Dan-Air Engineering opened a new hanger at their base in Lasham this year. The large heated hanger could handle the ever growing fleet of Dan-Air. The go ahead was given, on condition that no aircraft engines would be tested between 8pm and 6am. Meanwhile, a consortium of UK airlines asked the ATLB to allow them to raise regional fares by 5 1/2% claiming that if they were not allowed to, they would lose a collective £2,000,000 due to increases in aviation fuel prices. In March the carrier was advertising for 'Air Stewardesses' the age range was 20-28 and applicants had to be well groomed, have good eyesight and be educated up to GCE or equivalent moreover they had to be single.
Autair International, who had previously been known as BKS became known as Court Line after Clarkson Tours take over the previous year. Court Line took delivery of their first BAC 1-11. Court Line wanted to show themselves as a bright and cheery holiday airline, and opted to paint their new aircraft in a bright new colour scheme. Each jet would wear pink, yellow green or magenta livery. This extended to the cabin interiors. The airline would change charter flights in many ways, not all of them popular.
Channel Airways had committed themselves to purchasing the BAC 1-11 despite their reputation as being financially weak. Hawker Siddeley began negotiations with Channel in 1967, with a view to purchasing a newer version of the Trident, guaranteeing the airline a 20% reduction in seat-mile costs over the Trident 1E. With a full payload of 139 the Trident 3 had a range of 1,930 miles or 2,570 miles with 100 passengers in a low-density seating configuration. The latter brought the Canary Islands within the aircraft's non-stop range from the UK and West Berlin. These were also the first Tridents ordered by a UK independent airline. Hawker Siddeley had five remaining unsold Trident 5E and Chennel's order was worth £8 million. This was a substantial debt for a UK independent carrier. The arrival of Channel's Trident May 1968 coincided with the delivery of its second 1-11.
In 1968 Channel had reduced their outstanding jet aircraft orders due to the economic situation in the UK. This resulted in cancellation of three orders for Tridents and 1-11 jets. Channel's increasing dependence on the IT market made it a highly seasonal airline, unlike Dan-Air who operated sscheduled services year round and had been successful with charters to winter destinations and long haul flights. Furthermore, the end of the winter there followed by a six-week period of intense activity starting in April, when all Dan-Air aircraft were contracted by Clarksons to fly British tourists to and from Rotterdam for the Dutch bulbfield season from ten UK airports. The flights were popular with passengers and utilised aircraft that were not used to the their full potential. Dan-Air had negotiated other day trip flights to European cities. May would see the start of the main summer season for all airlines, usually commencing with flights to Majorca, Spain and Morocco under contract to major Tour Operators. Flights to other resorts started the following month. During the peak period in July and August, UK airlines like Dan-Air operated 24 hours a day, flying scheduled routes during the day and IT destinations at night. The increase in utilisation meant that aircraft spent as little as 40 minutes on the ground between flights. By September, the IT programme began winding down, with flights to Italy ending first due to the country's short holiday season. Flights to Majorca and certain Spanish mainland destinations continued right until the end of the summer season in late-October. Only a few sunshine destinations had a year round programme. Malta, Cyprus, Portugal, Tunisia, The Canaries and Spain
To avoid having aircraft sit idly on the ground during the winter months, spare capacity was leased out. Ad Hoc charters and a small number of year-round scheduled services replaced the intensive summer IT programme. It was at this time that all heavy maintenance took place. With sixteen jet aircraft and six prop liners Dan-Air had one of the largest fleet of all the independents. each type operated as a fleet in its own right. thus benefitting with maintainence schedules and costing.
Channel Airways held the dubious record for operating tightest seating capacity of all the UK charter airlines, their DC4 aircraft were configured to seat 88 passengers, 139 people were squeezed into their Trident 1Es, 99 passengers into their 1-11 400s and 83 & 56 into their Viscount 810s and HS 748s respectively. In comparison, Dan-Air had a relatively spacious 1-11 cabin with 89 seats and 48 single class seats on the HS748.
Channel Airways also became known for putting aircraft into service that they had acquired secondhand with minimal changes to the prior operators' liveries, often merely taping over the previous operators' names with their own. Channel's inability to raise funds to pay for their outstanding aircraft orders that had been placed direct from the manufacturers, left them with no spare capacity to take on additional charter contracts during the peak season of 1970. To meet the requirements of a two-year contract to operate IT flights. Channel were forced to acquire five ex-BEA de Havilland Comets for £2 million, resulting in a significant increase in its capacity. The aircraft retained the basic BEA livery with just the Channel name taped over the BEA title.
In September, a consortium of three West German tour operators awarded Channel a contract to fly from West Berlin to the Mediterranean, worth £11 million per year. Both Channel and Dan-Air were flying roughly 50 weekly round-trips from Berlin during the peak season. Channel and Dan-Air were of a similar size in fleet terms and sought the same business. Dan-Air's decision not to put themselves in debt with brand new aircraft was, with the benefit of hindsight, a good decision. Both carriers encountered problems sourcing spare parts to support their growing jet fleets. In fact, the lack of spares for both Comets and Tridents caused major disruptions to the summer charter programme. Dan-Air was forced to sub charter other airlines' aircraft to meet contractual requirements of Tour Operators. In 1970 Channel Airways carried 541,000 passengers, roughly the same number as Dan-Air, one of our pilot contributors notes;
"God, I will never know how Channel got away with it. They had no money and they shoved as many people as they could on their aircraft. Their aircraft looked terrible, they barely had a lick of their own paint on them. Channel were known to go on the scrounge from other carriers for tyres silly things that any regular airline would always have a supply of. They would be on the cadge for tyres, lights and even bloody coffee on occasion. We got a much worse press than Channel did, and yet they carried on like the keystone cops. Rumours went around about them cutting corners with all sorts of things. One time I was taking some supplies on an aircraft that they had scrounged from us. I boarded this Comet of theirs and was shocked at how shabby it was. Tape was holding the stewardess public address system together and the carpet had a big tear in it - they were patching it up whilst I stood chatting with the crew. I heard morale was low and several good people left them to work with rival airlines."
To ensure adequate access to spare parts to continue flying their Comets, Channel Airways acquired further second-hand models. Channel's inability to pay for a sufficient spares inventory to keep all its aircraft flying during the peak summer season also resulted in one of its two Tridents having its engines removed to keep the other flying; the engineless aircraft sat on the ground at Stansted for much of that year's summer to enable its Berlin Tegel based sister aircraft to continue flying German holidaymakers until the end of the season.
British United asked BOAC to take them over in the Autumn. Freddie Laker who had founded British United was furious. He said he was going to put a bid in for the airline himself. Cash strapped Channel Airways also placed a bid. Dan-Air's ambitions were more low key, having set their sights on the Manchester-Newcastle route. Newcastle were in favour as it would help them promote links to Transatlantic services from Manchester. Dan-Air's presence at Manchester was limited to charter flights. BOAC were also keen, as the flights would link them to their Manchester - Montreal - Chicago three times weekly service. Dan-Air would use the Nord 262 on the route as it had been recently evaluated and had proven to be fast and reliable. The last time a service linked the two cities was in 1966 when British Midland flew Argonauts on the service. Dan-Air's choice of the Nord aircraft was correct. The Dakotas that had been flying Link-City Services had seats for up to 36 people. The other types that were evaluated - The Beechcraft and Jetstream did not meet Dan-Air's requirements. Whilst both aircraft were luxurious, their cabins had just 10 and 15 seats respectively. The Nord could carry 29 people in comfort, with 26 forward facing and three rear facing seats in a three abreast cabin. The aircraft had a small galley and therefore simple catering could be provided. Unlike the Doves used in previous years, the Nord 262 had an aisle, enabling cabin staff to move through the cabin when serving drinks.
Tees Side was dropped from the Bristol - Cardiff - Liverpool - Newcastle - Tees Side route in July. Dan-Air stated that this was because increased frequencies meant they could not fit the service in. The proposed Newcastle - Manchester service ran into problems in June when Cambrian Airways objected to the application. Cambrian had a route from Manchester to Glasgow and claimed competition could be damaging, ultimately they lost their appeal and Dan-Air were able to link Manchester and Newcastle together. Of course there had to be a hitch...The Nord had never appeared in the UK register, and was held up at the factory by paperwork. Instead of the planned June 6th start, flights would now begin on June 29th. Although Dakotas and Ambassadors were available they could not meet the timing schedules that the nifty Nord could achieve. Consequently the launch was delayed. Much fanfare was made of the brand new Nord aircraft that had joined the fleet. Advertisements in the press appeared ahead of its arrival. Dan-Air said it would aim to reach a five minute turn around at each airport the Nord landed at and that the only potential drawback was the possible tardiness of airport staff. The plan involved ground staff having passengers at the gate as the Nord landed. Once on stand, with one engine still running, passengers would disembark and new ones board. Luggage would simulaneously be offloaded and loaded. Trials had found the task possible. By August Liverpool Airport declared that Dan-Air's passenger numbers were down by 50%. In a full month they carried 985 passengers from the airport. Dan-Air stated that as they had withdrawn from a few services there was an expected drop in passenger numbers. The new services would operate three times a week. Dan-Air said that once 'passenger appeal' of linking four great English cities, Liverpool, Newcastle, Bristol and Cardiff, had been established, they were confident the numbers would go up. At the same airport, Gordon Connor, a 39 year old clerk decided to pocket Dan-Air's £81 landing fees instead of handing it over to the airport. Connor was arrested and told magistrates that he would repay the money from his wages. He was fined an additonal £20.
The Liverpool-Amsterdam service that had been operated by Ambassadors was to get an upgrade when Comet jets would be introduced on the service. The two hours flying time would be halved and the 65 seat availability on the Ambassador would be increased to 105 with the Comet. With the promise of a full bar service and hot food, the route was expected to be popular with business men who would now enjoy a full day in Amsterdam and return after business hours.
Global Holidays chartered Dan-Air Comets to fly out of Belfast for 1971 Summer programme. When the brochures came out late in 1970 the take up was significant. Belfast had very few charter flights and residents of the province had been expected to fly to a UK mainland airport to access the majority of charters and scheduled services. The new charters would operate to Dubrovnik, Alicante, Gerona and Palma Dan-Air hoped to base a Comet at Belfast.
Plans had been made to replace the last remaining DC3 and Ambassador in 1969. The lack of available aircraft for sale meant that the faithful old birds would have to soldier on into the new decade. Despite the obvious appeal of the brand new Nord 262, the introduction of the type was bemoaned by some passengers who wrote to Dan-Air to request the DC3 be re-introduced. Perhaps it was because the DC3 was a larger aircraft and passengers felt safer in its drafty, rattling old cabin.
The jet fleet had now increased to sixteen models. Sadly one of the Comet fleet crashed into mountains at Arbucias, near Barcelona, Spain. The aircraft, was under the command of Captain Alec Neal from Oxted, he, as well as First Officer David Shorrock from Southport and Engineer David Sayer of Crawley all perished. The cabin crew, Ann Vickers of Chesterfield, Carol Maddock of Barwick in Elmet, Hazel Barber of Manchester and Sue Hind of Manchester also lost their lives. A total of 105 passengers were killed in the crash. The crash report can be viewed here. Dan-Air announced that they would open a memorial near the crash site. The memorial would be designed similar to an English garden. Relatives of those lost would be flown out to the memorial at Dan-Air's expense. The memorial had been necessary as Spanish law stated that the bodies would have to be buried in Spain.
Despite this terrible loss, Dan-Air had an incredible 1970 with passenger numbers almost double those of the previous year. It was the first year that Dan-Air carried more than a million passengers in a single year. The Air Transport Licencing Board's (ATLB) stranglehold of UK scheduled air routes carried on with very few opportunities presenting themselves to independent airlines. Dan-Air had dropped some of their loss making domestic services, concentrating on the more profitable routes. If one considers the services that Dan-Air had tried to establish. Carlisle-Gloucester and Bournemouth do not spring to mind when one is thinking of mass air travel. Although the ATLB did allow the sevice from Newcastle to Bournemouth with optional stops at Birmingham and Manchester to commence without having a hearing. Simply put - independent airlines did not stand a chance of gaining licences for high density routes. Many of Dan-Air's competitors who were around at the start of the 1970s would not be operating at the end of the decade.
August saw bad headlines for Dan-Air when a number of flights were delayed. Passengers in Ibiza and Palma faced delays of eighteen hours when aircraft failed to arrived to take them home. A combination of fog and technical issues were blamed for the delays. The first weekend in August was a particularly busy weekend for the company. Finding a replacement Comet aircraft was near impossible. French Air Traffic Controllers then began, what was to go on to be an annual round of industrial action. Comets had been chartered by Clarksons, who left passengers stranded in airport terminals. Passengers complained that they were left without information and would not be home in time to start work the next day. The delays were further hampered when the replacement aircraft was delayed with technical issues at Manchester. Fog would not hinder the operation of aircraft today,but the technical abilities of aircraft at the time, meant aircraft would often be diverted or delayed. In September a company Comet crash landed at Newcaslte airport (Picture and press report HERE) The aircraft was on a training flight when the accident occured. No-one was injured and the Comet was removed from the runway as quickly as possible. Upon being met by fire crews and emergency vehicles the crew claimed they had no idea that the aircraft had a problem. Public relations took another hit in September, when Newcastle United's football team boarded a Comet to take them, their delegation of trainers, managers and physiotherapists along with a press crew. A covering flap blew off during the flight to pick the VIPs up. After waiting an hour the anxious players and crew boarded only to find an engine would not start. Staff at Newcastle hurridly got in touch with Gatwick headquarters and a replacement aircraft, this time a BAC 1-11 arrived. The team eventually took off four hours late.
Passenger numbers were increasing in winter too, as a result of a new type of package tour that didn't take long to become a permanent fixture: Skiing. In winter 1970 destinations in Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Yugoslavia were evaluated by Tour companies who were eager to make profit during their normally quiet winter months. Airlines were delighted as the flights would help with year round utilisation of aircraft. Inghams and Neilson became major charterers of Dan-Air aircraft for this market. Crystal Holidays were interested in using Dan-Air on their North Atlantic services. As the Edwards Committee Report had suggested the year before; a "Second Force" UK airline would be given preference amongst other independents. Two airlines; Caledonian and British United were put forward. Caledonian had been flying for ten years and had a great reputaion for in flight service. Caledonian were major players on the Affinity Tour market, carring the majority of the 1,000,000 passengers who flew the flights accross the Atlantic. The number was larger than many flag carriers in Europe. Initially Caledonian flew old DC7 aircraft on the flights, but became jet wise in 1968 when they introduced Boeing 707s to their fleet. Caledonian had endeavoured to distance themselves from other charter airlines, claiming that their charter flights surpassed service levels of most scheduled flghts. The cabin crew, dressed in tartan, would serve post take off cocktails row by row. Menus were individually printed and meals served one course at a time, with hors d'eouvres to follow, a main course and then desert. After dinner brandies followed. Wines and spirits were complimentary, cigarettes were provided free of charge and passengers were even given an overnight bag. The introduction of their Boeing 707s was given a blaze of positive publicity.
British United (BUA) on the other hand, had been established a long time by way of a merger of several small and medium sized operators. The airline was the first independent UK airline to purchase jets when the VC10 was obtained in 1964, they then leased five BAC 1-11s in 1968. BUA flew scheduled services to Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uraguay and several European desitinations including London Gatwick to Paris. Regulations prevented airlines other than BEA from flying the route. BUA had circumnavigated them by providing a coach from London Victoria to Gatwick, meaning the flight was not direct. Flights were operated to North Africa too. The airline was, without a doubt, the largest independent airline in the UK. By 1970 however, BUA was not in a good financial position. British United sought to merge with another carrier, the eventual chosen airline was Caledonian. The two airlines merged when Caledonian bought the ailing British United. Now called Caledonain/BUA with the intention of becoming British Caledonian by 1973. The new airline would have seven Boeing 707, four Vickers VC10 as well as five BAC 1-11 jets for European services. Caledonian/BUA had applyid for several scheduled services which had been largely rejected. They argued that the existing regulation meant that 90% of scheduled routes by a UK carrier were carried out by BEA or BOAC, this had to, and was about to change - forever.
November saw a special Dan-Air BAC 1-11 charter to Bucharest. Fans of Liverpool chartered the aircraft and paid £32 10s for the round trip. Lunn's Travel announced in December that they would be chartering Dan-Air aircraft for their summer programme of flights from Luton to Rome with holidays priced £36 rising to £51 in peak season for a week and £51 to £70 for two weeks. Kenton Travel, a small Harrow based company chartered Dan-Air a BAC 1-11 every Friday until Summer for a weekend trip to Hamburg from Luton for £25 including accomodation. A further two Comets joined the fleet.
NETWORK & PRESS 1970
The integration of the Nord 262 which had been designed to replace the ageing Dakota had gone smoothly. However, 1971 marked the start of a difficult period for aviation. Caledonian's purchase of British United Airways for almost £8 million had made headlines. British United had claimed they needed to spend £50 million on new aircraft to retain their status as the second force in UK aviation. Managing Director Freddie Laker had steered the company to an all jet operation, before publicly rowing with the airline's board, then leaving to form his own airline in 1966.
BUA had been the government's choice for the second force in UK aviation. When Caledonian purchased BUA in November 1970 Laker was furious at the sale. Caledonian and Laker had ambitions for long haul scheduled services of their own. Dan-Air, remained silent about the changes taking place in the industry. Their own steady growth had continued and finacially they were sound. Nonetheless, when a solid business opportunity presented itself, Dan-Air moved accordingly.
Skyways of London had been operation since 1955 before being purchased by Euravia in 1964. Senior Skyways of London management then went on to form International Skyways. This new airline immediately commenced the cross channel services using Dakota aircraft that were eventually supplemented with the introduction of the HS 748. This new airline traded as Skyways International. The airline was never really successful. Dan-Air watched the airline's performance with interest.
February saw Dan-Air recruiting stewardesses to be based in Newcastle and Manchester. The upper age range was between 20 and 28 Open interviews invited girls within the age range who had good eyesight, weight in proportion to height, and educated to GCE or equivalent. Those with foreign language or nursing skills would be at an advantage. Those who were male were at a definite disadvantage as they would not be interiewed.
