The The photograph above shows Dan Air's 'Class Elite' cabin. The airline's much praised business class cabin. Where the aircraft was six abreast, the middle seat was never sold. on five abreast layouts the same occured on the row of three. Instead a table was used, as shown. The cabin featured improved leg room and seat width. The airline noted you were never more than one seat away from an aisleDrinks were complimentary, including champagne, and served in glassware rather that plastic. The meal service featured an ever changing menu and even short haul routes included hot meals. The service 'Class Elite' was a new concept introduced in 1988, at a time when Dan-Air was trying, in vain, as it emerged, to offer itself as a stand alone, scheduled airline of choice. As we look back at the 1980s and even prior to that we see a different concept of what flying is. Todays market is flooded with scheduled operators offering passengers low fars to all corners of Europe. Holiday passengers can use the internet to find hotels and flights, and all the extras such as transfers, insurance, car hire and excursions without a travel agent acting as middle man and charging a commision to travellers. When Dan-Air ws at the peak of it's success in the 70s and 80s no such self booking was possible. Travel agents and Tour Operators did everything. This of course meant that Tour Opertors had to choose Airlines with varying sized aircraft with competitive rates. Todays travellers have come to accept no-frills and paying for drinks on board as standard. So was the 'Clas Elite' the right choice even then? Legacy carriers such as British Airways have had to compete in a way that could never have been imagined in the past. Charging scheduled passenger for drinks and meals has proved to be the only way they can compete against the Low Fare giants such as Ryanair and Easy jet. Had Dan-Air survived just a few more years, after deregulation of fares, could they have gone into this market? They were ideally placed with the slots at major airports, the skills to operate a wide network at more than a hundred airports and a large fleet. I believe that the decision to compete with Legacy Carriers was a wrong one. Instead of going head to head with them Dan - Air should, in my opinion, been at the forefront of low cost travel. Doing what it had proved all along to be, an airline that carried mainly holidaymakers to the sun spots of Europe. They had already began offering fares that were lower than competitors. Had they done away with complimentary meals, drinks and expensive cutlery and crockery and instead offered flights for £15 like we see today things might have been altogether different. The service need not have changed. Dan-Air was proud of it's cabin crew. They were ambassodors to the Airline - We hope you enjoy your journey today, looking back at what your flight would be like through the Airlines's 39 year history. All Of the Images can be enlarged by clicking them
Left: The Interior of a Dan - Air Dakota - Centre: - Publicity Shot of the Ambassaor when it first arrived with to Dan Air - Right: The Inteiror Of Bristol Freighter In Service
|As we said earliler, 'Class Elite' passengers enjoyed dedicated check in, priority boarding and disembarkation. And even complimentary transfers to and from airports. Of course, this was not always the case. Looking at the cabins above one can see that the aircraft were quite spacious. The Bristol Freighter on the far right was actually that - freighter aircraft. Dan - Air had converted some of the aircraft into a passenger cabin. It was extremely noisy. The Airspeed Ambassador had a spacious cabin, Dan Air Engineering refitted the aircraft to their own specifications shortly after it entered service. The picture in the middle shows it when it was still in its BEA layout. Below is a picture after its refit! Dan - Air's Comet aircraft were purchased in 1966 from BEA. They had been 89 passenger seat layouts on long haul routes. Dan - Air's style of operation would see the aircraft in an altogether role. This involved strengthening the floors to accomodate 109 passengers New seats that would see the aircraft go from four abreast to five abreast. Other engineering work had to be done to enable the aircraft to be take of and land several times more than it was used to. It's testimony to the DAE staff who enabled such a feat.|
The Ambassador in Dan - Air layout
The Comet At Lasham Undergoing It Transformation into high density layout. Sent by Tony Button
Dan - Air's early days saw staff trained in silver service waitressing, despite in flight facilities being somewhat primitive. Later on, as competition for charter business grew ever more intense, Dan - Air revolutionized in flight dining by being the first airline in the World to introduce 'Sky Diners' . An excercise was carried by Dan - Air management to see if costs could be reduced. Stainless steel cutlery, crockery and glassware were heavy and the weight of these items would have to factered in how much fuel per flight was required. On a single flight this might not prove to be a great deal. When you are operating an ever growing fleet with hundreds of flights per week then the figures start to mount up. The airline discovered that the weight of catering supplies cost almost £25,000 per year. An evaluation of alternative products was carried out and one company came up