lorraine at Dan Air
Lorraine with Dan-Air at Newcastle Airport

As I have said previously, I have been lucky enough to come across some great people that have or are currently still working in the aviation industry, thanks to the modern medium of certain social media platforms. One person who I’ve had the fortunate pleasure of connecting with is a former Dan-Air stewardess, Lorraine. Lorraine and I share a mutual passion for this once great British airline. I was lucky enough to fly with Dan-Air myself when the airline was at the top of it’s game; first in 1985 to Majorca, Spain and once again in 1987 to Zakynthos, Greece. Although I was very young at the time, being a plane geek I can remember both journey’s so vividly well. Lorraine has even more memories to share having worked for the airline from 1976 to 1992 and based at Newcastle Airport. She has been kind enough to take some time out to give an insight on the different types of aircraft she worked on, some really scary moments while in the air and what it was like being “The Dan-Air Stewardess”.

What made you want to be an air stewardess? My first flight as a pax [passengers] I was nine years old and it was from LGW/LUX [London Gatwick/Luxembourg] on a BAC1-11 with British Eagle and I think that gave me an interest in flying as a career, I thought it was so glamorous, the girls I noticed were so smart, never would have believed then that my dream would come true and I actually worked on that aircraft as British Eagle folded and Dan Air purchased that aircraft from them.

How did the role at Dan-Air come about? The role came about when I was working as a junior secretary in an office for a telecommunications firm, my mother who worked there also, rang me and said that there was an advert in The Newcastle Journal for Air Hostesses and I should apply for the job, I did and the rest is history.

Can you remember how you felt during the interview process? The interview process I remember very well, it was at the Airport Hotel, I was rather nervous and was interviewed by Dan Air’s Chief Stewardess and NCL’s [Newcastle Airport] base stewardesses. The questions that were asked “if I was married”? That time they did not employ you if you were married, then mostly about how I dealt with situations and how I coped with people, and obviously what qualifications I had, I felt that the interview had gone well.

What are the most important parts of being an air stewardess? The main thing was to make the pax feel comfortable and safe.

What were the stages of recruitment at Dan-Air? I only had one interview, I know other airlines had a process to go through, but not for Dan Air.

Can you give us a brief about the area/team you worked with at NCL? My typical roster was given a fortnight in advance and it would be around eight flights and two standby days per fortnight.

What was the best thing about working for Dan-Air? I can honestly say that working for Dan Air were the best years of my life, when I meet up with my Dan friends they all say exactly the same, that we were very lucky to have had the pleasure of working for them,  they were a great company to work for. Newcastle Airport was such a small and intimate airport that everybody knew each other from the ground staff to the customs, and other airline staff. A lot of our pilots were ex RAF very old school and so gentlemanly and great great characters.

Can you name the type of aircraft you trained and worked on? The aircraft that I worked on were: DeHavilland Comet first commercial jet, and it was my favourite. Such a beautiful aircraft, but rather noisy down at the back especially when taking off! I also worked on the following: HS748, BAC 1-11 all series, B-727, B-737 and the BAE 146.

What was the best place you visited during your time flying? And can you recommend anywhere? Most of our flights from NCL were flown to the destination (all European or internal) and then return on the same day, there was no long haul from NCL then, so we were back home after our flights, we did have night-stops in Bournemouth, and in the latter years Berlin which at the time the Berlin Wall was being taken down and that was fascinating. We were also now and again sent to different bases if there was a shortage of staff.

Tell us about any scary moments when up in the air (or on the ground) that you experienced when working? Two flights that I remember, one was on the HS 748 and we were flying from LGW, as I was serving drinks (on a tray, no trolleys on this aircraft), there was a small jolt, I looked to my right and noticed the propeller was slowly stopping, the captain called me into the flight deck and said that we were making an emergency landing at Dijon and to clear the cabin. Thankfully the aircraft landed safely.
The other time I was on the BAE146, the First Officer brought the aircraft down too steeply banging it down on the runway, all the oxygen masks fell from the cabin ceiling, unfortunately some of the wheels burst and the smell from the rubber filled the cabin, no pax were hurt just rather shocked. I was then sent to LGW to help with enquiries, that for me was the most terrifying!

Do you still keep in touch with any of your ex-colleagues from Dan-Air? I still keep in touch with a lot of the girls that I few with, we have a bond and go a long way back.

If you could, is there anything you’d like to ask Dan-Air? I can’t think what I’d like to ask them, I wish they hadn’t have gone under, but I would like to thank them for the happy years they gave me and for employing me, again the best years of my life loved every minute flying with them.

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The Dan-Air crew at Newcastle Airport in 1992. Photo Credit: Dan-Air Remembered & Martin Gascoigne

Thanks so much Lorraine for taking the time and sharing your memories of Dan-Air! IMG_2936 2

Dan-Air was founded in 1953 and ceased operations in 1992 when it merged with British Airways. The airline’s main hubs were London Gatwick, Manchester and Berlin-Tegel as well as focusing on operations at Newcastle.