Airport Catering had been providing catering for Dan-Air and British Midland for many years. In view of the expansion of Dan-Air, airport Catering wished to build a huge catering shed in Newcaslte only to be told that there was a 'Gentleman's Agreement' with a local brewery not to allow other firms to offer catering. A situation that Dan-Air were not happy with.
Talks had been underway with other airlines with a view to introducing a larger aircraft into the fleet. Dan-Air did not want to fly scheduled services on long haul services, but they did see an opening for 'affinity charter flights' across the Atlantic. The DC8 was considered. Dan-Air had extended talks with McDonnell about modifications to the type to suit Dan-Air's stye of operation. This would involve a high density layout and changes to the galleys. The airline had also had talks with American carriers who wished to sell some of their DC8 aircraft. One pilot told us;
'Alan Snudden was very much involved with the discussions. He had flown over and had meetings with Delta, Pan Am and I believe, Braniff. Delta had the series 71 for sale and they carried 250 odd passengers. As I recall, the price was just outside our budget. Talks with Pan Am had gone very well and it looked like a deal was going to be struck. Back at home, talks went on with the banks and with Pan Am. It was all looking positive. We even went as far as to print promtional literature with the DC8 in Dan-Air's livery on the front. Pan Am had come up with the right price, so it was good to go. From our point of view it would be a major coup, we would be the first airline to introduce the beautiful DC 8 onto the UK register - that was when the headache started. It was something that proved quite costly with the 727 a couple of years down the line. The Air Transport Licencing Board always had to be involved when a type was introduced onto the UK register. The ATLB came up with a list of modifications that we would have to implement before the aircraft could fly. It would be very expensive to undertake such changes, especially when we were unsure if there would be sufficient business for the things once they arrived. Then the UK Government has its own rules. They naturally wanted UK airlines to buy British manufactured aircraft where possible. Purchasing American built aircraft would see tariffs slapped on the imported aircraft. The Government forced Caledonian to purchase the 1-11 and were trying to get Britannia to get them as well, but they refused. They were less likely to be heavy handed if the UK didn't produce an aircraft that met an airline's requirements. Pan Am were very helpful and pointed out that BOAC were already operating the Boeing 707 as were Caledonian. It might not be such a headache importing them. So, basically that is what happened. Those tariffs were 14% which is outrageous. Still it was cheaper to pay that than to try and get hold of a VC10. The tariff was especially unfair, as the British were not even producing a long haul jet airliner in 1972. Airlines simply had to buy American - or Soviet! and that is something we would never have done."
Naturally, the aircraft that Pan Am were wanting to dispose of would be the ones that were the oldest. In fact they were some of the first 707s to have been produced. I considered converting to the type, but I had the Comet running through my veins. I also had a family. It was hard enough doing so many night flights that arrived back in the UK in the early hours. I didn't want to be away for days at a time'.
Dan-Air duly ordered two Boeing 707 jets from Pan Am, which would be modified to carry 189 passengers in a single class cabin. The 707 had previously carried 123 ecconomy passengers and 18 first class. 189 was the maximum exit layout for the type.
In March Dan-Air took delivery of their first Boeing 707, The twelve year old jet had been manufatured in 1959. The aircraft was one of the first 707s off the production line. A new colour scheme had recently been designed, and made its debut on the the new aircraft. The new look would be applied to all other aircraft as they underwent routine maintenance. The second 707 would arrive in 1972 and for reasons unknown, was fitted with 192 seats, three more than the maximum. A new livery had been designed to mark the occasion
Altogether six crews, mainly from the Comet fleet were trained on the new aircraft. Each pilot would have ten hours flying on the machine and a further ten hours of supervision. The aircraft, minus seating was flown to Newcastle for the training. Captain Alan Bernstein from Massachusetts who flew for Pan Am was given the task. He told press that flying the 707 was easy. 'You only have to fly the cockpit' he said 'The rest will just follow on behind' Before commencing flights the aircraft would need to be refitted to Dan-Air's requitements. Pan Am's luxurious cabin was quickly replaced with new red seating. Dan-Air now had capacity to match any of its rivals on long haul flights. Initially the aircraft would be chartered to fly to North American and Canadian cities on 'Affinity Charter flights', mainly from Gatwick. The fares would be £50. Stewart Carlisle from Dan-Air said that the aircraft would be operating to all points of the compass if they got the enquiries. If the Transatlantic charters were successful they would be able to take Caledonian/BUA on head to head. On reflection, was the purchase wise? One pilot told us;
"Absolutely not! How long have you got? Right, for a start, both British United and Caledonian were well established on the Affinity flights anyhow. In Particular, Caledonian were world class as far as long haul charter flying went. It was a pleasure to fly with them across the Atlantic, BUA were not as good, but as Caledonian had bought them out, it would be Caledonian's style that would prevail. Secondly, every carrier wanted to get in the flghts, as if it were some kind of 'license to print money' situation. Caledonian, Britannia, Lloyd Internation, Donaldson, Laker, British Midland - you name it - they were all at it. Some, and I am talking Caledonian specifically, were very cheeky with the rule bending of who was a member of these 'affinity groups'. Lots of airlines got their fingers burnt with hefty fines for doing that. It didn't do your reputaion any good having passengers denied boarding because they couldn't prove their affinity to 'Friends of Albion'. Then there was the aircraft itself. The 707 was a marvellous machine, but the ones we obtained were, let's face it - clapped out. They had been working long haul for twelve years before we got hold of them. cabin crew told me they were terrified as the beast lumbered up the runway. One of the jets G-AZTG - Tago Golf, was named 'Tree Grazer' because of it's reluctance to gain altitude, another, G-AYSL was known as 'Sick Lil' because of the endless hours that she spent 'tech' some of the delays were incredible. The stewardesses complained that the galley at the the rear of the cabin swayed from left to right in flight. Our aircraft had no in flight entertainment, unlike the newspaper adverts that Travel agents claimed. As far as I am aware, there was no profitable reason to use these aircraft. When you have 189 passengers stuck in Chicago, Gander or Reykjavik because their ride home has developed another fault, you have to put them up in hotels and feed them. The 707 was a terrible drain on Dan-Air, what's more, I don't think this term had been originated then, but I think I would say that the 707 was nothing more than a vanity project."
New airlines regularly emerged, many of them wishing to establish a presence as a scheduled carrier. British Island Airways commenced operations on domestic services in the UK this year. They would fly passengers on a 50 seat Herald Aircraft. Air Anglia had began flying into Liverpool from Norwich the following year. Loganair flew into Manchester from Scotland. As start up scheduled airlines, they woould not trouble Dan-Air's business on charter services, but they would almost certainly want to get a foothold on the UK domestic market. Dan-Air, by now had ground handling facilities in airports where they flew. As such, Air Anglia used Dan-Air ground handling, bringing revenue to Dan-Air.
The Newcastle-Kristiansand service was upgraded from twice to three times a week in May of this year, at the same time Dan-Air applied to serve Newcastle and Bournemouth with optional stops at Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham. Although the flights were planned to take place three times a week, the application was for an unrestricted service. Two HS 748 joined the fleet as a replacement for the Ambassador. It had been difficult to find a suitable replacement for the Ambassador, whilst the Nord 262 was undoubtedly efficient, it could only carry 29 people. The Ambassador, for all of it's flaws seated 55 in comfort. The HS 748 could seat roughly the same number. By modern standards, the HS 748 would be conidered noisy and inefficient. In comparison to the Ambassador, it was a game changing machine. The HS 748 was a turboprop aircraft, unlike the 'Amby' with her smoky Bristol Centaurus piston engines. The aircraft had been in service since 1952, and had served Dan-air well. The newer 748 had a greater range, and better performance. By 1971 the aircraft looked very dated and simply had to go.
A major promotional initiative was launched at Liverpool in an attempt to drum up business on the Liverpool-Amsterdam service. The airport had only one international scheduled service - the one operated by Dan-Air. It was noted that the service averaged only 20 passengers per flight. Passengers complained at a lack of duty free shopping, and berated Liverpool Airport for not investing in airport development.
A large charter programme from Birmingham commenced in Summer, carrying holiday makers to European destinations for Horizon Holidays, Midlands Travel and Lunn Poly using Comet and BAC 1-11 aircraft. Lunn Poly also selected Dan-Air to operate their flights out of Luton for the first time.
The Ambassador was finally phased out in September this year. The sole Ambassador in the fleet was the last turbine engined aircraft the airline had. It carried out its last flight to Jersey. The Dan-Air Social Club later chartered the aircraft for a goodbye flight to France.
State owned British European Airways, and BOAC were not happy with anything any of their rivals did. BEA hated the relaxing of any rules allowing charter carriers to have access to any airport they flew to. BOAC could not stand the idea that independents might be flying long haul charters to the United States. In response to the competition in Europe, BEA had started a subidiary charter airline - 'BEA Airtours'. This airline would fly Comets to sunspots on behalf of Tour Operators, most notably, Enterprise Holidays, BEA's own Tour Operator. BOAC had Sovereign Holidays as its in house tour operator. More about this will come up in 1973. BEA announced this year that it was going to replace its entire BEA Airtours fleet of Comet aircraft with Boeing 707s to enable it to compete on the North Atlantic 'Affinity Flights'. BEA Airtours was also be state funded, again, a disadvantage to the independents.
Dan-Air's parent compnay Davies and Newman was floated on the stock exchange for the first time, with share prices at 23p. Giant companies with far more financial strength than independent airlnes had slowly started intvesting into airlines. Great Universal Stores had recently gained a major shareholding in Caledonian/BUA which gave them increased financial flexibility, Britannia Airways was wholly owned by the Thomson Organisation and Monarch Airlines had backing from the mega wealthy Mantegazza Family (who also owned Cosmos Holidays) Dan-Air was among a small group of carriers who were truly independent, Lloyd International, Donaldson Aviation and Dan-Air were three of the most prominent ones. The flotation would enable Dan-Air to have a cash injection to obtain more aircraft.
Donaldson Aviation had been formed in 1968 and leased Britannia Aircraft. By 1971 they had started operating Boeing 707s leased from Pan Am to join the increasing number of carriers on the North Atlantic Affinity Charter operation. Lloyd International was another airline who were beginning to struggle to survice, let alone expand. In December 1971 it was announced that Lunn Poly would be using Dan-Air Comet and BAC 1-11s for their 1972 charter programme and reducing the number of BEA flights.
East Midlands Airport had only had a handful of Dan-Air charters, in October 1971 it was reported by Global Holidays that they had been a great success. For the 1972 season they would operate Dan-Air Comets and BAC 1-11s on flights to Majorca, the Costa Blanca and Costa Brava.
A new service linking Liverpool and Bournemouth commenced in December. The daily service was priced at £16:20 one way. Dan-Air said that they had always chosen routes to cities that had poor road and rail connections. They hoped the service would appeal to holiday makers and businessmen. They had timed the service to link with other flights from Liverpool.
During the first week of December 1971, Channel Airways sold both of their Trident 1Es to BEA to counter the increase in unit costs resulting from low utilisation of these aircraft. (One of the aircraft was leased to BEA's Newcastle-based regional subsidiary Northeast Airlines while the other was operating the corporation's regional routes from Birmingham to the Continent.
In November a Boeing 707 was stranded in Greenland when it made a scheduled refuelling stop. In sub zero temperatures some of the aircraft parts froze. Passengers were taken to a nearby hotel while the aircraft underwent a thawing out process and anti freezing.
The flotation had helped Dan-Air go back into profit. It was reported in October that the airline had made a profit of £497,000. Dan-Air said that they were confident that the following year would be even more profitable as the entire charter fleet had already been fully utilised. It was announced in November that the days and times of the Liverpool-Amsterdam service would change the flights would now be operation on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays iinstead of Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The 8-30am departure to Amsterdam would now depart at 12-30 and return to Liverpool at 3:15 instead of 5pm. The flights had previously been operated by 105 seater Comet Jets. From now on they would be carried out using the HS748. This was much more simple. The flight was slightly longer at one 1 hour 45 minutes, 30 minutes slower than the Comet But it would mean that the HS 748 would be able to fly straight there and back. Up until the changes the Comet would fly to Amsterdam, where it would fly to Tees Side, and back to Amsterdam for the return.
The report into the Barcelona crash of 1971 was released in November. The Comet had overshot its radio beacon at Toulouse and was off course. It was reasonable to believe that it would converge on the radio beacon at Sabadell. The report concluded that the fixes given to the aircraft were eroneous and that position reports from the aircraft led the air traffic controllers to believe that it was closer to Sabadell than it was. A request from ground control to know whether the aircraft had passed Sabadell came to the same conclusion. This resulted in a wrong identification was made when a radar echo of similar characteristics, similar to those of the Comet. The radar signal was going in the same direction and speed as those expected by the Comet. It was not questioned by the ATC. This led the controller to give instructions to decend and approach the runway at Barcelona. From that moment on, the catastrophie was inevitable.
Passenger numbers increased to 1,129,000, the largest number of passengers carried in a single year so far. Two more Comets were added to the fleet, bringing the total to 14. The BAC 1-11 fleet was also increased to 5, two Hawker Siddeley 748 aircraft replaced the two Nord 262 propliners. One was sold and the other returned to its lessor.
NETWORK & PRESS 1971
The year commenced with Dan-Air looking for more cabin crew for Gatwick, Luton, Manchester, Newcaslte and Tees Side. This was in no small part because of the huge charter programme that the airline had in the year ahead. The Nord 262 had not quite met expectations, but the HS 748, introduced the year before had proved to be a successful addition to the fleet. In a statement to the press, the company said that it would be standardising the 748 on domestic services. A solution to finding extra 748s came in January 1971, when Skyways Coach Air went bust. The Conservative government refused to step in and save it. Although it did intervene in helping to find a buyer - Dan-Air, who bought the company for £650,000, and with it, four Hawker Siddeley 748 propliners. Dan-Air did not wish to purchase the Skyways' old Dakota fleet, so they were sold off. Dan-Air would take over the airline's existing scheduled services. which had recently been slashed, disposing of underperforming routes. Skyways had made its name ferrying passengers to Paris in the cheapest possible way with their 'Coach Air'. This involved a train or coach ride from London to Lympne, a short flight across the English Channel to Beauvais and finally, a train to Paris.
The newly formed division would be called - Dan-Air Skyways. With six HS748 in the fleet, the Nord 262 were redundant.
The HS748 would go on to be the back bone of Dan-Air's scheduled service operations. It had successfully taken over the Liverpool-Amsterdam service that had recently seen an upgrade to Comet jets. The 748 was not a demotion in any way. The aircraft was more suited to short haul service. The 748 was able to accomodate between 44 and 48 passengers. The galley did not have an oven facility. So, open sandwiches and snacks were served. The flying time was one hour 45 minutes.
In early 1972, former Channel Airways director Captain Peter Lockwood acquired a pair of ex-American Airlines BAC One-Eleven 400s for his new charter company, Orientair, to take over Channel's lucrative German charter contracts. When Orientair's plan to assume Channel Airways' position in Berlin ran into difficulties, Dan-Air took over these contracts, resulting in an expansion of Dan-Air's Berlin operation.
Channel Airways Lack of fleet standardisation and low, all-year round aircraft utilisation, due to seasonal peaks and troughs in its charter and scheduled markets, drove up Channel's unit costs. While low charter rates and poor yields on short-haul scheduled routes served in competition with British Air Ferries from Southend depressed revenues. To bring costs in line with revenues, Channel Airways announced the closure of its Stansted engineering base and the return of its headquarters to Southend at the end of January 1972. A week later, Channel Airways' main lender, Barclays Bank, appointed a receiver and put the airline up for sale while operations continued. Potential buyers' lack of interest in Channel Airways as a going concern forced the break-up of the company. By winter 1971/2 work for the remaining jet fleet had all but dried up, jet services ceased on 15 February 1972. Operations ceased completely on 29 February when a DH Dove completed the last Channel Airways flight from Ostend to Southend. Permanent cessation of operations was followed by withdrawal of Channel Airways's air operator's certificate at the end of March 1972.
Following Channel Airways's demise, Dan-Air acquired the failed carrier's remaining four airworthy Comet 4Bs and its licence to operate year-round scheduled services from Bournemouth to Guernsey and Jersey while British Airways Regional Division acquired a BAC 1-11 400 previously in service with Channel Airways. In addition, the last three remaining former Channel Airways Viscounts were sold together with the aircraft's entire spares inventory to newly formed Scottish airline, Alidair. Ipswich Aerodrome, previously owned by Channel Airways, was sold to Lonmet Aviation. With so much business coming their way 1972 was going to be a big year for Dan-Air. The HS748. Services to Montpellier, Beauvais and Clermont Ferrand were opened. Skyways had flown to Clermont Ferrand from Ashford in Kent - the route was transferred to now originate from Gatwick. This wasn't without problems from the Ministry Of Aviation who were reluctant to allow Dan-Air to make the transfer from Ashford to Gatwick. Dan-Air called the MoA's bluff and an agreement was made. Meanwhile, BEA Airtours continued to operated at a loss.
The Conservative Government decided that the two loss making airlines BEA and BOAC, would merge the following year. The news caused consternation within the airline industry. Two giant carriers merged would create one mega carrier. As it stood, over 85% of all UK domestic flights were carried out by BEA, more more than 90% of long haul scheduled flights by BOAC. The long haul flights that were permitted to be flown were not from Heathrow, but Gatwick.
The decision to change the Leverpool-Amsterdam service to a HS748 did not adversly affect load factors. The numbers on the route fell by just 400 to 13,971. The 748 used a lot less fuel and had cheaper landing fees than the Comet, so the strategy was a good one. Newcastle had seen further develpment as a base for Dan-Air with the addition of Bergen and Stavanger to the list of destinations from the North Eastern city. The services had all proved popular, especially with seamen and oil workers, Dan-Air offered discounts to these passengers. Amsterdam was bolstered with flights from Tees Side that had not seen any Dan-Air aircraft for several years.