with was to become 'Sky Diners' These meals were a The product, in light weight cardboard and plastic was eblazened with the company logo and was designed to fit into standard airline trollies. The meals did not need to be cooked in the galleyas as it was cold fare. The box would be also pre loaded with a bread roll, cold starter, and dessert. Accompaniments such as butter, salt, pepper and the plastic cutlery would also be included, wrapped by a napkin packed in celaphane. A plastic cup was even inside with creamer and sugar in small sachets. These were to be both popular with passengers and crew alike. Passengers enjoyed the novelty of them and Dan Air benefitted tremendously from them. It meant that the whole tray could be thrown away afterwards. Saving time and money by not having to wash the products. Britannia Airways soon followed their rival with a smilar product. Very quickly they stole the initiative and introduced the first hot meals served in similar boxes.. Dan - Air was soon matched this and offered hot meals as an option for Tour Operators to take up. On longer scheduled services a hot meal was standard with a hot or cold snack on shorter flights. The Sky Diner meal concept is shown below on a publicity photograph taken at their lauch. It didn't take Tour operators long before they embraced the concept and offer it to their clients. Scheduled and charter airlines across the World quickly rolled out similar products
|In the early 1970's In an effort to cut costs Tour Operators worked with airlines to offer a cheaper alternative to the 'Sky Diner'. A brand new concept was thus introduced - 'Seat Back Catering'. This proved to be far less successful than had been hoped. As the name implies, each passenger's food was locked away in the seat back in a plastic, locker style container. The major short coming was that the meals for both outward and inbound journeys were stored at the same time in back of each seat. In the case of a Manchester to Tenerife flight that meant that the return flights' food was stored for more than 6 hours before it could be eaten by homeward bound traveller. Even more if the flight had been delayed. Passengers were given keys to access their food and this too proved problematic as some, less than charitable, passengers quickly worked out a way of breaking into the locker and eating the return passenger's food as well! Leaving a significant shortfall for each returning flight. The food was also a cold, invariably sandwiches and cake. When one considers the time travelling to an airport and waiting around to beard flights, hungry passengers certainly looked upon the food with dismay. At one time one, unnamed, Tour Operator even stopped all but biscuits on it's charters in an effort to reduce it's costs further. Dan Air's cabin crew bore the brunt of the passenger disquiet and the company eventually commented in it's in flight Magazine that "Catering on Dan Air scheduled services is provided by Dan Air and on charter flights it is as provided by your Tour Operator."|
From the 1960's until it's demise Dan Air relied heavily on charter flights for much of it's revenue. Over 50% of trade was conducted this way. Ticket prices for scheduled services were much higher than today's ultra competitive environment. Fares and indeed operating licences were very heavily regulated. In the case of an international flight both countries had to approve the airline's application and what's more for every airline from an originating country who successfully applied to serve the route, an airline from the destination country had to be offered the same service. Before the days of deregulation and thus low cost airlines like Ryanair airlines were strictly controlled about how much they could discount fares too. The extremely busy routes between the UK and Ireland for instance cost more per mile than to fly to the United States. Scheduled services also flew at convenient times of the day which suited business travellers. It was natural then that as Dan Air began over the years to increase it's scheduled division that it should feature a dedicated business class. In the economy section of the aircraft passengers could still enjoy complimentary drinks and food as well as free newspapers and the convenience of better departure times and an increased passenger: crew ratio. Dan Air's charter passenger were not however so fortunate with on board facilities such as free drinks. Having almost 200 people on board a Boeing 707 en route to America taking more than 7 hours would mean that more than one bar service could be carried out. Drinks were made available to passengers to purchase. These included both alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks. Whilst food was served free as well as tea and coffee to accompany meals everything else had to be paid for. This is commonplace now for the vast majority of airlines. It is fair to say that Dan Air and other airlines did not grossly over charge passengers. The drinks were more expensive than landside bar prices. Profitability is high on an airline's list of priorities and it has proved to be the saviour of many modern day carriers. Easy Jet for example charge almost £3 (UK 2016) for a cup of coffee and upward of £5 (UK 2016) for a sandwich. They insist that they don't mind if you bring your own food. It can be argued that is offset with the low cost of the flight itself.