For more memories please visit:- Dan-Air Remembered

A Crown Service

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Mum, me, aunt & uncle having just landed on a Monarch Airlines’ flight to Heraklion, Crete in 1989

On the morning of 2nd October 2017, I woke up to the news that I had been dreading all weekend – Monarch Airlines had ceased to operate and went into administration. Just one week earlier I had flown in to London Gatwick after holidaying in Malta and there, as usual, lined up on the main pier at Gatwick’s South Terminal was at least a dozen Airbus A320 and A321 Monarch aircraft parked next to an assortment of British Airways, Norwegian and Thomas Cook Airlines. As I was taxing past them (on board a British Airways flight), little did I know then that the airline was already heavily in the “red” and that this would be the last time I would ever see the “Spotty M” make it’s appearance at Gatwick.

1989 was the year that I first flew on a Monarch Airlines aircraft myself from LGW to Heraklion, Crete. I was so excited to be acquainted with this bird, a Boeing 757-200; we boarded via the steps on a remote stand at Gatwick’s shiny brand-new North Terminal. I can still remember us being parked next to an identical B757 Monarch aircraft which was also boarding a hoard of passengers heading for sunnier climes – this was one airline that was doing so well in Thatcher’s Britain. I managed to persuade my dad to buy me the snap-fit model aircraft on board (along with a baseball cap with “GATWICK” sprawled across the front in the airport earlier). When we landed at Heraklion Airport, stepping out on to the hot tarmac, I was too shy to ask a Monarch stewardess for a photograph, who was saying her goodbyes to passengers (they did this on the tarmac in the 80s) – having managed to take a sneaky pic instead, her head was unfortunately cut out  – nonetheless, I loved the whole experience.

My next encounter with Monarch would be in the summer of 1994 to Antayla, Turkey. Again, a Boeing 757-200, this time from Gatwick’s South Terminal (they switched from North to South around 1991/92) and boarding this time was from the Satellite gate. Still in love with this airline, I bought another snap-fit model aircraft and my passion grew. By the mid-90s they had surpassed their great piers; Dan-Air, British Caledonian and Air Europe. As the years past, other airlines such as Excalibur Airways, Ambassador, Air 2000 and XL Airways came and went but Monarch however, kept on going. 2012 would be the final time that I would fly with Monarch; an Airbus A300 from Manchester Airport to Sharm el Shiek, Egypt – what a great experience to get the opportunity to fly this old bird there and back. Unbeknown to me then, this would be the beginning of the end for Monarch and me.

And so, two days before their collapse, I was working out in the gym and the TV screen above my head had the BBC News switched on with the headline: “Breaking News – Monarch Airlines Facing Administration”. A constant loop of film footage showing the aircraft landing at Gatwick, I was in disbelief, suddenly I had forgotten all about my workout and kept asking myself lots of questions: they were saved by Greybull a year ago, they have ordered new Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft, the cabin crew will be getting new uniforms, I saw them lined up a week ago at Gatwick without a hint of trouble – this cannot possibly be happening right? A cousin of mine was due to fly with Monarch to Dalaman, Turkey on that very fateful morning of 2nd October – I reassured him that his flight would be fine and it was just media hype, just like the response he got from Monarch via Facebook.

Then, at 03:19am, Monarch Airlines’ final flight from Tel Aviv, Israel to Manchester Airport touched down. Shortly afterwards at approximately 04:00am, the CAA confirmed that Monarch Airlines had ceased operations with immediate effect and had entered administration. As I was fast asleep when Monarch was taking it’s last breath, my poor cousin had already arrived at Gatwick expecting to board his flight. As soon as I saw the notification on my phone that morning I was glued to the breakfast news. This was an airline I had known my entire 36 years of existence, it was like a friend had died, grief set in but the wonderful memories of those years traveling with Monarch came flooding back.

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Photo Credit: Ray Woodman & the Facebook Group – “Monarch Airlines”

The airline’s demise; competing in a growing market of low-fares, no frills travel, set them apart from the rest but sadly Monarch’s turnaround to follow suit was too little and too late. While the likes of easyJet now dominating flights to and across Europe, Monarch began to struggle; hit hard by the rising cost of fuel prices, a weakened pound and terrorist attacks on prime holiday hot-spots such as Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey, the writing was on the wall for “Spotty M”. And while I’m still sad at their demise, the memories live on forever; great experiences both on the ground and in the air, all of which will never be forgotten. Sleep tight Monarch, you reigned supreme longer than any other charter airline in the UK and for that, I salute you.

Monarch Airlines was founded on 5 June 1967 and ceased operations on 2 October 2017