The BAC 1-11 was trialed for flights from Berlin Tegal and Gatwick for flights to the Canary Islands. The aircraft could reach it's destination provided weight-saving measures were carried out. Dan-Air found it could make its aircraft fly longer without refuelling if the baggage allowance was reduced from the usual 44lb to 40lb. The aircraft would also carry a few less passengers. If 80 passengers instead of 89 were carried the 1-11 could fly with normal fuel reserves between the two destinations without a refuelling stop, certainly in one direction and possibly both if the winds were favourable. This made the BAC 1-11 an ideal choice as opposed to the Boeing 737. Particularly for tour operators struggling to fill the larger 737 aircraft profitably. If the passenger load was greater than 80, the charterer paid for any refuelling stops, encouraging Tour Operators to keep to a maximum of 80 passengers.
British Air Services absorbed Cambrian Airways into its company this year. The company was 70% owned by the state and could pose a serious threat to Dan-Air.
Former Prime Minister and current Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas Home was a distinguished passenger this year when the Foreign Office chartered a Comet for 17 days for the politician's Middle East tour. Fortunately it was not the same Comet that was carrying out a charter fight to Alicante on February 25th. The aircraft took off from Manchester and just thirty minutes into the flight, smoke began to fill the cabin. An alarm sounded in the flight deck and the Captain shut down one engine. The pilot immeditely turned the aircraft back to Manchester where it landed with the runway lined with emergency vehicles. The aircraft landed without a hitch and passengers were flown to their destination four hours later.
Douglas Home's tour was not without hitches. Mishap number one was when the RAF 'Ran out of aircraft' to accompany him. Mishap two saw the Foreign Secretary driven to the wrong airport 'Out of habit' and mishap three was when the Dan-Air Comet was delayed for fifteen minutes with a technical problem. The aircraft flew Douglas Home to Instanbul, Dubai, Delhi Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Delhi, Rawlpindi, Ankara and Heathrow. The special charter was a feather in the cap for Dan-Air, as all previous government charters were flown by the RAF or one of the state airlines, Before the flights, Dan-Air Engineering had converted the Comet to have two wardrobes, a typing room, a cabin for Sir Alec and his wife, with eight seats. The aircraft was fitted with large reclining seats and tables. The total journey was carried out by five separate crews. The aircraft was under 24 hour security guard supervision. Food and drink was handled by the RAF and the appropriate British Embassy. Sir Alec later went on to praise Dan-Air for all their effort and skill. The flight back to Heathrow was early - deliberately so, because a crucial vote was underway in the House Of Commons concerning the Government's very survival. Captain King managed to get the aircraft on the ground in good time, and Sir Alec made it in time to vote.
Affinity charters across the Atlantic had been aimed at groups and organisations - specifically the membership of the 'group'. The group's membership was capped at 20,000. Travel agents selling these holidays would have their commission set at a maximum of 5%. Groups suddenly sprang up on both sides of the Atlantic - 'Friends of Clan Albion', 'Anglo-Scottish-American Group', 'Anglo-American Families Association', 'Rose and Maple Amity Club', 'Paisley Buddies', 'British American Club', 'Canadian US Pacific Association' were just a few. Passengers were supposed to have been a member of the 'Group' for a least six months, making a supposedly legitimate booking at a discounted price. However, and it is a big 'however' - the scheme was wide open to fraud. Groups caiming to be 'Bird Watching clubs', 'Ballroom Dancing Associations' and 'Car Appreciation Groups' were not uncommon. Travel Agents were known to tell people to 'Form a club' before making their booking. Many UK airlines took part in the Affinity charters. Some carriers were more strict than others at adhering to the rules. What travel agents didn't always say was that staff patrolled airport check-in queues to find out members of bogus clubs. Some were ultimately denied boarding. In addition, the airline would be fined if a passenger was deemed to not qualify to travel. Dan-Air had to pay $100,000 to the American Authorites for such violations. Most airlines faced a similar charge. As the charterer was responsible for paying for the entire capacity of an aircraft, regardless of whether all seats were filled. There was a great temptation to let people not eligible to travel under the Affinity Group rules, then take the seats of other, eligible travellers who had cancelled their bookings. As a result, there were numerous occasions on which the airlines got into trouble with the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic. This made the system increasingly unworkable. The Air Transport Licencing Board was finally dismantled to make way for its successor - The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Their new regulations concerning Affinity Group Charters came into force this year. The CAA would now only allow six airlines to operate the ABC charters. Dan-Air, British Caledonian, BOAC, BEA, Lloyd International and British Midland. The others carriers involved, Britannia and Donaldson would lose their right to fly the services. Britannia were furious at losing the right to operate, making their displeasure heard in the press. Their plea fell on deaf ears, and the ruling stood. In June Dan-Air and Lloyd International were prevented from operating any additional Affinity Group Charters without prior approval.
Davies and Newman's public floatation on the UK stock exchange in 1972 raised £5 million and was able to funds the purchase of more aircraft. Behind the scenes senior board members had been analysing suitable aircraft to be added to the fleet. Several members of the board opted for the Boeing 737, with a 140 seat configuration. This would be ten seats more than the only operator of the type in the UK, Britannia Airways. One of our contributors said;
"This first came to my attention at a fairly informal meeting among flight deck crew. It had come to light that a few of the type had become available on the market, second hand. I was well aware that despite being an absolutely wonderful aircraft, it did have one or two drawbacks. It's range wasn't as good as the Comet and it needed a longer runway than the BAC 1-11. It turned out that the Boeing 727 had a much greater range and could be adapted, in the way that only Dan-Air could do, to accomodate a lot more people. Some of them had come on the market at agreeable prices, which was handy, when you consider that a new 737 cost about £5 million, then there would be tariffs to pay. I soon learned that senior colleagues would be flying out to Seattle and to Japan to discuss the finer details. It was pretty hushed up at the time."
Another reason for not chosing the 737 was in keeping with the airline's 'flexibility'. That company mantra was all well and good - but it came at a heavy price. Charter carriers who were part of a vertical integration with their own Tour Operator could, and did, cherry pick their flights with times to suit them. For example, Thomson holidays would select Britannia Airways' aircraft to fly to airports that gave them the best utilisation of the aircraft and timing. Whilst Dan-Air with a Tour Operator of their own had to rely on Tour Operators without an airline, or to agree to operate flights on behalf of Tour Operators that found the flights inconvenient to their own operation. It was hoped that the Boeing 727, with its extra capacity would garner the very best charters. The announcement that three 727 trijets would be joining the fleet did just that. Global Holidays, Clarksons and Lunn Poly would fully utilise the new jets. The Jets were purchased from Japan Airlines who flew them to Seattle where they would undego their modifications. It is worth mentioning, that as a new type on the UK register, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) would have to approve the type. The 727 had been flying for years with most of the world's leading airlines and had an excellent safety record. At the time, it was the world's biggest selling commercial jet aircraft. The CAA insisted that, in view of the rear mounted engines and 'T Tail' the aircraft posed a risk of stalling. To enable the aircraft to have UK registration all Dan-Air's 727s would have to have a stall protection system installed. A stick pusher, stick shaker, stick nudger would be installed. This in very lay terms meant that the pilot's column would vibrate should the aircraft be at an angle likely to induce a stall. It would also push the column to correct the angle - apologies to any pilots! This system would cost £1 million per aircraft. Of all the hundreds of 727s flying worldwide, only the British registered models had this modification. Many Dan- Air pilots did not agree with an instrument that would over rule their skill. In addition to this, the aircraft had to be 'Anglicised' as gauge readings were in metric, rather than imperial. Extra emergency exits had to be fitted to enable the extra passengers to evacuate the aircraft in the allotted 90 seconds.
In Lancashire, travel agents Albert and Ivy Roberts used their initials to form a new Tour Operato "A.I.R" Tours. The couple already owned several Travel Agencies in Lancashire and wanted to expand into Tour Operating. They employed Dan-Air for all their new charters. The company was to grow into a major organisation. Airtours would market holidays for holidaymakers who had had a limited budget.This growth resulted in a record 1,741,000 passengers being carried this year.
Horizon Holidays began a new concept in Package Tours. when it launched the new brand, "Club 18-30". Horizon had been having difficulties integrating younger passengers with families and older travellers. The concept was to secure exclusive usage of hotels and flights for these travellers to destinations that would have particular appeal to the younger holiday maker. Benidorm, Magaluf and Tenerife became popular destinations. Dan-Air became the leading carrier on these holiday flights. The company was a headache for Horizon who had aways prefered to promote itself as an upmarket brand. Rowdy travellers disrupting the slow pace of many resorts saw an increase in fighting, accidents, missing passengers and bad behaviour on aircraft meant the brand did not sit comfortably with Horizon. It was put up for sale and snapped up by ILG Intasun - more about that in later years.
Air Anglia co-operated with Dan-Air with flights from Aberdeen and Cambridge to Newcastle timed to arrive early enough so passengers could join the Dan-Air services to Norway. The new Berne service was the first direct airlink between the UK and the Swiss capital, as well as a new service linking Bournemouth and Birmingham and Liverpool/Manchester and Newcastle started in April, just a day later the Luton - Leeds - Glasgow service started.
Yvonne Sintes became Britian's first female Captain in March. Captain Sintes said;
'I had been flying as a First Officer for a long time on the Comet when Dan-Air offered me a transfer to our nnew Boeing 707 jets. I said that I would prefer to gain my command. They then offered me a course on the HS 748 a 56 seat turbo prop airliner. It entailed not only learning flying but how and why aircraft fly. I now know more about a turboprop engine than I do about a car.'
She completed her training at Newcastle on the HS 748. Most of the pilot training was carried out in Newcaslte. The HS 748 fleet had increased to six aircraft by March. Captain Sintes had been a first officer on the Ambassador which she co-piloted for two years before joining the Comet fleet. On gaining command she would take up her post at Luton. Just a few months later Delphine Grey Fisk was made first officer on Dan-Air HS748s.
Dan-Air Engineering had been based at Lasham for seventeen years and had a largely good relationship with local residents. The relationship went awry in March when the company applied for planning permission for a maintainance block with offices to be constructed. Twenty five residents complained. They had allowed themselves to get to such a state that they believed Dan-Air were planning to start charter flights from the airfield. Their director Edwards Evans told them that the airline had reached its peak and would not be bringing in more aircraft - That of course turned out to be misleading. He was right when he said the idea of charter flights was "Nonesense". Going on to say that as they had been there seventeen years if they wanted to carry out charter flights they would have done so years ago.
In May Swansea-Jersey and Newcastle - Carlisle - Jersey services started with an international route linking Gatwick to Berne commenced in June. Finally the Bournemouth- Guernsey service opened in July.
The new Liverpool - Bournemouth service had the start up date pushed back following the take over of Skyways. When the flights began the return airfare was just £16:20. The end of year profits were £867,000 which was an increase on the year before. The Transatlantic charter flights had been tough going for Dan-Air. They had entered the market the year before and found intense competition from several airlines. The Civil Avaition Authority (CAA) drew up new rules that would see some of the less reputable agents and operators leave the market. Channel Airways went bankrupt in May this year. The airline had a small network of flights that other airlines applied for Dan-Air were successful with their application to extend their Birmingham - Bournemouth route to Jersey. The CAA granted Dan-Air a licence to add Liverpool - East Midlands to its Link City network.
One of Dan-Air's rivals, Lloyd International, obtained its first jet aircraft, an ex-Pan Am Boeing 707-321. Lloyd's new long-haul jet commenced Affinity group flights across the North Atlantic to the United States and Canada, as well as passenger and freight charters to the Far East. Lloyd International's rapidly deteriorating financial performance came about as a result of cancellations and over capacity in the low-yield Transatlantic Affinity Flights market. Also, the Government's refusal to direct the British Airports Authority (BAA) to reduce airport user charges at Stansted and its preferential treatment of British Caledonian, by making it the private sector's "chosen instrument" as part of the official "Second Force" policy, compelled it to cease all operations on 16 June 1972 and to go into liquidation.
As a reult
Tragedy was avoided this year when an airport cleaner opened a hold door on a company 748. After opening the door he stepped back into the aircraft's propellor. This then dragged him under the aircraft into the other propellor. Althought badly injured the man survived and later went back to work.
Rules regarding the Affinity Flights to America were finally changed this year. Previously passengers had to be part of a specific group for a period of three months. This system was open to fraud. Fake groups had sprung up to claim an affinity with the US or Canada. Membership of genuine clubs were forged as a matter of routine. Airport staff were employed to patrol check in queues and verify the genuine and rout out the fake. The new rules, which would commence in 1973 would require a simple advance booking - ABC flights - Advance Booking Charters became the new standard. Lloyd International had been a victim of the stiff competition from Dan-Air, Caledonian and Laker.
The price of fuel was beginning to hit airlines hard by September most UK carriers applied to the CAA for an increase in fares of up to 20%. With the uncertainty of the economy it was a surprise when Dan-Air finally announced to the press that they had purchased the three Boeing 727 aircraft. Meanwhile Court Line took delivery of the first of its Tristar jets. These 400 seat aircraft were new to the UK register and cost £9,000,000 each. Dan-Air and other UK airline executives were treated to a flight on the aircraft when Lockheed delivered it to Gatwick. Lockheed had orders in mind - Dan-Air did not see the potential of a 400 seat aircraft plying European sunspot routes. Despite the obvious fuel saving advantages. Clarkson's was, by now, the second largest UK Tour Operator, and owner of Court Line. Clarkson's programme was to expand next year, adding East Midlands to its list of airports. Dan-Air would fly Comet aircraft to eight airports in three countries on behalf of them.
New services were:
- Bournemouth - Birmingham - Liverpool / Manchester - Newcastle - 10th April
- Luton - Leeds - Glasgow - 11th April
- Swansea - Jersey & Newcastle Carlisle - Jersey - 26th May
- Gatwick - Beme service started. 5th June
- Bournemouth - Guernsey / Jersey 1st July
NETWORK & PRESS 1972
Legacy carriers such as British Airways had opposed the new ABC (Advance Booking Charter) flights to the USA from their inception. Despite this British Caledonian succeded in a US court case which would allow BCal to carry out the flights. These charters replaced the Affinity Group Charters. From now on, anyone could book a charter flight across the Atlantic, or indeed anywhere else, as long as they were booked in advance.
Affinity charters had been aimed at groups and organisations were finally replace with a new system - The Advance Booking Charter (ABC) From now on passengers did not need to belong to a group - real or otherwise. If passengers wished to travel on a charter they could. Provided it was an ABC flight. The rules required passengers to book with at least 90 days notice. Affinity charters were still operating but with this new system the need was greatly diminished. In August Dan-Air signed a £1,700,000 deal with Jetsave for ABC charters to Canada using their Boeing 707. Thomas Cook launched Cook's Thriftways in August - using the Dan-Air Boeing 707s for flights to the USA.
The Boeing 707s that Britannia had operated were leased to British Caledonian. Having been denied permission to operate on the Affinity Group flights, they then gave BCal the bookings they had already taken before they were removed from the list of designated carriers. The Thomson organisation rarely gave Dan-Air anything! With the ABC charters now operating, Britannia could have come back on the scene, but they chose not to. Thriftway offered return flights to New York from £58 and flights to Canada from £70.
In January, a Comet took of from Manchester with 103 passengers on board, bound for Tunis. Thirty minutes into the flight the flight deck crew were alerted to a major fault with one engine. The aircraft was diverted to Gatwick where a replacement Comet was available. Three passengers changed their mind and decided not to board the second aircraft. The replacement Comet took off and within minutes into the flight the pilot noticed a warning light in the cockpit indicating a fire in an engine. That aircraft also returned to Gatwick where emergency services, including fire engines, were on standby. After routine maintainence was carried out, the aircraft was given the all clear to fly to Tunis. Twelve further passengers opted out of continuing their holiday and the aircraft flew to Tunis without a hitch.
Dan-Air's decision to order the Boeing 727 made news headlines. It was the first time any UK carrier had purchased the aircraft. At the time it was the world's best selling jet liner with more than a thousand flying for almost all the leading airlines in the world. Dan-Air had expressed an interest in the Boeing 737 with a 140 seat configuration, ultimately Dan-Air chose the Boeing 727 and sourced three available models from Japan Airlines.
The 727s looked resplendent in their distinctive new livery. One would go on to be based in Berlin, operating for German The Tour Operator, Neckermann & Reiss. The Germans did not wish the cabin to be so densely laid out, instead opting for a 141 seat configuration. The aircraft would need to have extra fuel tanks installed to allow the aircraft to fly non-stop to the Canary Islands, a flying time of more than five hours and a distance similar to the shortedst Atlantic crossing, from west coast of Ireland to the USA. The Germans expected high standards of in flight service and operation. The company employed locally recruited stewardesses and UK flight deck crews who would be based in Germany for short periods. The 727 was popular with Neckermann & Reiss as well as a hit with UK Tour Operators.
Dan Air Engineering designed new galleys and removed dividing walls at the front of the aircraft. This made more room for additional seating. The Boeing 727 made an impressive debut on April 13th with the first revenue flight for the company being Manchester to Alicante.
The aircraft would be chartered by Global Holidays, Horizon, and Ellerman Sunflight amongst others. Over the next nineteen years the airline would operate twenty B727s.
Dan-Air's scheduled flights were operated under the new name Dan Air Skyways. The HS748 acquired from Skyways had Dan-Air Skyways titles added and a slight change of livery, incorporating the red stripe. The new 'red tail' livery was rolled out on aircraft. The compass and flag was featured in a white circle. The red cheat line on the side of the aircraft now displayed a bold black line underneath it. This year saw the first time that an aircraft was used as a hyphen in the name "Dan-Air"
In June this year, Laker Airways was given permission to commence Affinity Group Charters and ABC flights meaning more competition on an already overcrowded market. One of the Boeing 707s was leased to Bangladesh Biman who were short of aircraft. Any spare capacity on the 707 fleet would see them operating from Gatwick and Manchester on the (Inclusive Tour) IT network. A series of flights were also undertaken to Hong Kong.
Liverpool had seen huge increases of 137% of Dan-Air traffic. The Link City Network was gaining results after several poorly performing years. Birmingham however would see a reduction in flights as they had not proved to be successful in the year they had been operating.
