Aer Lingus marks 60th anniversary of transatlantic flights

A crew of six attended to 99 economy class passengers

Aer Lingus marks 60th anniversary of transatlantic flights

Pictured in retro uniforms are Aer Lingus cabin crew Muriel Cooke and Mae McGreevy along with former air hostess Lily O'Connell (centre) | Image: Jason Clarke

Aer Lingus is marking a milestone in its transatlantic flights to the US.

Saturday marks exactly 60 years since the airline started flying across the Atlantic.

The Aerlínte Éireann Lockheed L1049 Super Constellation aircraft embarked on its inaugural flight from Dublin and Shannon to New York with a crew of six tending to 99 passengers in economy class.

Today the mostly Airbus A330 aircraft crossing the Atlantic carries as many as 317 passengers on each flight.

In 1958, Aerlínte Éireann became the 17th airline to begin scheduled services across the North Atlantic.

The inaugural flight touched down to a salute from the 165th Infantry of the New York National Guard.

Pictured in retro uniforms are Aer Lingus cabin crew Muriel Cooke and Mae McGreevy along with former air hostess Lily O'Connell (centre) | Image: Jason Clarke

Before departing Irish shores, the airline held a celebratory banquet attended by then-Taoiseach Éamon de Valera and Minister for Industry and Commerce Seán Lemass - as well as the Mayors of Dublin and New York with a large press contingent.

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

Flight time from Ireland to New York was then approximately 14 hours outbound and cruising altitude was between 16,000 and 18,000 feet, making the journey more susceptible to turbulence.

Pictured in retro uniforms are Aer Lingus cabin crew Muriel Cooke and Mae McGreevy along with former air hostess Lily O'Connell (centre) | Image: Jason Clarke

Journey time today has almost halved at seven hours and 30 minutes.

The in-flight service in 1958 was limited to cold foods such as sandwich meals with tea, coffee, milk or mineral water.

Lily O'Connell (79) from Leopardstown, Co Dublin started with the airline in 1958.

A former cabin crew member, she recalls: "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.

"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.

Image: Aer Lingus

"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."

Pictured in retro uniforms are Aer Lingus cabin crew Muriel Cooke and Mae McGreevy along with former air hostess Lily O'Connell | Image: Jason Clarke

Commenting on the anniversary Ruth Ranson, director of communications at Aer Lingus, said: "This weekend we proudly celebrate the heritage of our national airline and commemorate an important milestone in Irish history.

"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."