The 'Sky Diners - Being Served on a BAC 1-11 c1975
Showing the far from roomy conditions on a Comet C 1973
|In flight entertainment|
The early days of Dan Air's operation passenger had no entertainment other than what they saw through the windows of the aircraft. By the 1960s passengers would find a magazine inside the seat pocket to while away the journey. This would include a bar tariff and details of duty free goods and prices. It also had a route map and emergency information. Flying was a new experience for most people and looking at the world below was enough of a thrill for most. An in flight bulliten was passed around the cabin. This told passengers the names of the crew. It also featured a map charting the route. Details of altitude, airspeed, outside temperature were also noted. It wasn't until the 1990's that charter airlines started offering in flight entertainment. Most charter airlines charged passengers for headsets that enabled them to listen to dedicated channels of music and the latest movies shown of small screens in thei aisles. These were the size of a portable TV. Several of them dotted along the length of the aircraft enabled viewing. It had started a revolution in the air. Dan - Air made no effort to join the trend. All the other airlines on charter services either sold or gave free their headphones. New aircraft had these screens fitted as standard. Some of Dan - Air's aircraft were small and retro fitting the system would have been very costly. This could explain why the 727 had no in flight entertainment, Strangley the newer aircraft also omitted to have the product. It was Dan Air's mistake. Although the cost would have run into the hundreds of thousands of pounds, entertainment was an attractive selling point to tour operators and offered the airline chance to make revenue from the sale of headsets.
By the mid 1970s the interiors had new look with the sewing bay at Lasham helping keep the seats looking in this typical contemporary style. The new uniform was designed by the house of Mansfield and ushered in a new period of rapid expansion. Left is a BAC1-11 and Right is Boeing 727
It is often claimed that charter airlines "crammed" passengers into their cabins. This is certainly the case when they are compared against large scheduled service airlines who would not risk losing passengers with such practices. But in the highly competitive IT and charter market if your seat per mile ratio is not comparable, or even better than your competitors, then it is likely they will leave you when contracts are up for renewal, or not even consider you for any new contracts. When Dan Air emerged as a major player in the charter market of the 1960's it was able to offer aircraft of different sizes and performances. This was an ideal set up for the time. The flexibility that Dan - Air could offer Tour Operators aircraft was unparalelled. The airline dad aircraft that had as few as 48 seats with the HS 748 through to 89 seats in the smallest BAC 1-11 jets to almost 200 with it's Boeing 707 was a major selling point. British Midland were also flying Boeing 707's. They had a capacity of 218 passengers. When compared to Dan Air's 189 one can see that Dan Air's passengers enjoyed more leg room.