This year saw Dan-Air launch a new "Coach Air Service" This was the cheapest way of getting between the UK and French capitals. Passengers would board a coach at London's Victoria station, travel to Ashford in Kent where the passengers would board a Dan-Air flight. The flight to Beauvais was then just a short trip. Upon landing passengers boarded another coach which would take them to the centre of Paris. The cost of the whole trip was £11-05. The take up was impresive leading to the introduction of a second 'Coach Air' service in March. On this occasion the coach departed from central London, travelling to Bournemouth Hurn Airport. Passengers would then fly to Jersey. The fare was £14:10 this was £3:40 than the standard London-Jersey air fare. Total travel time was four hours twenty minutes. The Newcastle - Carlisle - Isle Of Man service was changed this year with Carlisle being dropped because of low yields. In addition, Dan-Air had complained about the standard of the runways at Carlisle and passenger numbers hadn't risen.
In April, a Dan-Air Boeing 707 carrying 83 passengers and 11 crew on a charter flight to Mauritius was forced to land by Somali military aircraft after straying into Somalian airspace. The pilot, Antony Kirk believed he had clearance to enter Somalian airspace. The airline was fined £600 and explained the mishap as an administrative error. The following month a Comet on a return flight from Alicante to Manchester crash landed at Manston after reporting a hydraulic failure. The aircraft had been diverted to Manston, where, as a precaution, airport fire chiefs had layed a foam blanket on the runway. The nose wheel collapsed upon landing and the aircraft came to an abrupt stop off the end of the runway. Several passengers were treated for shock and two were admitted to hospital with minor injuries. Pilot Captain J Aitchinson was praised by RAF Manston for his excellent landing. Coaches were then laid on to take the passengers onwards to Manchester.
The ongoing trouble in Northern Ireland were scarcely off the news and even affected Dan-Air. The airline's Engineering division at Lasham received a call to say that a bomb had been placed on a Dan-Air aircraft which was timed to explode in three hours. Frantic staff and police searched aircraft at Lasham, Manchester, Gatwick and Kent but nothing was found.
The year was also the year of the Arab Israeli war. The Saudi Government imposed restrictions on oil and there was a Worldwide fuel crisis. Dan-Air along with most other airlines saw a huge drop in passenger numbers as people could not afford the cost of a holiday. The UK economy had suffered as a result and strikes saw the economy hit harder. Power cuts became commonplace. Finally, UK public sector workers were reduced to a three day week. Holiday bookings suffered but despite this Dan-Air's production of revenue passenger-miles in 1973 was 2,200,000 and was up 26-8% on the 1972 total. It was 78% over that of British Caledonian and 110% of that of Britannia Airways. In terms of passengers Dan-Air was Britain's second-largest carrier, with a total of 2.22 million sector passengers carried compared with the BCAL total of 2.1 million and the Britannia total of 1.95 million. With bookings so heavily affected several UK airlines had to pay large costs to have their empty aircraft parked at airports. Dan-Air were fortunate to have adequate space at Lasham where aircraft could be moth-balled and have maintainence work undertaken.
It was at this time that a new department was created at the company. With spiralling fuel costs taking their toll on airlines, something had to be done. The aviation industry, even today, runs on the smallest of margins. The Comet was well known to be fuel thirsty, but what about other aircraft in the fleet? The Fuel Control Unit was set up in 1973. A pilot from each type in the fleet was recruited to analyse their type's performance, along with staff from Engineering, Accounts, Commercial Department, Training and Route Planning. They would look into every aspect of fuel consumption. It soon emerged that some flight deck crew were using the aircraft Auxilliary Power Units when the aircraft was on the ground, when ground power units were available. When individual Captains were noted to be over using fuel, a training Captain would fly with them to point out where the use was excessive and correct it. Over time the FCU became a useful department that saved the airline a lot of money. Word spread about the work and other airlines contacted Dan-Air for assistance in their own operation. Most notable Delta Airlines in the USA.
When Dan-Air applied to serve London directly from Newcastle both Northeast Airlines and British Rail objected as they felt they would lose out. It seemed incredible in these days of free competition that a state owned railway company would attempt to thwart an expanding airline's growth. Northeast Airlines, who had recently merged with Cambrian Airways, to form British Air Services was 70% owned by British Airways. British Airways were now ojecting to Dan-Air's application to fly from Liverpool to Brussels as BEA were flying from Manchester to the Belgian capital.
Dan-Air's Comet fleet had now grown to a total of 22 aircraft. All of them were used on charter and IT market. The HS 748 fleet grew to seven aircraft. These were used on the scheduled service network, including the Link City UK domestic routes. The BAC 1-11 fleet was unchanged with five in service, two of which were based in Berlin. The two Boeing 707 aircraft were used on affinity charters across the Atlantic and occasionally IT services. The three Boeing 727, over time, would replace the Comets and become the flagship of the airline.
- Tees-side added to the 'Link City' network. 1st March
- Tees-side-Amsterdam service started. 2nd April
- Ashford (Lympne)-Jersey services started. May 1st
- Applied for: Leeds/Bradford - Glasgow & Edinburgh
NETWORK & PRESS 1973
The ABC flights continued apace with additional flights operating to Hong Kong. Comets were also chartered for a series of 'Pilgrimage' flights to Mecca. Jetsave was the largest charterer of Dan-Air aircraft on Transatlantic and Worldwide ABC flights. Lloyd International had gone bust in 1972 and August 8th this year Donaldson International Airways went bankrupt with the loss of many jobs, but the biggest shock in the Air Transport world was the collapse of Clarksons and Court Line. Clarkson's Tours had been formed in 1964 as a Tour Operator providing low cost holidays. The brand had been successful, albeit downmarket. The following year Clarkson's bought the entire share capital of the airline; Autair, who flew a small fleet of Ambassadors before re-equipping with HS 748 and Herald aircraft. In 1968 Autair then went on to purchase BAC 1-11 jets, and rebranded itself as Autair International. Over the next few years Clarkson's Tours would become Clarkson's Holidays which grew to be the UK's second largest Tour Operator. Coourt Line itself had been operating as a shipping company since 1905, before entering the Tour Operator business, which was managed by maverick executive Tom Gullick who had used Dan-Air extensively for his holiday programme. Autair itself was much too small an operation to carry all of Clarkson's holiday makers. In just four years Autair's passenger numbers went from 4000 to 175,000, just 12% of these were carried on scheduled services. The airline decided to sell turboprop aircraft, stop scheduled services and order seven BAC 1-11 500 series. These larger models could carry 119 passengers. In January 1970 Autair was rebranded as Court Line Aviation. By 1973 Clarkson's carried 1.1 million passengers. Which was roughly the same number for the entire industry just five years prior. In 1972 the company lost $4.8 million.
Clarksons had been determined to dominate the Package Tour Industry and be the largest Tour Operator, in the process knocking Thomson of its self proclaimed throne. Clarksons strategy was to aggresively slash prices to a level that no one could compete. This would, they foresaw, see travellers abandon all other Tour Operators in search of a Clarkson's holiday. When other companies fell, Clarksons could then raise prices to a level that was profiable for them. In some respects it worked, many rival Tour Operators did go out of business. Clarksons worked along the lines of 'Pile them high and sell them cheap'. Something never attempted on such a grand scale. Gullick had built hotels in Spain, imported donkeys for holidaymakers to ride on and even obtained an egg farm when local firms began charging Clarksons too much for eggs. Clarksons ultimately went bankrupt in 1972 - Despite this, Court Line Aviation purchased Clarksons. The business formula remained the same; even during the Arab - Israeli War, the UK three day week, devaluation of the pound and the fuel crisis of 1973. Horizon Holidays had also suffered and wa,s by 1974, in a mortally wounded state. AIH, the parent company of Clarksons bought outright Horizon Holidays, securing several jobs. However, Horizons and Clarksons could not have been more different companies. Horizon, had a first class reputation and Clarksons operated with a terrible brand image. A new real time computer system was installed with great fanfare in 1969, which turned out to be hopeless at just about everything it was designed to do. Invoices were late and passengers were actually returning from holiday without having paid any money for the trip. It was estimated that almost £2m was outstanding from Travel Agents and individual passengers. The computer system itself was costing Clarksons £100,000 a year to hire. As it was, Clarksons accounted for 11% of Dan-Air's charter business. The figure was significant, and it was reported that a less robust carrier would not had fared so well. Fred Newman annnounced in the company reports that they had made a claim to the liquidators for outstanding money owed.
The subsequent chasing up of funds was costly and time consuming. Still Clarkson's carried on. Undercutting all competitors. Airlines were so desperate to have Clarksons charters that they bought aircraft solely on the provision that they would be chartered by Clarksons. There had been several attempts to buy Clarksons, and all had been resisted. When Court Line bought the firm in August 1973, it did so for a nominal £1. With this they obtained an in house Tour Operator, all the hotels and shares that Clarksons had and all its companies. It also inherited its liabilites - Of which, there were lots. Despite all of this, the group acquired brand new, state-of-the-art, 400 seat Lockheed Tristars and began flying them to European destinations. Something never attempted before. The group then purchased ATLAS which was a consolidating company that allowed customers to be able to purchase charter flights in many combinations, bypassing many of the UK regulations. It all came crashing down in August 1974. In the middle of the Summer Season. Court Line itself was a relatively small airline with just eleven BAC 1-11 and two Tristar aircraft. Therefore the majority of Clarkson's Holiday flights were carried out by other operators. Dan-Air operating, by far, the largest majority of flights. As soon as the bankruptcy became public Dan-Air cancelled all Clarkson's flights. They were well aware that they wouldn't be paid. Those due to fly were told not to go to the airport. Even radio stations alerted passengers not to travel to airports. One former stewardess told us;
'I was based at Luton, we had heard gossip about them not being in a good financial shape, my then boyfriend, worked in Luton Airport accounts, he told me that Court Line had paid their landing fees and bills right up to the end of the month. So I thought it was just gossip. So the day that it happened, which I remember was a Friday, I heard something on the radio as I drove into work. Luton Authority had impounded two BAC 1-11s. As I got ready for my flight I called my boyfriend at work and he told me that the debts Court Line owed did not come anywhere close to the value ot two jet aircraft! In the terminal I saw people arriving for their holidays only to be told that they should go home. I saw coaches pulling up and then leaving. It was so upsetting. At that time, I had no idea of how much worse it would become. My own flight went out with a full load of passengers on board. I think they were Pontinental clients. The flight was full on the return. The Agents at Palma were desperately trying to fill any available seats to anywhere in the UK with Court Line passengers. Our return flight had Pontinetal passengers on and we had no spare seats. Back at Luton it was still pandemonium. With passengers refusing to go home. Even though there would not be any flights to take them on holiday.'
On the day of the collapse Dan-Air carried out the scheduled return flights, saying they would continue to bring people home - if the flight balance had been paid. Several smaller Tour Operators like Pontinental and OSL had chartered seats on Court Line aircraft and, where possible, these were transferred to Dan-Air. The repatriation was estimated to have cost more than £4.5m. Tour Operators were able to offer spare capacity for holidays, but that would mean holiday makers having to pay twice. They would have no way of knowing if they would get their money back. People told not to go to the airport did the very opposite and there were angry scenes when no Clarksons agents were on hand to help. Clarksons head office was stormed by angry people who were incensed at having paid only days before for their holiday. They believed that Clarkson's knew what was coming. Court Line had been forced previously to deposit £3m in a bond which would help pay for repatriation flights should this very thing happen. Peter Shore, the Government Minister, blasted Court Line saying "Foreign holidays have become one of the cheapest items on a family budget. How can it be that things like clothes and food have quadrupled in price over the last twenty years and holidays have only doubled?' He went on to say 'Court Line used the fact that Spain, Greece and North Africa are poor countries where food and cost of building is much cheaper than the UK. Court Line have been flying people in huge, fast aircraft and only been making £1 or £2 per person in profit. That is ok if the aircraft is full all the time. But with the fuel crisis and the economy as it is then they went into a state where they were losing £4 per person. They were taking risks with security and that will mean an end to the cheap holiday as we know it."
Dan-Air and other companies flew an estimated 35,000 stranded passengers home. Many thousands more who were yet to travel, would lose out. The Secretary of state Peter Shore was critised for "Hiding behind the CAA" and Tony Benn was mauled for misleading people with a statement to the House of Commons, saying that Nationalisation of the parent companies' ship broking business would secure business. Dan-Air was also hit because it carried many passengers on Clarkson's Holidays charters. All of Cosmos' charters went to Dan-Air. Other airlines and Tour Operators were offering discounted flights and holidays. This was limited as discounts had to be pre-approved. In a cruel twist, several Dan-Air flights that had been chartered flew, as planned, but empty, to their destinations to pick up holidaymakers stranded in resort. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) quickly hammered out a deal with Dan-Air to charter repatriation flights. It was a boost to the company after a difficult trading year.
In the mid 1960s Harry Goodman, a London based businessman opened a small tour operator company 'Sunair' which chartered aircraft and provided cut price holidays. The small company did well in the London area before being rebranded 'Intasun' in 1973. Intasun aimed its business at the lower end of the market and concentrated on the Gatwick catchment area. In 1974 Goodman's company aimed his sights at other aeas. The first region he expanded to was Manchester in 1974. Having had a successful year Intasun would now be offering flights from East Midlands Airport. A press release in late 1974 stated that Intasun would be flying to Alicante, Majorca and the Costa Brava using Dan-Air aircraft from East Midlands. Three flights a week would be departing on Saturdays and Sundays. Intasun hoped to carry 7,200 passengers from East Midlands alone. It is worth noting that, the very market Intasun was aiming for was that of Clarkson's. With such a gap in the market, Goodman was able to clean up.
The oil industry charters began to be established for Dan-Air, they would go on to become a large part of Dan-Air's operations. Therefore a HS748 was based permanantly in Aberdeen to serve the Shetland and Orkney Islands. The Newcastle - Isle of Man was restarted after an absence of several years and a Cesna C-150 was purchased to ferry crew to join flights that had been repositioned.
The chaotic collapse of Court Line and Clarksons was resolved by the end of August. The total cost of returning stranded holidaymakers was in excess of £2m. All airlines paid into a bond scheme and the £3m that Court Line had paid was used on repatriation flights. The CAA said that any money left over would be used to help those who had had their holidays cancelled.
In September Dan-Air signed a two year contract with Conoco to provide oil related flights from Aberdeen to Sumburgh. Meanwhile Dan-Air with its small scheduled services network carried on with moderate success. The Link City network was popular. Local newspaper advertisements at the time claimed their stewardesses clearly loved their job and that flying on the link city network would be smooth and comfortable. They even boasted that they would offer things that no other company would - such as Pilots radioing ahead to arrange car hire for passengers! 1974 saw jet services being introduced on the Newcastle - Gatwick service. It had not proved to be an instant success when it was introduced. By October the route would be served with Comet aircraft. Load factors were disappointing, Dan-Air said 'The flights are underpopulated' Blaming the timing of the introduction. British Airways were operating into Heathrow with also with limited success as were North East Airways. None of the carriers were willing to reduce the numbers of flights that they operated.
Despite losing business following the Clarkson's failure, Dan Air were able to report that 'Ttrading is buoyant and our financial posistion is strong' trading profit in the first six months of the year rose 52% to £385,000, but after interest and depreciation charges, both higher at £693,000 and £177,000 respectively the seasonal pre tax loss comes in at £392,000 compared to £481,000 last year. Fred Newman went on to say that he expected to end the year in a satisfactory position.
With a loss of 11% of charter business, following the demise of Clarkson's Dan-Air had every reason to be worried. That anxiety was short lived when charters for the following years increased. Court Line had carried many Clarkson's passengers. Many other Tour Operators saw an increase in their own bookings. Not all of those operators had their own airline. Court Line had eight BAC 1-11 thatt were up for disposal. The aircraft were relatively young and the receivers were keen to see them sold. Dan-Air purchased four of them, and Monarch the other four. Monarch needed to increase their capacity as their own in house Tour Operator had seen a significant increase in bookings.
It was hoped that Clarkson's departure might also see the end of the dreaded 'seat back catering'. This budget friendly form of catering came at the request of Clarkson's, who had introduced it on their own aircraft. By having galley space freed up, the result being an extra three seats. The savings that Clarkson's made did not go unnoticed by rival firms. Global holidays soon followed in demanding that aicraft they chartered do the same. Global stated that they wanted costs brought down to 'the bare minimum' indicating that it was simply aiming to give passenger 'a slice of pie' - something that was derided by industry insiders as 'Gobal Pie'. As a result, the cost advantage gained by Global and Clarkson's forced every major UK charter airline to adopt seat back catering on most short and medium haul flights.
As the name implies, each seat would have a compartment installed in the back of it. These two teir compartments would have the catering for the outbound flight in the top compartment, and the inbound meal would be in a locked compartment on the bottom. Outbound catering was usually a 'Spam' salad, and the return meal, more often than not, a sandwich. This would sit on top of a dry ice pellet to prevent it from perishing. The bottom compartment could be unlocked with a special key that crew could unlock during turnaround. The lock didn't deter determined passengers from accessing the compartment and stealing the food for the return flight.
One stewardess told us:
'Oh the bloody seat back catering saga - what a nightmare. The times I caught passengers getting into the return compartment....All they needed was a nail file or a coin and they were in. The concept was awful - we were told that it would mean we would have less work to do, because catering staff would load in the meals - If you can call them meals. We also got told how great it was that the passengers could eat their meals whenever they wanted - not at a time we decided to feed them. We announced to passengers that when they finished, to put the packaging back in the compartment. They did so, and often, if there was a bit of turbulence, the thing would come open and all the contents fell out. Passengers complained about them to me, saying that it wasn't like this when they went with Britannia last year, which was hilarious really. They didn't get fortnight's holiday for fifty quid with Thomsons! The seats were also quite big and unattractive. I can't say that there was anything nice about it. Sometimes the ice would thaw, especially if we had been delayed. So a two hour delay in Ternerife would mean that the sandwich had been in that poky compartment for seven hours. They were revolting. I think it went out of fashion quickly afterwards when tour firms wanted to try and look a bit more upmarket.'We were in a position to get our own back....As seats were pre allocated, it didn't take the crew much hard work to find out the names of the guilty passengers who had devoured two meals. When these passengers returned home and looked for their meals they found a note from the crew saying as they had already eaten their meals on the outbound leg, there was no food available for them.'
