Former Leopardstown air hostess helps Aer Lingus celebrate milestone

by Rebecca Ryan
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Picture Jason Clarke: Seventy-nine-year-old Lily O’Connell worked on Aer Lingus’ early flights crossing the Atlantic around 1958. 

A former air hostess from Leopardstown recently helped Aer Lingus celebrate their diamond anniversary of transatlantic flights.

Seventy-nine-year-old Lily O’Connell worked on Aer Lingus’ early flights crossing the Atlantic around 1958.

Lily said becoming an air hostess was her dream job.

She said: “It was always my number 1. When I was flying back then we would fly from Dublin to Shannon and pick up passengers at both airports and then fly to New York.

“I loved the passengers, everyone was just so friendly and lovely. There was great excitement in the air.”

Early flights were populated mostly with those emigrating from Ireland, and it is estimated that the airline carried close to 15,000 guests to and from New York in its first year.

Flight time from Ireland to New York was then approximately 14 hours outbound. In 2018, the outbound flight duration from Dublin to JFK is almost halved at a scheduled 7hrs 30mins.

Lily recalled the flights brought great excitement for families reuniting.

“I remember the Americans on board coming to ‘I-R-Land’, as they called it, they were so excited to be meeting their Irish family connections for the first time.

“For Irish people flying home – they had saved for months for the air fare as they were so expensive back then, so it was just lovely on board, everyone was in great spirits.

“My highlight was when I went to Maine in America as part of a publicity trip – I remember bringing part of a Christmas tree home to Shannon Airport which sounds a bit mad now – I think it was a gift or something. I was in the papers and I even was on TV in Maine – that was wonderful.

“I met my husband on board and we got married soon after – travelling across the Atlantic was just such an incredible experience all those years ago.”

Today Aer Lingus operates largely Airbus A330 aircraft crossing the Atlantic carrying as many as 317 guests on each flight.

Commenting on the diamond anniversary, Ruth Ranson, director of Communications at Aer Lingus, said: “Over the past 60 years we have warmly welcomed leisure travellers, business travellers, emigrants and home visitors onboard, continually growing and championing connectivity between Ireland and the US.

“As a result of the airline’s transatlantic growth over the past six decades, we have been able to invest significantly in both fleet and employment, most recently with the order of eight Airbus A321 Long Range aircrafts arriving in the next two years and a pilot recruitment campaign currently underway.”

To celebrate its diamond anniversary, Aer Lingus has launched a summer stateside deal offering €100 saving on return flights to all direct North American destinations, valid for travel from June 16 to October 31.

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