|The Dan - Air girls, and they were all girls had anjoyed wearing a variety of different uniforms. They changed every three to four years. The 1975 look was much admired. It featured an almost black suit with red piping. The hostess was free to wear a striking red blouse or a more subtle blue one. The knee lengths had changed too. The red unifor of the early seventies had seen the girls in mini skirts! The new look seating that came on stream in the mid 1970s featured new overhead lockers the cabin walls featured sketches of well known London landmarks. The seat covers, unique to Dan - Air were quite distinctive. By now most major Tour Operators were using Dan - Air. It's unrivalled flexibility allowed them to sell to smaller operators. Larger Tour Operators often chartered only part of an aircraft and that suited the airline as they could offer surplus seats to other companies.|
|In contract to Dan - Air's mixed type fleet, airlines with single type fleets had to fly the same aircraft to high density destinations as well as the more off beat routes. That sometimes meant either flying the aircraft under occupied, selling excess seats to other operators or flying to the route less often. Dan Air had so far, chosen not to operated larger, wide bodied aircraft. They were of the opinion that should an aircraft be underviceable down route, it is difficult to find a replacement for. One DC10 could carry 350 passengers, finding a spare DC10 or three smaller aircraft was difficult. Ironically it is quite the reverse now, many airlines prefer single type operations. They are easy to replace should technical problems arise and modern day methods can calculate more effectively fleet utilization. The advent of the internet and low cost carriers flying to airports some distance from the major cities have managed to keep costs low. Airlines can lease aircraft and negotiate better terms for brand new aircraft too. When Dan - Air commenced ABD and affinity group tours in the early 1970s they had sent teams to the USA to evaluate the Douglas DC 8 aircraft. The large, four engined aircraft could carry up to 220 passengers. Dan - Air would be the first airline in the UK to fly the type and therefore there would be additional costs to get the aircraft onto the UK Civil Register. The Government were also punitive with tax and tarrif charges applied to airlines who purchased none UK built aircraft where available. The Government had leaned heavily on British Caledonian who wanted the Boeing 737. Instead they were pushed into ordering the BAC 1-11. Even the then state owned British Airways had wanted the Boeing 727 only to be bullied into purchasing the Trident. Dan - Air's first choice of long haul aircraft was rejected, despite the company going as far as to produce publicty material with the DC8 on it. In mid negotiation the Dan - Air team flew to the Boeing plant in Seattle and started investigating the 707. This was eventually purchased, second hand from Pan Am. The first two Boeing 707s to arrive were already 12 years old when they joined Dan - Air. They had been some of the first 707s to be built. One in particular, G-AYSL was affectionately known as 'Sick Lil' and 'Spred Legs' as the aircraft often had technical problems. Neverltheless these aircraft could carry 189 passengers across the Atlantic and beyond. The aircraft had excellent galleys on board. Fred Newman, Dan - Air's chairman said after just eight years of using them, that they had been that they had been "unsuccessful"|
This might have been that many of the UK airlines had not stuck to the rules entirely with the ABC affinity flights. Transatlantic air travel was stricltly controlled. The ABC flights were a way of getting affinity groups to America on flights that were significantly cheaper than scheuled services. Beofre long, travel agents were encouraging peope to set up groups that could qualify to travel. 'Bird Watching Groups' quickly sprung up and most people were found not to be members of these groups at all, despite the rules saying that people had to be members of a group for three months and have a specific reason to travel to the USA. Nevertheless Dan Air obtained several Boeing 707 aircraft and alongside those flights they were used on round the World charters for a German Tour firm as well as several high density charters in Europe. or those interested in how Dan - Air planned for their DC 8 to look, it is featured below, with a picture from a leaflet showing the service on a Boeing 707.