The fifth Boeing 727 to join the fleet had been purchased outright, four additional BAC 1-11 500 series were acquired to suppliment those already in the fleet. Two BAC 1-11 200 series jets were leased. Newman was pleased that the engines on the 200 were interchangable with those on the 400 series.
Comet aircraft were, for the first time, reduced in number. This was partly due to the fuel crisis the previous year. The Comets were fuel thirsty and even in the early 1970s they were inefficient when compared to jet liners other carriers used. By 1973 it was noted that a Comet carrying 119 passengers burned as much fuel as a DC10 carriying 345. However, on some international scheduled routes Dan-Air began using their Comets. The Leeds - Luton service was dropped following poor passenger numbers. In its place, a Leeds/Bradford - Bournemouth servce was introduced. In total 2,193,000 passengers were carried. The carrier's largest number to date.
- Newcastle-lsle of Man weekend service started - 14th April
- Cardiff - Bristol - Amsterdam - 14th April
- Twice daily Gatwick - Newcastle - 29th April
- All cross channel flights were transferred from Lympne to Lydd 31st April
NETWORK & PRESS 1974
With a fleet of forty nine aircraft, and more than 2.5 million passengers, there can be no doubt that Dan-Air was the second largest UK airline. British Caledonian's claim to that mantle was based upon the mileage of the route network and scheduled passengers. Dan-Air was not one to shout about their achievements from the rooftops. Britannia Airways claimed to be the largest charter airline in the world, and yet, carried less charter passengers than Dan-Air. This year saw Dan-Air carry more than half a million more passengers than Caledonian. More people flew with the airline than on Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Sabena and the next British airline was British Midland who carried 560,000.
1975 had started with an application to expand the Newcastle - Kritiansand service. Further applications were made to serve Gatwick - Leeds/Bradford - Tees Side - Newcastle to Stavanger, Kristiansand and Oslo. In January the airline announced it was to take delivery of four BAC 1-11 500s to be used for the busy summer season. The 500 series aircraft would be configured to carry 119 passengers. In some cases they would fly to the Canary Islands with a refuelling stop. The Boeing 727 could fly there none stop, as could the Comet and 707. The diverse nature of the company's business meant that one size did not fit all. Depending on the model, the BAC 1-11 could seat between 86 and 119 passengers. Some of the smaller 1-11s had greater range than the largest. To improve the range of the aircraft passengers were restricted with hold luggage allowances. Some of the aircraft were due a new look cabin interior. Along with the aircraft purchased from Court Line, a very large selection of seat covers was also acquired. The previous seat covers had seen different colours from green to orange. The new covers, designed to reflect Court Line's bright and cheery holiday image, soon appeared on all types of aircraft.
THE COURT LINE SEAT COVERS - IMAGES CAN BE ENLARGED
The success of the oil related charters meant more aircraft needed to be based in Aberdeen. This led to a shortage of HS748 aircraft, which was the given reason for Dan-Air's decision to prune its daily Newcastle-Manchester service to a Tuesdays and Thursdays product. John Clementson, Dan-Air's station manager at Newcastle said that it was also part of a rationalisation programme. It was, he said, a reflection of the difficult time the aviation world was having, particularly on domestic services. British Airways announced that they were axing 1,800 jobs, many of them pilots. It is a good time to mention that Dan-Air had several women pilots at this time. Although the airline insisted that they were pilots who happened to be women, and were a valued part of the team. The company went to lengths to announce that they did emply them. For now, Dan-Air was the only airline in the UK to emply women pilots. British Caledonian made a huge fanfare when they employed one in the 1980s. It wasn't until 1987 that British Airways came under pressure for not having any women in the flight deck. Facing such a PR disaster BA poached seven first officers from Dan-Air with the offer of quicker promotion to Captain, salary inducements that were higher than any new recruit to an airline and even the promise of flying huge jumbos on the carrier's best routes, something that would not happen ordinarily. The job offers were too good an opportunity for the women.
Dan-Air were able to grow as a company despite the bleak economic picture. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) granted Dan-Air the right to fly to Norway no more than 14 times a week in both directions. The flights would orginate from London Gatwick and/or Newcastle and/or Tees Side and/or Leeds/Bradford to Kristiansand and/or Stavanger, the licence was for a ten year period. The BAC 1-11 would serve the routes and promised to be cheaper than a boat crossing. The flights would be carried out by BAC 1-11 200 series aircraft, two of which, were quickly purchased from Zambia Airways. During the ecconomic crisis of the previous year, several Dan-Air Comets had been stored at Lasham. The advantage of the Lasham facility cannot be underestimated. Aircraft could be stored there free of charge. Other airlines with no such facilities were facing heavy airport parking fees. This led to airlines going out of business or selling aircraft.
Although much charter work had been lost by the Clarkson's failure. Lunn Poly had siezed the initiative and expanded their programme, chartering more Dan-Air aircraft. It was the same for Thomas Cook, Cosmos, Blue Sky, Airtours and Arrowsmith and Blue Sky.
A new bonded scheme would come into force this year. To protect holiday makers. The ATOL Licence would see all Tour Operators would pay into the scheme, the funds would then be available if any airline or Tour Operator collapsed. Initially it was suggested all companies pay the same amount, but in a later amended agreement, smaller Tour Operators were enabled to pay less. This would mean that Tour Operators would have to give the CAA access to their accounts. If a company did not have a sufficiently good set of trading figures, licences would not be given until the company had an injection of funds. That system is still in place today. The government also set up the Air Travel reserve fund. That fund was to be repaid by Tour Operators with a 1% levy on all package holidays. The scheme was also extended to all ABTA travel agents.
As mentioned previously, Harry Goodman had set up a company called Sunair in 1966. Sunair had purchased Lunn Poly, which it then sold to Thomson. Eventually Goodman sold Sunair to Cunard. In its first year, 1973, Intasun sold just 4,000 holidays. Goodman was also eager to capitalise on the crash of Clarksons/Court Line. He had arranged to have two chartered jets on standby, and had used them to pick up the pieces of Clarksons' failure. In 1975 his company had sold 50,000 holidays and made a profit of £300,000. Intasun's operation was similar to Clarkson's, in as far as he wanted to sell holidays cheap. He had based his business on high loads of aircraft. Goodman mainy used Dan-Air aircraft. Legal rules surrounding charter flights were further relaxed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) late in 1974. For the first time Tour Operators would not have to charter an entire aircraft. As long as the airline had the licence to fly on a particular day and time they could sell seats as full aircraft or in blocks to multiple tour companies. Many tour operators sought to take advantage of this small relaxation of red tape. Intasun, in particular, was to be amajor proponent of this method. Goodman and hiis team, waited until all the aircraft had been chartered for the Summer, before sweeping in and booking up all the available spare seats at a reduced rate. Where Intasun did charter whole aircraft, it did so on late night flights that were cheaper to operate as landing fees and aircraft parking charges were considerbly lower. This arrangement suited Dan-Air too. Dan-Air's regular clients included Lunn Poly, Exchange, Inghams, Cosmos and Neilsons who chartered most of Dan-Air's fleet for the full season. Lunn Poly joined the Thomson stable of companies in 1975; almost immediately Lunn Poly reduced its charters with Dan-Air. Despite Lunn Poly and Dan-Air enjoying a fantastic working relationship. The acquisition by Thomson meant that where possible Lunn Poly would Britannia Airways aircraft. The facts were, that Britannia was still a relatively small airline with just thirteen Boeing 737 aircraft, meaning it couldn't supply all of Lunn Poly's flights. Therefore Dan-Air were still able to secure some charter work from Lunn Poly.
Pre tax profits announced in April were up 10% from £684,000 to £853,000. The high levels of corporation tax in the seventies saw £625,000 taken from the total. Giving the group a profit of just £312,000. Shares remained unchanged at 68p. The UK has corporation tax rates of 19% in 2021. In 1975 these tax rates were almost 80%! This year saw Dan-Air Skyways, the subsidiary company being fully absorbed into Dan-Air. The livery of the HS 748s were rapainted in Dan-Air colours and the titles read 'Dan-Air London'
Dan-Air finally withdrew on the Liverpool-Amsterdam service. Liverpool Airport had been rocked with several airlines dropping services from the Merseyside Airport. Dan-Air cancellation was the last scheduled link to the continent. It was almost a case of putting the service out of its misery. In May Dan-Air applied to the CAA to operate daily services from Leeds/Bradford - Isle Of Man services. The Isle of Man services had proved to be a great addition to the network with sales up 33% over the previous year.
A major coup was achieved by Dan-Air in September. A Newcastle based Tour Operator, Airways Ltd dropped British Airways as its preferred airline. The company had used BA (Or its predecessors') aircraft for the last 27 years, providing a record 41,000 holidaymakers in 1975. Airways planned to sell 54,000 holidays in the next twelve months, with holidays on sale from November onwards. Airways Ltd would be offering holidays to Rome, Venice and Rimini in Italy and Pula and Dubrovnik in Yugoslavia. Airways said that British Airways (Whom Airways founder, Harry Sedman's equity was 25% owned by BA) could 'not offer the right price at the right time'. Airways would charter Dan-Air's 89 seat BAC 1-11 series and 119 seat Comet aircraft. Further good news came when in October the American company International Weekends Inc. signed a £5 million deal with Dan-Air to charter flights from Gatwick to Boston and other US coastal cities. It came when the half year losses were reported in November at being £899,000. The delivery of a further Boeing 727 and four more BAC 1-11 that had been fully employed all Summer would make up the short fall when the second half figures would be published the following April. Jetsave, who were Dan-Air's largest customer on Transatlantic charter flights announced it would be flying six flights out of Birmingham and six from Newcastle to the USA using Dan-Air Boeing 707 aircraft. The 189 seat jets would have a fare between £115 and £147. The flights would have a refuelling stop at Prestwick. The licence for Gatwick-Montpellier was approved and flights would commence in 1976.
Three Viscounts were leased or purchased and the HS 748 fleet increased to 9. In total 2,582,000 passengers were carried in 1975, a further year on increase. Following the increase in passenger numbers Dan-Air was able to offer pure jet services on many of their scheduled services, most notably the Gatwick to Ostend and Jersey services and the Newcastle-Bergan route. The Newcastle-Kristiansand route was expanded to a daily service. As was the Gatwick-Berne service. The Comet aircraft remained strong in charter fleet with the number standing at 19. The Comet variants operated were - The 4, 4B and 4C. Across the three varients, the Comet could accomodate 99, 109 or 119 passengers respectively. Despite this, replacements were needed sooner rather than later. One former pilot noted.
'The Comet was a gorgeous aircraft to fly, but it used so much fuel. To put it into context, our Comet 4B aircraft burned 5,200kg of fuel per hour with 119 passengers. The 4C about 4,000kg. Our BAC 1-11 500s used a fraction of this at 2,800 and they both had the same seating capacity. Granted, our Boeing 707 used over 6,000kg per hour - but they did have 189 seats. The 727 was quite thirsty too burning 4,100kg per hour. Britannia's 737 used just 2,800kg per hour. So the obvious choice was to use the 1-11 where possible. They used the same amount as a 737 but they didn't have same range or capacity. Dan-Air's logic was that if you bought a jet outright, or on a hire purchase over a year, then it was earning money and we weren't paying out over years and years for an aircraft. Let's face it, some of the Comets we bought were in a terrible state. Not really airworthy at all. They arrived at Lasham and were used for spares. Even those that did see service were, frankly, awful from a passenger's point of view. The flight deck didn't even have a door - just a curtain! The windows had fabric curtains and not blinds. The seat pitch was a nightmare for anyone who was above average height. We couldn't use the new style airbridges as our main door was on the wrong side of the aircraft. The aircraft was unbelievably robust and massively overpowered. Because of the Comet 1's history De Havilland did everything they could to make it safe. I think all flight deck crews loved the aircraft. It handled beautifully, a real joy to fly. I doubt the ground staff thought so highly of it. It was noisy and leaked a lot. I suspect the Dan Dare moniker came about at this time, because of how the aircraft looked inside. If I'm honest, those aircraft looked exactly what they were, old jets from the early sixties. Dan-Air never thought to give them a complete refit. I'm pretty sure that management knew they would be phased out by 1980 so what was the point of such an investment. Of course, the period you are talking about, we had nineteen or twenty of them, so there was absolutely no question of Fred Newman ordering twenty Boeing 727s!! It was always a case of one out one in. Alan Snudden had already started urging him to get the 737 as the figures spoke for themselves. But it was just not in Newman's nature to be so flash with cash.'
This d explain why Dan-Air's wished to obtain more BAC 1-11 aircraft with similar seating layouts as the Comet. Technically the Comets were well maintained and still had relatively low hours on their clock. Another of our contributor pilots notes;
"I always adored the Comets, but, and I say this carefully.....They were.....starting to show their age. It wasn't just their inefficiency, it was that passengers were now far more used to flying than they were a decade earlier. Some of our Comets were perhaps fifteen years old. Whilst that is releatively normal, say in 2020 to fly in a jet that was made in 2004. The advances from 1958 to 1974 were collossal. Our Comets had hat racks and not overhead lockers. I don't think passengers had hats that much by then! The aircraft were noisy, they were practically obsolete in every way apart from the fact that they were well maintained. I wasn't privvy to meetings with Tour Operators of course, but I am sure they must have noted it from passenger feedback. I'm sure that Tour Operators were actively refusing to use them. I gained my licences on the Boeing 727 pretty quickly after it came into the fleet and it was a marvellous machine. If Dan-Air had made a mistake it was that we didn't get rid of the Comet sooner. We had lost qui aot of business when Lunns were taken over by Thomson and they would barely touch us. When they did, I believe that it was under the stipulation that they wouldn't touch the Comet. I also think if we had more modern aircraft to offer they might have been more inclined to charter our aircraft. The problem, as far as I can see it, is that good quality second hand aircraft were difficult to source. Fred Newman was not one for extravagent gestures like announcing an order for ten brand new Boeing 737s direct from the manufacturer. I think we would all have been pole axed had he done that. Perhaps the Gods were on our side, some airlines had disappeared and some didn't have the capacity we had, and so we were able to utilise the fleet fully every year, even with our short comings."
One of the Comet fleet was retired an sent to Duxford to be on permanent display in Dan-Air colours, as part of the British civil airliner collection. The model donated was G-APDB, the second Comet 4 production model. The very aircraft that made the first jet service from London to New York. The museum was taken over by the Imperial War Museum and the Comet repainted in BOAC's colours.
- Tees Side - Isle Of Man - 24th May
- Aberdeen - Isle Of Man - 24th May
- Gatwick - Isle Of Man - 24th May
- Gatwick - Perpignan - 1st June
- Gatwick - Belfast (Cargo) 1st June
NETWORK & PRESS 1975
Dan Air's chart programme was very successful this year, Page and Moy chartered Dan-Air Comet aircraft for a series of holiday flights to Austria for the Summer months of 1976. The upmarket brand was a feather in the airline's cap. Malta Villas Ltd would use Dan-Air Boeing 727 for a series of flights to Malta and Majorca from Manchester. Following the retiring of a further Comet, a total of 18 models would fly in Dan Air colours for the 1976 season, they were complimented by 14 BAC 1-11, 6 Boeing 727 (an inicrease of one) Four Boeing 707 and eleven HS 748 propliners. In total, they carried a record 2,846,000 passengers. In early January, a second engineering base was opened at Manchester. This facility would service the airline's HS 748s and BAC 1-11s. Newcastle Airport aslo had extensive maintainance facilities for any technical issues that aircraft often had down route. DAE had built up a significant reputation and many other airlines used them to maintain their aircraft. Even the Royal Flight of foreign nations and private jet owners came to DAE. They were CAA approved and their American counterpart the FAA had also approved them.British Airways, which had been formed in 1973, following the merger with BOAC and BEA continued to protest at any new route applications the independents applied for. Dan-Air and the other independents fought for any of the available market share. Independents even objected to other independents increasing their own network. By 1976 Dan-Air were flying scheduled services from more UK airports than British Airways or any other UK carrier. Dan-Air applied to serve Stavange from Edinburgh, Air Anglia formally objected. Meanwhile, new route from Aberdeen-Isle of Man was launched.
Transatlantic Tour Operator Jetsave were delighted with the results of their 1975 programme of charter flights, and in 1977 Jetsave wanted to repeat the flights. Six flights were initially planned for the season. Due to high demand, the number was increased to ten, with many flight sold out entirely to North East locals. The ten flights would see five depart for New York and five to Ontario. There was even the promise that more would be added if demand warranted. Within a few days Jesave announced that there would be a further six flights to New York and six flights to Ontario from Birmingham. Bookings were said to be strong, with fares ranging from £117-£147 reurn.
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Oberland Travel who specialised in Northern European Holidays would exclusively charter Dan-Air for their 1976 programme, offering flights from Cardiff, Manchester and Gatwick for holidays to Ireland, Germany, Holland, Austria and Switzerland. This would involve the use of a Dan-Air BAC 1-11 operating up to twenty flights a week. A new scheuled service from Boumemouth to Dinard service started in April, and April 18th saw the start of the Carlisle-Jersey schedule. Just oee month later, on May 28th the Newcastle - Stavanger flights commenced, using a HS 748, followed by the Gatwick - Perpignan and Gatwick -Kristiansand joining the network in June.Dan-Air's scheduled service network grew slowly, the charter division however, saw substantial growth, with Israel added as a Summer '76 destination with holidays from £179.
The UK authorities had been very slow with rules that regulated UK air traffic. The protectionist stance that the CAA took, exasperated most airlines, other than British Airways. Independent carriers, Tour Operators and MPs had lobbied the Secretary of State for Aviation and the CAA to try to make the playing field more even. Finally, in 1976, under pressure from Tour Operators and Airlines, the Government abolished minimum fares on charter flights. Trials that were carried out over the Winter months of 1975 had been a success.
From Summer of 1976 new rules meant that there would be no minimum fares, all year round, on any route. Tour Operators would be obligatted to be bonded with ATOL and ABTA, and all airlines fully licenced with the CAA.
No-one could foresee any problems arising. The new rules would not apply to discounting, which would still be regulated. In practice, if a holiday was advertised in a brochure at, say, £70; that price could not be reducted at any time for the season. Two new initiatives emerged from the new rules; Whilst Tour Operators were not allowed to discount on brochure price - a new innovation saw the introduction of "Accomodation Allocated On Arrival" holidays. Tour Operator and tavel agennts could now sell holidays to a destination at an advertised brochure price; Tour Operators could then, discount the holiday price, if, as the name implies, they placed guests in hotels that had spare capacity. This could be a higher star rating, or a lower one. Lucky (or unlucky) holiday makers could find themselves with a holiday that could cost a great deal more at a much reduced price. Travellers would only find the name of their accomodation at the destination airport. The resort would be as chosen by the customoer from the brochure, only the accomodation was not specified. If a holidaymaker did not know what hotel they were staying, in how could they know if they had been given a discount or not? This new ruling saw an increase in Dan-Air's charters. The holidays were often chosen by young people, who were not as particular about accomodation as older, or those on a tight budget, who could not afford to be choosy.
As the 1970s had progressed, people had became more savvy and independent when it came to holidays overseas. The more affluent had began to purchase a second home, overseas. The time share business had emerged, giving aspirational Brits an apartment or villa of their own for a week or two every year. The time shares could be swapped for other locations. Many British timeshare owners preferred returning to their chosen location every year. In several cases, the second homes overseas would not be used for long periods and agents were available to manage lettings for times when the home would be unoccupied. These properties began to appear in classified newspapers adverts, most notably Dalton's Weekly. The thing that these holiday makers did not need was accomodation. Should they choose to fly on a scheduled service, the fares would be as high as the entire package holiday. It was another hurdle for the industry to clear. In 1976 this was finally achieved, when the second, equally innovative rule change - "Seat Only Sales" became a reality. This ruling was the one that worried British Airways the most. It certainly did not mean that an entire aircraft could be chartered, carrying 'flight only' passengers. In fact, just 10% of seats could be sold on that basis. The rules indicated that these 'flight only' offers would have to include basic acommodation. Itt wld be up to the traveller if tthe chose to take it or not. Michael Croft, a travel agent who has been in the industry for many years explains further;
"The rule change was sort of kept quiet, I'm not even sure that Tour Operators wanted it. But in any case, all these cheap looking brochures came out. I worked for a big company and was told that these brochures were to be kept behind the counter, on display, but not on display. So the thinking was that people would have to actually ask for them, rather than pick them up. For some reason, Cyprus was excluded from the deal, and all the Eastern Bloc countries of course. The notes about accomodation were always tucked away. We would book the flights and point out casually about the accomodation. It was clear that the vast majority of people wanting these flights already had accomodation sorted out, so most people barely listened to that part. More than once though, people came into the shop upon return, angry that their 'accomodation' was a shed in a field, a hostel or someone's house that didn't know who they were. I have no idea who worked out these addresses. The thing was, these brochures had FLIGHT ONLY printed on the fron of them!"
British Airways reacted furiously to the rule changes, seeing them as a further erosion of their territory. British Caledonian had returned to the charter market following the substantial downturn in their own scheduled network in recent years. BCal had spent the last few years boasting about their own service and rubbishing charter carriers at every opportunity. In recent times, many of BCal's routes had become unworkable, in particular their Tripoli service in light of recent the political situation there. Now BCal wanted to return to the charter market.
In June, British Petroleum chartered three HS 748 aircraft for flights from Glasgow and Aberdeen to fly oil support workers. The flights would operate to Sumburgh and the Shetlands. The two year deal was said to be worth £1,500,000. A month later Dan-Air was awarded a Ministry of Defence contract for Gatwick to Gibraltar flights.
Tees Side Airport in the North East of England had often had a difficult time finding routes that would be popular with the travelling public. One route that had worked out was to Amsterdam. Dan-Air stated that when the new timetables came into force in November, the service would increase from Monday, Wednesday and Friday to a daily one, with standardised timings. Dan-Air would double their flights to Stavanger using HS748 propliners and they applied to commence services from Newcastle to Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Frankurt and Copenhagen. None of which were granted, British Airways had objected, as did British Caledonian.
A unique charter in October saw 151 pilgrims board a Dan-Air Boeing 727 from Aberdeen. The aircraft was chartered to fly to Lourdes, and included the eldest passenger who was flying for the first time, aged 84. One of the pilgrims (The 84 yyer old's Grandaughter said;
"We had been awake since 4am to get to Aberdeen from Manchester to be with the rest of the party. The weather was attrocious. Dan-Air were very kind with us, the flight was delayed a while because of thunderstorms, but we eventually got in the air. The flight was really bumpy, my Grandmother and I were terrified, but the crew soldiered on, smiling and reassuring those who were nervous. I was always well disposed towards Dan-Air after that. In fact my travel agent used to say 'Are you sure?' when I chose a slightly more expensive holiday with Dan-Air flights than a cheaper one with another airline."
Bad publicity came in August when a quartet of stewardesses went to the national press to complain about being dumped by Dan-Air. Judy Dove, Mandi Baker, Catriona Mann and Anne Power were taken on with a six months contract after training as stewardesses. At the end of the six months the girls were let go, as was standard with charter airlines at the end of the summer period. The girls then found out that the airline had taken of 60 new girls. Les Shorter, the aviation secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union said 'I will certainly be looking into this, it is a most disturbing situation.'
The stewardesses were under the impression that they would be taken on a permanent cabin crew if their work had been good.
'I know I haven't been terminated because I am unsuitable' said Judy Dove. 'We asked to see our check reports and they were all good. It's not as if there is not enough work for us because I know they have taken on more girls.'
Anne Power said 'I always wanted to be a hostess, I have worked hard to get good reports, now I'm left with nothing - I feel as though I've just been dumped.'
Mandi Baker who came over to the UK from Canada to train with Dan-Air said 'I never dreamed I'd be out of a job within six months, I call them Dan Unfair'
The Union official who represents the UK's 8,000 cabin crew went on to say 'Dan Air always take on too many temporary staff, and they are the only airline that pay them less than they pay their permanent staff.' Dan-Air's public relations officer Ted Sessions said 'It is true, not all the girls who are taken on were kept on, but they know from the start that their contract is only for six months, if they are needed at the end of that period then they are given a permanent contract.'
Pre tax profits for the first six months of trade showed that turnover was up from £19.4m to £30.3m an increase of 30%. Dan-Air made a pre tax loss of £1.4m against last years £763,000. The fleet had grown from 36 to 45 aircraft and leasing charges had cost £1.3m. As the six months trade only included one of the peak months (June) Dan-Air management were confident that the airline would return to profitability when the full year figure would be shown the following April. This was the usual routine with airlines and one explanation was that as the airline had grown so much over the last few years the figures would also be far greater. The extra aircraft would all be operated at their full utilisation.
When the financial year closed in April the airline had made a pre tax profit of £1.35m up 20% on last year. the airline had a turnover of more than £52m. There was further good news when in April Dan-air was able to state that the enlarged charter fleet was fully booked for the whole Summer. During the last twelve months 2.5 million passengers had been carried. More than any other UK airline with the exception of the state owned giant British Airways. As the year drew to a close the fleet had reached fifty aircraft, which was impressive by any standards. The airline could boast that they carried more passengers and had a larger fleet than several national airlines, Aer Lingus, TAP and Sabena included.
Above: The 'dumped' stewardesses.
- Bristol - Cardiff - Leeds - Glasgow service commenced with HS 748s - 6th January
- Boumemouth - Dinard service commenced - 17th April
- Carlisle-Jersey service began - 18th April
- Newcastle - Stavanger service opened - 28th May
- Gatwick - Perpignan and service started - 20th June
- Gatwick - Kristiansand - service opened - 20th June
NETWORK & PRESS 1976
Dan-Air, with a fleet of more than sixty aircraft had grown in size and stature. By 1977, three Boeing 727 and two BAC 1-11 aircraft were based in Berlin on a permanent basis. The Berlin base had full operational, management and enginieering support. By 1977 Dan-Air had become the largest charter operator at Berlin Tegal airport. German stewardesses and ground crew had been recruited. Most of the German Tour Operators relied on Dan-Air to carry their holiday makers, including Neckermann & Reisen. Despite negative press saying how much the airline was in the red financially for the first six months of the year, by April, the company reported its hightest ever profit at the end of the financial year. Pre tax profits were £1.88m, 38% up on the previous year. Dan-Air could also boast that they carried 2,846,000 passenger in 1976. As such, the airline should have been granted licences when they came to apply for any routes. This wasn't the case in many instances. Certainly, second division routes from secondary airports would be fairly considered, but Heathrow remained a distant hope. Trunk routes from Gatwick were seldom granted to independent carriers either. The very idea of competition seemed to be horrific to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Instead of allowing carriers to try to lure passengers onto their flights with lower fares and better service, the CAA simply refused to give airlines the right to compete fairly. It was the culture of the time, but very frustrating to airlines who wished to grow. This in turn led to squabbles and objections amongst the independents. Ridiculous objections by a carrier wanting to operate from an airport to a major city would be heard. Cries that flights from Tees Side to a European capital would affect a rival airline's flight from Newcastle to the said capital were often upheld.
The EEC Parliament, with its MEPs and delegations could be lucrative business for Dan-Air, who were successful with an application for the Gatwick-Strasburg service. A new service linking both Birmingham and East Midlands to the Isle of Man was also introduced. The Isle of Man was by now well connected to the UK mainland thanks to Dan-Air. Over the years nine airports had regular flights to the island. These Dan-Air flights provided an important link to both holidaymakers and the many business people working in the Islands' financial sector. Dan-Air had established itself as the leading oil support charter carrier. Their HS748 fleet was already working at near full utilisation and had to be increased. Dan-Air found seven availaable HS748 aircraft that Aerolineas Argentina had placed on the market. The Aberdeen Press and Journal said that Dan-Air was known as 'The Quiet Airline' because it was known not to have colourful characters like Freddie Laker, on camera, talking all the time. The press had implied that the silence was extended to how much they had paid for the planes. They hinted that the propliners were in some sort of derelict state when they said "No figure is being put on the price of the aircraft, but it can only be a small fraction of what it is going to cost them to refurbish them and bring them up to the Civil Aviation Authority's specifications....The total cost could be as high as £2,000,000". Whatever the total cost, it was certainly higher than any savings that had been made when purchasing the aircraft. Two of the aircraft had arrived in early March and underwent the conversion immediately. The third aircraft would arrive in April with one arriving every month thereafter. The ever resourseful Dan-Air purchased the old fire fighter unit at Sumburgh and converted it into an office complex and storage facility. One of the Glasgow ground crew said;
'You have to laugh. Dan-Air would always get things done, but from a PR viewpoint - we were sometimes a disaster. If we saw an opportunity we took it. It didn't seem to matter what it looked like. The main thing was that when it came to running an airline - God, we were good. It didn't matter what stripes you had on your uniform, if baggage handlers were on strike, we would put cases on ourselves. If someone on check in was ill, we'd somehow do it ourselves. The people at larger bases had lots of options. We were just a small team and if that meant rolling your sleeves up and getting your hands dirty then, so be it. They were the best years of my working life.'
On Monday 10th January a company HS748 was damaged during landing at Sumburgh. Weather conditions were described as 'grim' when the aircraft landed in snow and slush. The front undercarriage collapsed and two propellors were damaged. the runway was blocked until Wednesday 12th as enginering crew flew to Sumburgh to carry out repairs. These would have to be carried out at Sumburgh. The aircraft was patched up. Before being flown to the Manchester engineering base for major repair work.
The early part of every year saw Travel Agents and Tour Operators announcing their programmes for the year. Several newspapers tried their hands at being Tour Operators. Regional newspapers in conjunction with a local Travel Agent would often charter a jet from a local airport and book rooms at a hotel. One such flight would see a Dan-Air 727 fly from Birmingham to Lanzarote for a week long holiday for just £138. Many more of these special 'one off' charters were undertaken each year.
Residents close to Newcastle Airport became angry with Dan-air who carried out engine tests at midnight on a BAC 1-11. More than 50 residents complained bitterly that their sleep was disrupted. Dan-Air issued an apology, saying it was a regular occurance that had to take place, and had been going on for a long time. As it was the first time residents had complained it was theorised that the wind might have been blowing the wrong way!
Spanish Air Traffic controllers were again in the news for all the wrong reasons. What is still the worst air accident occured in April this year, when two Boeing 747 aircraft collided in Tenerife with the loss of more than 500 lives. Further complaints were made by a BA Trident pilot which almost crashed whilst flying in Spanish airspace en route to Valencia. The BA pilot happened to glance out of the side window of the flight deck to see an El Al jumbo a few hundred yards away. His quick thinking enabled him to disengage the autopilot and install a steep climb. This enabled him to leap frog over the jet. Having had an altercation with the Spanish air traffic controllers, and still shaking, he was told by Valencia Air Traffic Control to decend to 8,000 feet. Totally ignoring the fact that a Dan-Air Boeing 727 was already on that flight level. The BA Captain, Derek Baker said 'The Dan-Air pilot said something like; 'Hey you can't do that, I'm on that level.' which I already knew because I was aware of the Dan-Air aircraft even if the air traffic controller wasn't."
The Spanish Air Traffic controllers decided to 'work to rule' in August, leaving thousands of passengers in misery in UK airports. Delays were of 17 hours were reported at Newcastle and 16 hours at Manchester, as people waited for an aircraft that was still on the tarmac at Palma and Malaga. The press dubbed the nightmare 'The Costa Crisis'.
Sadly, one of the company Boeing 707 freighter aircraft was lost on approach to Lusaka whilst on lease to I.A.S. Six crew died in the accident as a result of a design flaw. Cracks had been found in the tail. 30 British Boeing 707s were grounded while checks were carried out. Several aircraft around the world were found to have similar cracks. More about this accident.
There had been a further sterling crisis in 1976/77. The Labour Government devalued the pound again, which affected the price of fuel in overseas airports. It was an anxious time for the airline industry which has always operated on very low margins. Tour Operators were forced to impose surcharges on holiday-makers. The CAA reacted by saying that Tour Operators were forbidden from charging surcharges after tickets had been issued. Of course, that didn't stop them adding surcharges on holidays after they were booked. Tickets were usually issued six weeks before travel. The CAA also claimed that the surcharges had been the result of Tour Operators cutting prices too aggresively. The CAA anounced that they were considering re-introducing minimum pricing, which soon afterwards, they decided against the measure. Tour firms then were forced to petition their Banks to ask for an extension of how far in advance they could purchase foreign currency. The CAA rejected their requests. Cosmos holidays claimed that the rich - poor and the poor - rich swing had altered. Going on to say that bookings of the upper and middle classes had dropped by 10%, while bookings from the blue collar workers were up 40%. Cosmos saw a gap in this market and announced, with great fanfare, a new feature. "All holiday costs including deposits would be returned if a customer was made redundant". The public reacted positively to Cosmos' offer Ensuring a surge in their bookings.
Cosmos did have its own airline - Monarch Airlines, and naturally, Cosmos would try to ensure that their holiday-makers would fly with their own carrier. However, Monarch was still a very small airline in terms of fleet size, operating a fleet of three old Boeing 720s and four BAC 1-11s. Monarch didn't have the capacity for all the new bookings and Cosmos would need to charter other carriers' aircraft, they chose Dan-Air.
Meanwhle, Intasun and Airtours continued to see their own business' grow. Laker Airways had recently acquired Arrowsmith Holidays and a considerable amount of its charter bookings went Dan-Air's way too, as Laker Airways had a relatively small short haul fleet. Other major Tour Operators included Ellerman, Inghams, Lunn Poly, Owners Abroad, Neilson, Jetsave and Horizon Holidays. Exchange Holidays chartered Dan-Air aircraft for their new programme for Malta Cyprus and Gibraltar this year. Exchange would operate flights from Manchester, Gatwick and Luton with prices from £77 for a weeks holiday. Flights commenced in April. Dillie Mayhew who worked for Exchange says;
'I was invited on an educational trip to Cyprus, somewhere I had never been. My manager told me that we had chartered a Dan-Air Comets. I must admit, we had chartered their Comets before and people did complain about them being old fashioned, cramped and smelly, I had flown on one myself and I had to agree with them! The bookings came in really strong and management renegotiated with Dan-Air who happened to have some spare capacity with their Boeing 727s, and a change was made. When I boarded the aircraft through stairs under the tail I was in awe. The aircraft was lovely. I'm no expert, but the 727 seemed to go up like a rocket. I wasn't so impressed at people sitting opposite one another over the emergency exits. I wouldn't have fancied flying backwards! But I was impressed with the food we were served, and the service. I was more than happy to reccomend Dan-Air to customers after that. We continued working with Dan-Air for many years. They were a great airline and I am sorry that they are no longer with us."
Intasun continued their rapid expansion with Newcaslte being added to their stable this year. Dan-Air would carry out the charter programme with Costa Brava, Costa Del Sol, Malta and Tenerife flights undertaken. For the first time the company carried more than three million passengers. (3,591,000) Inclusive Tour passengers accounted for 2,338,360 of the number, leaving 1,252,640 passengers on Scheduled Services. The IT passenger numbers were much higher than rival airlines;
Britannia Airways 2,146,077
British Airtours 631,238
Monarch Airlines 599,828
Laker Airways 459,257
Other carriers 233,037
The Boeing 727 had proved to be popular with passengers and the fleet had now grown to eight of the type. The Boeing 707 fleet also grew with an extra model purchased this year. The last that the airline would buy. Cabin crew enjoyed flying long haul, and many have told this site's webmaster that they often felt nervous on the 707 because it was old and shaky. Pat Martin, a stewardess on the 707 said
'When you were in the rear galley, you could actually feel the tail swaying as it flew. I would sit anxiously as it went up the runway.'
Despite this, the 707 served Dan-Air until 1980. Fred Newman, the company chairman, said at the time "The Boeing 707 was not successful for Dan-Air - it was the wrong type of aircraft for our style of operation."
The BAC 1-11 was a different story altogether. Its sturdy design was ideal for short haul flights. The fact that Dan-Air operated four varients meant that they could tailor its operation for longer distance charters with 119 passengers or shorter, lower payloads on domestic and northern European schedules. The Boeing 727 was put to good use on a series of night flights to Tel Aviv. The five hour flight was at the limit of the Boeing 727's range capability. Flights to Eilat were also undertaken on behalf of Sovereign Holidays and Red Sea Holidays.
The balance sheet favoured the Comet - only just. With no hire purchase payments to pay on the type despite the high fuel costs. The Comet operation wasn't sustainable, finding spare parts was difficult and the fuel costs were just too high. The decision was made, that the remaining aircraft be retired by 1980. Dan-Air had placed a great deal of faith in the 727 as the ultimate Comet replacement. Among senior management, the was a lot of talk about investing in the Boeing 737. Group Chairman,Fred Newman resisted pressure from Martin O'Regan the finance director and commercial dirctor, Errol Cossey to 'leap frog' ahead of Britannia Airways and purchase the Boeing 737 200 ADV. This advanced model had greater range than the standard 200 series operated by Britannia and could take off and land at the airports the 200 couldn't. Discussions were ongoing, but always met with the same responce, a firm 'No'.
Spanish Air Traffic Control made the headlines for all the wrong reasons in 1977. A British Airways Trident and a Pan Am jumbo narrowly avoided a mid air collision over Spain due to poor navigational advice. The aircraft, carrying a total of 500 passengeres came within one second of a collision west of Barcelona. The Spanish Air Ministry said they would investigate and boasted of a new system that was currently being installed.
Strike action in Spain affected many flights in August of this year. One 0830 flight due to leave Manchester for Naples hadn't departed at midnight because the Boeing 727 was stuck in Palma waiting for departure clearance from Spanish Air Traffic Controllers. Several airlines suffered, with delays of eighteen hours being commonplace. Commentators suggested that Manchester Airport looked like a 'refugee camp'. Tour operators were forced to lay on meals for passengers and many were given an extra nights holiday in resort. The average delay was nine hours, but delays of up to twenty hours were reported.
For the first time in the airline's history, Cabin Crew training would be provided at Aberdeen and not just Gatwick. Training would be specific to the HS 748 as many of the type were based at the airport. Nine new stewardesses were recruited for the two week course.
- Gatwick - Strasburg - 1st Apri
- Bristol - Cardiff - Cork - 4th April
- East Midlands - Birmingham & lsle of Man . 21st May
NETWORK & PRESS 1977
1978 was Dan Air's Silver Jubilee year. It was also a record breaking year in terms of passengers carried. For the first time, in the airline's history, more than four million passengers were carried (4,010,000). The Comet fleet was virtually obsolete and a phasing out was well under way in 1978. Nevertheless, thirteen Comets were still carrying out many of this year on charter flights. With four, fuel thirsty engines the aircraft used more fuel carrying 119 passengers than a Boeing 737 did carrying 130. Dan-Air used a system that each aircraft type in the fleet would operate independently of each other. Their costs could be analysed separately. It was apparent that a replacement for the Comet had to be found. The main hurdle was financing thirteen new aircraft, even second hand ones would be costly. Replacing the older aircraft had been a piority. The BAC 1-11 fleet had grown in size to 14. The 1-11 fleet consisted of the 200/300/400 and 500 series, giving Tour operators a choice of between 86 and up to 119 on the 500 series. The price of jet fuel continued to affect the airline. The decision to withdraw from long haul flights was made early this year. The 707s were old, prone to mechanical failures, expensive to fly and were part of a crowded market. Laker had been awarded licences to fly scheduled flights to the USA. Dan-Air operated five Boeing 707s at the time. The two fan-jet models were sold at a profit. After being leased to Air Malta, another was broken up at Lasham, one leased 707 was returned to its owner, leaving just one example in the fleet. By the end of the year, the last of the type had been disposed of. The thirteen strong Comet fleet was reduced to just four.
Although Fred Newman was on record as saying that the Boeing 707 was 'not suited to our style of operation' it is also fair to say that Dan-Air were not in a position to compete on long haul with Laker and BCAL. Several staff say they saw saw no reason not try to attempt to enter the scheduled long haul market. One of our pilot contributors told us;
"The 707 aircraft that we had were, frankly clapped out. They had carried out the job they were purchased to do, no more, no less. They simply went across the Atlantic on charters. They were sometimes used on flights to the Canaries as well. I had transferred from the Comet to the 707 before joining the 727 permanently. My conversion couldn't come quick enough. When the 707 was at its maximum take off weight it would send a shiver down my spine. Gatwick has a long runway and thank God it has. 'Tango Golf' in particular I felt, only just managed to get airborne before you ran out of runway, it tests your constitution you know. Our 707s had come from Pan Am's first batch of the type and it showed. The damn things regularly went tech down route, so that meant engineers from overseas had to work hard to repair them. It led to disgruntled passengers blaming staff. Far too many times we were sat in the flight deck at the gate with a full aircraft all set to go....You start the push back and the tug is released. Then some warning light came on - something was wrong, which meant that we had to go back to the stand. Everyone had to deplane and wait. Worse still would be that passengers would have to sit on board the aircraft for hours if we couldn't get back on stand. We would have to put people up in hotels, all at expense to us. Our reputation was getting a hammering on a daily basis. Someone wrote to a newspaper saying the brochure had promised in flight entertainment, of course there was none. They called the aircraft 'delapidated' which was a little harsh, but, perhaps, not altogether inaccurate. It might have been ok if it meant an extra night in a hotel and a three hour flight back from Spain, but when you are facing an eight hour flight and jet lag, people, understandibly wanted the aircraft to leave on time and get home on schedule. One year on the aircraft was enough for me. After that I transferred to the 727. My main theory now, and I think then, was that Dan-Air's abiding flaw was a reluctance to invest in new equipment. We had by far, a bigger company than Laker, so, if he was able to get DC10s, why didn't we? There has always been more ways than one to acquire aircraft, lease them, buy them in installments. Dans had all the resourses to handle the flights themselves. I think they were downplaying themselves and sticking with the public's preception of us as a cheap charter airline."
In January, The Newcastle Evening Chronicle compared two services from the city to London, Dan-Air to Gatwick and British Airways to Heathrow. The Dan-Air review was outstanding. The piece said the check in staff were chirpy and professional, and the cabin crew were in a class of their own. The BAC 1-11 offered a hot breakfast with Bacon, Eggs, Mushroom and Crispbread with Marmalade. A glass of grapefruiut juice and tea or coffee. The British Airways flight to Heathrow had no food, just hot drinks. Dan-Air's staff had handed passengers their coats and wished everyone a pleasant day. Their flight was on time, and the BA flight delayed 15 minutes. When questioned about the lack of a meal, BA said that 'The majority of passengers were businessmen and a meal was not on their list of priorities'. BA also said the Dan-Air flight was TEN MINUTES longer - giving staff the time to serve breakfast! The journalist disagreed. He said that he was charged an'exhorbitant 49p' for a sandwich and coffee at Heathrow. the only snag for Dan-Air was the £2:25 train journey to London itself. It was just 80p to travel from Heathrow to the capital by underground. Dan-Air charged £24:80 for the flight, British Airways fare was £26.
The number of oil industry charter flights had grown substantially. To meet the demand, the HS 748 fleet had grown in number to eighteen. A 19th came in the shape of a leased model from Mount Cook Arways of New Zealand. In January Dan-Air flew more than 60 flights in four days carrying 3000 passengers from Aberdeen, taking oil workers back to Sullem Voe after their Christmas break. The airline then completed a similar feat into Aberdeen before the holiday. The increase in Dan-Air charters for the oil supply workers required more than 10 Hawker Siddeley 748s to be based at Aberdeen. During a difficult time two HS 748s collided when a strong gust of wind blew one aircraft off its chocks and into the other aircraft. One other HS748 took off and developed an engine fault within minutes of the aircraft becoming airborne. It returned to the airport safely.
The HS748 was widely used on the scheduled service network, including the Isle of Man, which was now served by Dan-Air from eleven UK airports. The airline applied to serve Sumburgh on their scheduled network from Newcastle with a possible stop at Dundee or Edinburgh. The Newcastle - Bournemouth route was increased to a daily service. Further new services commenced including Gatwick - Bergen on 1st April, and just two weeks later, Gatwick-Jersey was restarted, finally on 27th May the Bournemouth - Isle of Man and Jersey-Cork services commence.
New cabin crew uniforms were unveiled in April. The new design was nick named 'Mix n Match' designed by the House of Mansfield, the cornflower blue outfit came with lemon blouse and summer dress. Trousers were optional, or a skirt with a cream overcoat and blue bowler style hat to complete the look.
El-Al, the national airline of Israel, was affected by industrial action in April. The airline approached Dan-Air to help. A Dan-Air Boeing 707 was chartered by El-Al fly out to Israel and return passengers to Gatwick. The aircraft would then operate the Stansted - Tel Aviv service. Dan-Air would operate both services until the industrial action was settled a month later.
Further meetings between Fred Newman with O'Regan and Cossey saw them threaten to resign if the company did not order Boeing 737 aircraft. Newman resisted once more and eventually, Dan-Air announced that they had ordered two Boeing 727 200 series tri jets. The aircraft had a longer range with more powerful engines. The type had seats for 189 passengers. It was reported that O'Regan and Cossey carried out their threat and left the company. There had been newspaper advertisement recruiting cabin staff and flight deck crew for a new airline to be based at London Gatwick with a strong presence at Manchester. In a very short time, several Dan-Air staff at many levels, left the company, including the training captain and a training stewardess. Just how much information Dan-Air knew, is speculative. What was known, was that two senior executives at Dan-Air, with masses of experience, had left. The new carrier would have the financial backing of Intasun's parent company, ILG. The group had two Boeing 737 200ADV on order. The very type that O'Regan and Cossey had suggested Newman should order. The formation of the new airline had quickly gone from an airline on paper, to a real airline. Two 130 seat jet aircraft can fly a quarter of a million passengers in a year. Intasun was one of Dan-Air's biggest clients. They would not wish to work with Dan-Air if they had a vested interest in their own airline succeeding. Air Europe actively targeted Dan-Air crews for their new company. When Air Europe took to the skies in 1978 it was with a great deal of ceremony. The aircraft had a striking look to them. Catering on board was of a standard never seen on charter flights before. As the shiny, brand new aircraft sat on the tarmac, it seemed a thousand miles away from a Dan-Air Comet.
More scorn was poured on the Comet, when a Coventry journalist was delayed 32 hours after his pilot ran out of flying time. Delays followed delays due to snow and fog. Eventually the crew ran out of flying hours and no replacement aircraft or crew could be found. The journalist said he never wished to see the inside of Milan airport again. He called the Dan-Air Comet 'Ancient but elegant'.
The Flagship Boeing 727 flew exclusively the charter flight programme and the eighth model joined the fleet this year. The 727s were based in Manchester and Gatwick, they would also reposition in other UK airports with smaller programmes before returning to their base. Their utilisation rates were among the highest of any airline. Each of the aircraft flew for over twelve hours a day. Boeing 727s were also based in Berlin. One Dan-Air 727 flight witnessed high drama when a passenger went into labour, two months early. The flight had departed from Tenerife, when one of the passengers, Mrs. Carole Walker, who was seven months into her pregnancy, went into labour. Walker, who hadn't informed Dan-Air she was expecting, had seemingly gone into labour before she boarded the aircraft and stayed silent. The expectant mother had no holiday medical insurance and couldn't afford to stay in Tenerife and pay for hospital and hotel costs. When it was revealed the baby would not wait until touchdown, the Captain asked if there was anyone medically trained on board. Jessie Morley, a trained midwife, stepped forward. The baby turned out to be a complicated breach birth. Despite this, Jessie calmly went about her business, her only surgical equipment being a pair of scissors, borrowed from the crew, towels and bandages from the aircraft's first aid kit. The aircraft's emercency oxygen was delivered to help Carole with pain. Cabin crew moved Mrs. Walker to the front of the aircraft and female passengers formed a circle and used coats and blankets to form a screen to avoid the 'theatre' The scissors were steralised using a cigarette ligher provided by a male passenger. When the baby was born she wouldn't breathe. Without any surgical equipment Jessie used her little finger to clear the baby's airways before administering mouth to mouth resuscitation. The baby's cries were heard over the whine of the jet engine. This brought the passengers to their feet.
Her baby was delivered as the aircraft passed over Daventry, twenty minutes before the aircraft was scheduled to land at Birmingham. Captain delayed landing which enabled the baby 5lb daughter to be born in the air - The Mother called her daughter DANielle!!
Dan-Air were invited along with other carriers to evaluate the brand new Dash 7 turbo prop aircraft which promised excellent effiency and performance including short take off and landings. De Havilland Canada who manufactured the type were confident UK airlines would purchase the aircraft. Soon afterwards Dan-Air did indeed increase their fleet, but not with the Dash 7 - instead they bought another HS 748, this time from Mexicana. The newly delivered aircraft would be the twelth of the type to be based at Aberdeen and would be used on oil related flights.
The Summer season was blighted by yet another round of industrial action by French and Spanish Air Traffic Controllers. Tour Operators informed passengers to 'expect the worst'. Birmingham airport reported delays of up to eighteen hours. Manchester Airport had similar delays. Dispute went on to affect 100,000 people. On top of this, Manchester was undergoing runway improvements that would be undertaken at night. For many nights Dan-Air and other carriers had to divert their aircraft to Liverpool, ferrying passengers to and from Manchester to Liverpool for flights.
The Unfair Contract Terms act came into force this year. The law was resisted by the operators who had always included exemption clauses in their terms and conditions. This covered all external suppliers, such as airlines, hotels and transfer coaches. If a person died as a result of fire or a coach crash the liability was passed onto the Tour Operator. The CAA also announced new measures designed to please consumers, they would however displease Tour Operators. Firstly Travel Agents were no longer to be under legal restrictions to offer travel incentives. From now on, they were allowed to offer inducements such as Beach Towels, Bags, and even sun cream as an incentive to entice holiday makers from one firm or another. The Tour Operators would provide these goodies. Another rule change was to be far more wide reaching; In July 1978 the CAA gave approval for a Danish Tour Operator; Tjaereborg, to start selling directly to UK customers. For the first time people could book an international holiday without visiting a travel agent. A huge TV campaign followed, providing a telephone number to call for a brochure. Once the customer had chosen their holiday they could then phone the call centre at Tjaereborg, who would advise, in real time, prices and availability. Travel agents had traditionally sold holidays on behalf of Tour Operators with a commission of between 10 and 15%. Tjaereborg's owner, Elif Krogagor, also owned his own airline; Sterling, who sold 600,000 holidays a year to Scandinavians and Germans. Krogagor's airline were now attempting to take a share in the UK travel market. Quick to follow, with a similar product was a Swedish company - 'Vingresor' who had cornered about 40% of the Swedish market. This new concept was quickly accepted by UK consumers but the industry was not so keen. Some of the flights were flown by Dan-Air who were only too happy to have a new customer. The Tour Operators in the UK, on the other hand, were furious and a dispute quickly broke out. Appeals to the CAA fell on deaf ears. Tour Operators, naturally, were worried that these direct sales companies would almost certainly take some of the business from the established UK Tour Operators. When Tour Operators realised that their attempts to stop the direct selling of holidays had failed, several, established companies went on to start up similar operations of their own. Portland Holidays was a subsidiary division of Thomson Holidays. The ran alongside their parent company, and unlike Thomson, chartered plenty of Dan-Air aircraft. Thomson decided that Portland would become a direct sell Tour Operator, leaving Dan-Air unsure if it would remain a client. In this new, very competitive market, Portland had to work very hard to earn any market share at all.
It wasn't long before Tour Operators realised that there was a substantial market for direct selling holidays, and that it wasn't destructive to the industry, as long as the Tour Operator carried on sellinng to travel agents as well. The travel agents didn't see it that way at all. They bitterly resisted all attempts to interfere with their industry. As often happened in the travel industry; there was a fight for ownership of Tour Operators. Vingresor was quickly swallowed up by Thomson and Tjereborg was taken over by Owners Abroad in 1987, which was seen as a bold, high risk strategy. Harry Goodman's ILG and Intasun continued to carve a sizeable share of the market. Never shy of publlicity Goodman was unapologetic in boasting that his holidays were 'cheap and cheerful'. Air Europe, on the other hand, was a much more up-market airline. Most of the cabin crew had been recruited from Dan-Air. Air Europe provided impeccable service and a polished product.
Manchester had become the second busiest airport for Dan-Air, and was the second largest employer at Manchester. Runway repairs had to be carried out this year- at night! This would affect most charter carriers, who for several weeks would have to divert flights into Liverpool and transport passengers by coach to Manchester. With several late night departures and arrivals Dan-Air was very much inconvenienced, not to mention their passengers.
Dan-Air also had to deal with rejection from the Civil Aviation Authority over their plans for a licence to link Newcaslte with Edinburgh and Sumburgh. At the hearing in Aberdeen, only Loganair was granted a licence to operate a service from Edinburgh to Sumburgh. There followed a heavy promotion for the Newcastle-London Gatwick service that saw ten flights in each direction. The fare was to be cheaper than those offered to Heathrow.
Dan-Air's administration offices, crew training, uniform stores and operations departments were scattered in several parts of Horley, including above a supermarket and above a bank - as well at at Gatwick airport. A new, purpose built office block was to be built in Horley, housing the many departments under the same roof. This new building would be a to storey development and carry the name; Newman House.
- Gatwick - Bergen- Commenced - April 1st
- Gatwick - Jersey Commenced - April 15th
- Bournemouth - Isle of Man Commenced. May 27th
- Jersey - Cork - Commenced May 27th
NETWORK & PRESS 1978
Dan-Air started the year by announcing that they had applied for licences to operate several new routes;
- Tees-Side - Belfast
- Gloucester Staverton - Isle Of Man
- Glouscester Staverton - Jersey
- Manchester and/or Birmingham - Cork
The Tees Side and Belfast flights would have a one way fare of £27:50. The phasing out of the Comet was almost complete with just seven remaining at the start of the year. More would be retired as the year went on. One such aircraft was obtained from Dan-Air and towed just two miles away, to the Fur and Feathers pub in the pictureque village of Herriard. The aim was to convert the Comet into a restuarant. Villagers were incensed that a 113 foot long airliner would be parked outside the pub. Its tail was taller than the pub! Eventually, irate locals made an official complaint to the local authority. Basingtoke council decided the aircraft should be returned to Lasham where it would be broken up.
The Newcastle-Birmingham service was performing better than expected, so frequency was increased to twice daily. There was increased frequency too on the Newcastle - Isle Of Man service. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Awarded Dan-Air a license to fly the Aberdeen-Gatwick service on 30th July. The service had until recently, been flown by British Airways, who did not wish to relinquish it. However, Dan-Air had worked hard to win the license, giving 12 positive reasons why they should operate it instead of British Airways. At the hearing, the CAA said that British Airways should concentrate on their Aberdeen - Heathrow service, and Dan-Air would help improve Gatwick as an airport. Dan-Air planned to offer more flights, and fares would be £10 cheaper than BA. Dan-Air would operate two flights each way on Mondays and Friday and three on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. There would be a south bound service on Saturdays and a north bound one on Sundays. Dan-Air went as far as to say that they were willing to improve the service on board and use larger aircraft, such as the Boeing 727, should the need arise. If Dan-Air were to operate the service, flights would commence using BAC 1-11 jets.
In April Dan-Air was able to report that turnover had risen to £117,500,000 which was up from last year's figure by £16,850,000. Whilst pre tax profits soared by from £802,000 to £2,010,000. The first time that profits had ever surpassed the two million mark. The charter fleet was fully booked for the upcoming season as were the 14 HS748s based in Aberdeen on oil charters. For the first time in the airline's history, the charter fleet was also fully employed for the Winter season. Share prices rose to 150p at the news. Despite the overall gloomy economic picture in the UK, Dan-Air appeared to be bucking the trend.
The Newcastle station manager John Clementson had been effective in his post for four years. He had been a popular figure with staff, who were shocked when he was sentenced to a fifteen month jail term for stealing cash. Clementson was responsible for banking cash from bar and duty free sales. Stewardesses had handed over sealed envelopes and receipts that Clementson took money from. Clementson, was jailed for fifteen months for admitting to 'borrowing' £3655 from Dan-Air, that he never paid back. Clementson had taken the cash from 1976-1978. He told the court that he had 'borrowed' money to pay off gambling debts. He had also began drinking heavily. He co operated with the police and said he was sorry. The crime was discovered folowing a break in at his office, where £2,000 was stolen from a safe. This led to a full investigation that discovered the discrepency. Claiming that he was too embarrassed to tell his family, the father of four had co-operated with the airline and the police. His wife did clear the debts ultimately.
The upgrade of the runway Manchester Airport continued to cause a great deal of disruption and expense to many airlines. As repairs could only be carried out at night, charter flights were the only flights affected. Fuel cost $20 (30c a gallon) a barrell more at Liverpool than Manchester. The additional cost of then ferrying passengers to and from Liverpool was time consuming and expensive. On top of that only one supplier of fuel was available, panic ensued when supplies started to run out. British Airtours diverted five boeing 707 flights to Gatwick rather than risk the extra charge or not being able to refuel. Dan-Air had to divert more than sixty flights a week during this fraught itme.
The official report into the 1977 Lusaka crash was published in May. the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) largely exhonorated Dan-Air from any blame. The metal fatigue on the tail's main spar could not have been found with the maintainence guidlines laid down by the CAA. Dan-Air had followed the guides to the letter. The report also pointed out that of the 521 Boeing 707s flying, 7% had been found to have similar fatigue on the main spar. New rules would be laid down for UK operators of the type. Dan-Air did not have to concern itself about that, as the company had decided to withdraw the type from the fleet., just one remained for disposal. The aircraft was eventually broken up at Lasham on return from its lease.
In May the Gatwick-Dijon route started, with the airline optimistic about its success. Saga Holidays, the UK's leading Tour Operator for the over 60s, announced in June that they had signed a major contract with Dan-Air. Saga would use the airline for the majority of its flights. The 1979 programme would feature 40 destinations. Saga said they had an excellent relationship with Dan-Air and were keen to offer an ever expanding network for both companies.
On 28th July it was announced that Dan-Air had successfully wrestled the Aberdeen-London Gatwick service from British Airways, who were told by the CAA, that the licence had been revoked and would be awarded to Dan-Air. It was the second time in a month that BA had suffered a revocation of a route, having already lost the Aberdeen-Wick route when it was awarded to Air Ecosse. There had been an open hearing about the service, with Dan-Air being supported by many large companies and businesses. British Airways lodged an appeal, but the CAA upheld their decision. The press pointed out BA's lack of available aircraft and the flag carrier's inefficiency led to many complaints. Dan-Air would commence services in November. 1979 was also the year that the company was awarded the contract with the Royal Mail for postage flights. The night flights would carry mail to a central sorting office in Liverpool, where it would then distributed around the UK. It was a very specialised job and required a high level of co-ordination.
Just one day after the Aberdeen-London Gatwick service had been awarded to Dan-Air a Dan-Air HS748 was involved in a fatal accident in Sumburgh. The aircraft had failed to become airborne and plunged into icy sea at the end of the runway. The pilot attempted to abort take off and braked heavily. Sadly there was not enough runway. As the aircraft hit the water one wing broke off. The weather had been described as 'filthy'. Seventeen people died and 30 were injured. . The aircraft was one of the type purchased from Argentina. Gust locks are used on smaller aircraft to stop ailerons, rudders and moving parts from being moved about by wind. The gust lock control was on the Captain's side and required lifting before being moved to lock or unlocked position. A small part underneath the visible control had been poorly fitted by Argentine engineers. Thus, when engaged by the Captain, the control appeared to be in the correct position. Sadly the gust lock was still engaged as the aircraft sped along the runway. As the crew adjusted flaps and other devices, they had, in fact, remained locked. the aircraft could not take off. Once V1 speed was made, the aircraft appeared sound. V1 is the time a pilot is commited to taking off. By the time he realised the aircraft was not responding, the best he could do was to brake heavily and try to stop the aircraft. This is the most simple explanation, without any technical language. For an in-depth look at the accident, please check out the Full Details.
After the aaccident, one of the passengers, Joseph McKinnon said:
'We were ready to take off from the runway and the plane seemed to lift, then go down, then try again to lift, and finally went down. The pilot braked and then veered to the left, but the plane ploughed through a fence and went straight into the sea. It was less than a minute before the cabin was full of water. I could not get my life jacket on to inflate, so I threw it away, when I got into the sea. I managed to swim ashore, where two men helped me get out of the water. I was swept by the queue to get out of the rear door into the sea. I think most of those who died were sitting at the front section of the aircraft I think it might have been that the starboard engine had failed.'
A British Airways helicopter and members of a scuba diving club assisted the rescue. Captain Bain of British Airways said
'When we got there we could see a few survivors and bodies in the sea and we picked up those that we could see. The plane was in the sea, about 50 years from the end of the runway, and was nose down at an agle of about 45 degrees. Only the tail was sticking out of the water and the rear door was about six foot under water. There was nobody left clinging to the fuselage, so we started looking at bodies that had the most signs of life. We winched one man up out of the water and another from the deck of a small trawler. We tried to pick up more, but our winchman was swamped by a large wave. Some of the survivors had managed to swim ashore with the help of wind and tide.'
Another passenger, Keith Dwyer said;
'The young stewardess tried her upmost to keep everybody calm. The water was up to our waists in seconds, but still she was calling to people not to panic.'
Passenger Harry Kennedy who was just 21 at the time said;
'She was telling us to put their life jackets on, she was so calm and courageous. Suddenly she was hurled into the sea by a wave. She bobbed about in the sea and still she kept shouting 'Don't panic, we'll make it'
Dan-Air had a heavy heart at the loss of life in Sumburgh. It must be incredibly difficult to carry on operating in such difficult circumstances. That however, is exaclty what the airline did. In August there was a hearing; the third such hearing for the Aberdeen - Inverness - Stornaway service.
August was always a trying time for UK airlines, in no small part because of what was becomming an annual event, when either the French or the Spanish Air Traffic Controllers would go on strike. This always resulted in many delays. 1979's dispute was because of the French. Airlines had requested to fly out into the Atlantic and head toward Spain. The CAA claimed to do so was dangerous and thus refused. Manchester Airport's fire department went on strike in September, which saw the airport close for two weeks. Dan-Air diverted their flights to Liverpool and complained that Liverpool charged 30 cents a gallon more than other UK airports. The year has gone down in history as the 'Winter of Discontent' as millions of days were lost due to strike action in almost every sector of British industry. Dan-Air had a period of hostile negotiations with BALPA, the trade union for airline pilots. Trades Unions had, what is now generally agreed, too much power. Many businesses had closed shops, where union membership was compulsary and strike action could be called without any ballot of members. Several companies were brought to their knees by such practices. Most of the largest businesses in the UK were state owned, including many airports, British Airways, British Rail, Sealink, British Gas, Coal, Electricity, Water, National Car Parks, BP, British Telecom, The Pst Office, as well as all the usual inftructure in the country such as schools and hospitals. British Airways, for their part, were over manned, poor performing and inefficient. They were fortunate in as far that the Government would have to prop them up financially, not matter how badly they operated. The Government had warned them that improvements would have to be made. The idea that BA would make redundancies would not be contemplated by the Trades Union, and, it would seem, the Government itself.
For their part, British Airways announced it was dropping 26 of its most unprofitable routes. The routes included several services from Jersey and Guernsey, The Isle Of Man and Belfast. International services earmarked for dropping were Cardiff, Bristol to Paris and Dublin - Bristol, Cardiff and Paris. Many of the destinations were served by several regional airports.Heathrow, BA's main base would lose services to Leeds/Bradford the Isle of Man and Birmingham. The flag carrier had lost £6.5 million on the services in the last year, saying that high fuel prices were partly responsible.
Dan-Air, Air Anglia, British Island Airways and British Midlands were quick to announce proposals to take them all over. The independents claimed they had far lower operating costs and that they would be able to operate the flights profiably. Dan-Air were keen to expand their Newcastle network and had flights to Dublin, Belfast, Cardiff and Bristol in their sights in October. A new Gatwick - Newcastle service would commence on November 1st. The airline also joined up with British Celedonian to interlink with B Cal's Gatwick-Atlanta service, also in November. In addition to that, Dan-Air were keen to start a new Gatwick - Toulouse service which, it hoped, would begin in Oc The CAA increased fares across the board in November making the £37 fare on the Aberdeen-Gatwick rise to £41.50. Airlines registered their disapproval, without any success.
Tragedy struck in October, when two oil support workers were denied boarding on an oil support flight because they had been drinking. The two brothers stormed out of the airport and onto the ramp, where airport staff battled to restrain the men. One of the men became agitated and was intent on getting their luggage off the aircraft. The pilot noticed the men on the tarmac and indicated that he should move away. Instead the man waved his fist at the pilot and went towards the aircraft. He walked into the aircraft propellor and was decapitated. Dan-Air refused to accept any responsibility.
In late October, Dan-Air announced they had plans to scrap the sixteen flights a week between Lydd and Paris, the airline had applied to the CAA to transfer the services to Gatwick. Dan-Air would continue with their programme of flights to the Channel Islands should the CAA approve.
The year was rounded off with a massive boost to Dan-Air's oil charters. The job of returning workers to Aberdeen was handed to them. Operation Santa Claus saw almost 5,000 oil support workers flown home by the airline. The busiest day of all saw 904 BP workers flying with Dan-Air. This annual event had now become the largest peace-time airlift in the UK. Shetland manager Geoff Fisher, said that 'it was a tremendous achievement and that only Dan-Air had the relevent experience to do.' It was all the more impressive given that a days flying was lost due to the inevitable bad weather. Normally flights were carried out with HS748 aircraft, but to supplement them, this year, a BAC 1-11, two Viscounts and a Comet ferried the passengers. Two small aircraft from Dan-Air subsidiery company Air Taxi were also used. Good news also came in December, when the CAA announced which of the 26 abandoned BA routes would go to which airline. Dan-Air were successful with the Bristol/Cardiff - Jersey, Bristol/Cardiff - Belfast, Newcastle-Belfast and Leeds/Bradford - Guernsey all of which they accepted. Other routes went to British Midland and the newly formed Air UK. The remaining 13 routes would be decided in the new year.
December 10th saw the launch of the Aberdeen-Gatwick service, which had been taken from British Airways. This service would offer passengers hot breakast or dinner, depending on times, free newspapers and a new style of boarding - 'Trickle Boarding'. allowing passengers to board the aircraft as soon as they wanted to, as soon as the aircraft was ready. Flight times were designed to give business travellers a full day in either city. Three flights a day would operate in each direction. In addition, cargo would also be carried on all of the flights. Beaujolais Nouveau is traditionally released on November 14th. The 1979 release, in accordance with the tradition, would be on the table and corks popped on the stroke of midnight. Dan-Air were responsible for getting the 1979 batch to Scotland on time. Passengers on the last flight from Gatwick to Aberdeen were treated to a glass of that year's vintage early with the compliments of Dan-Air. The publicity stunt helped endear passengers toward Dan-Air who were already getting the thumbs up for the service. None of these in flight options had been available to passengers when BA operated the service.
Aberdeen had proved to be a success story for Dan-Air, when the airline commenced flights from the city in 1971 with just one aircraft was based there and 28 staff. In 1979 fourteen HS 748 aircraft were based at the airport and a BAC 1-11 jet for the new services. Now more than 200 people were employed at the base. The HS 748 flew up to 25 flights a day on oil related charters alone. In addition a scheduled service operated to the Isle of Man.
The BAC 1-11 fleet grew by one, and two Vickers Viscounts were obtained, primarily for use on the Channel Islands Services. Viscounts were based at Lydd Airport following the closure of Ashford Lympne. In November Dan-Air announed that flights operating from Lydd to Paris (Beauvais) would be transferred to Gatwick following the CAA's approval. The flights had carried 42,481 in 1979 which was 5,000 fewer passengers than the previous year. Lydd Airport said that they were 'disappointed but not dispodent.' Dan-Air stated that the market for the service had been 'drifting away' for some time because there were so many cheaper ways of getting across the channel from Kent.
Altogether 21 HS 748s were operating this year and the Boeing 727 fleet stood at eight.
Air Europe had a promising start with their first year. Dan-Air chairman, Fred Newman refusal to purchase new Boeing 737s was not a good position to have taken. Thomas Cook, it was reported, had made it very clear that they wanted Boeing 737 aircraft to fly their passengers for the 1980 season. They had claimed that if Dan-Air did not acquire the jets, that Thomas Cook would not charter Dan-Air aircraft. Another Tour Operator that chartered Dan-Air aircraft was Horizon, who announced that from Summer 1980 many of their flights would be operated by their new 'in house' charter carrier, Orion Airways, which would be based at East Midlands and would operate four brand new Boeing 737 200 advanced aircraft. The airline would employ 200 people with flights operating from Manchester, Gatwick, East Midlands and Luton. For the second time in a little over a year, this had happened. The flights operated with the best timings and to the destinations with the best financial returns would, naturally be flown by the Tour Operator's own flagship airline, in their splendid new aircraft. Whilst Dan-Air's Boeing 727s carried more passengers, they were a lot less fuel efficient. Dan-Air would have little option other than to join the ever growing number of 737 operators, to ever be able to compete.
Towards the end of the year, Dan-Air finally agreed to purchase the new model. Talks began with other carriers with a view to leasing the new type. They would be second hand, as was the usual practice with Dan-Air. One former pilot told us;
"Honestly, when I answer your questions, it sounds like I am having a dig at Dan-Air, and I am not. They were the best airline I have ever worked for. I don't know why Fred Newman wouldn't entertain the idea of getting brand new aircraft. We had this sizeable fleet and a very larger turnover and profit. There was not a cash flow problem with us. All the charter fleets were always booked for the whole season ahead, and even the winter season was healthy. When aircraft were taken out for major maintainence. I don't believe Harry Goodman walked into Boeing with a cheque book and said 'I'll have four 737s please. Here's the cheque'. He had much less by way of collateral than we did. Fred Newman was older, and probably less of a risk taker. We had become experts at acquiring the same types of aircraft that other airlines had, but they had been flown by other airlines first. That was ok with the 1-11s they were young. As we entered the 80s I am not so sure. We certainly were not a laughing stock within the industry. We were very highly regarded in how we operated. I'm not so sure that's the case with what we operated. My honest opinion about this period is that the Comets did a hell of a lot of the damage to our image. They were flying for two years after Air Europe had the 737. They were flying for twelve years alongside Britannia's 737s. In that regard, we looked like also rans. I wasn't one of the people who had sentimental feelings about the Comet, yes they were marvellous to fly. Probably horrendous in 1980 to be a passenger on. My hope was to have a whole new ethos in the eighties. I think we achieved that."
In total, 3,591,000 passengers were carried in 1979, a new record for a UK independent airline. A new agreement with Intra Airways was signed, allowing each airline to use each other's aircraft on the Carlisle, Staverton and Swansea to Jersey and Guernsey services. By the end of the decade, people were travelling further and more often. It was also clear that people were now opting to take self catering holidays. The role of the in resort representative was changing as well. Holiday makers were becoming less reliant on them. Smaller Tour Operators, offering a more personalised service were complaning that the giant firms were deliberately trying to undercut them with huge, loss leading discounts on holidays. The smaller companies could never compete with them. Dan-Air aircraft were being chartered by more and more of these smaller companies. It was vital that they retain their working relationship as they entered the new decade.
- Gatwick - Dijon - Commenced May 1st
- Newcastle - Birmingham - Isle of Man - Commenced May 23rd
- Gatwick - Aberdeen - November 1st (Taken over from British Airways)
- Gatwick - Toulouse - December 16th
NETWORK & PRESS 1979
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