(L) What Might Have Been - The DC 8 (C) On Board The Boeing 707 (R) An off duty Sue Brewer sent us this picture showing the interior of a surprisingly smart Boeing 707
|Through the 1970s the Comet aircraft soldiered on. The later models had room for 119 passengers, in what could hardly be described as absolute comfort, as the picture to the left shows. The author has sat on these seats in 2014 whilst visiting East Fortune in Scotland as their guest. I am an average height and my knees were touching the seat in front. Some of the seats are actually facing each other! Imagine having three sets of knees almost touching during a four hour flight to the Canary Islands. Cabin staff and Flight Deck crews loved them. They all say similar things "You felt safe on the Comet" - "Everything was solid" Pilots said "It handled like a dream" - "It was so overpowered" - "It's rate of climb was excellent" Whilst they are fantastic things to say about an aircraft, when compared to a Boeing 737 with quieter cabins and more leg room, the aircraft was dated. Dan - Air kept the type not only because they had good perfomance qualities, but because they owned them outright and had therefore no leases to pay for. This meant that the balance costs favoured the aircraft, but only just. By the late 1970s the Comet used as much fuel carrying 119 passengers as a DC 10 carring 345 people. The company had purchased these jets from many sources and of the 70 Comets produced Dan - Air had 49 of them through it's hands. Some never saw service as they were in a bad shape when they arrived. It was surprising that they were allowed to fly to Lasham! Some models were reported to have cost only £6,000. But the jets had low milage in many cases and they had many flying hours left before they had reached their frame life. Although they looked like they had come from another era, in fact most of them were only around 15 years old. Some of the aircraft that never saw service were used for spares. The next flagship aircraft to join the Dan Air fleet was Boeing's most successful jet at the time, the Boeing 727, which had sold almost six hundred models by the time it entered Dan - Air service in 1973. The airline bought three ex Japan Airlines models and a costly programme of getting them ready for UK certification had to be completed. That is covered in the history section of this site. Suffice to say Dan - Air did not want the seating other 727 had. Whilst most 727s carried. With a 34" pitch seats the aircraft was designed to carry up to 125 passengers. Dan - Air wanted an extra five rows added. Bringing the seat pitch down to 30" and increasing capacity to 151.Something no other airline had ever done. For this to be permitted the aircraft had to have extra emergency doors added, floors strengthened and redesigned galleys. The 727 was one of the noisiest aircraft that flew, it was also loved by passengers. Some cabin crew did not like the central galley, but the attractive and stylish aircraft was a hit with passengers who had never seen the type on the UK register. The initial order for three was increased as they became available. Within five years Dan-Air were operating eight Boeing 727 100s. By the time 1980 arrived they had supplemented the type with the 200 version of the jet which by the time it had stopped production had sold almost 2000 models. The 200 version carried a maximum of 189 passengers. Other airlines had high density versions which seated the same. The 737 which other airlines employed iin the UK carried 130 people. This gave Dan - Air an advantage. As Dan - Air had established a base in Berlin in 1968 and up to five aircraft were stationed there to fly|
Located at a museum in Scotland - the picture shows how the Comet looked upon retirement in 1978
|German holidaymakers to European hot spots. The Germans were more demanding of Dan - Air and insisted on an increased seat pitch. They wanted the Boeing 727 to carry a maximum of 141 passengers which was only three rows more than the standard layout for the type. The video from You Tube shown below shows what the passenger and crew experience was like on a typical Dan - Air flight out of Berlin. There is no sound to the video.|
|Seat Back Catering|
One of the most infamous memories of in flight service in the charter airline industry was seat back catering! The concept bagan early in the 1970s. Clarkson's Holidays was one of the UK's biggest Tour Operators. It had a reputation for offering the cheapest holidays on the market. Court Line's 'seat-back' catering permitted a reduction in the amount of galley space inside its aircraft's cabins. The extra space obtained was equivalent to three seats on the One-Eleven 400. This enabled it to increase seating densities and reduce individual seat rates to allow tour operators to hold on to their market shares in a price-sensitive environment. Dan - Air was one of Clarkson's biggest contracts, the Court Line fleet was small by comparison and so much of Clarkson's business came Dan - Air's way.
The concept itself consisted of pre-packed meals or snacks — usually, Spam salads out and sandwiches back — loaded into a small, two-shelf compartment in the seat back in front of each passenger. The meal/snack for the outbound journey could be found in the top compartment, the one for the return trip in the lower section. The latter contained a pellet of dry ice placed under the plastic food container. This simple refrigeration technique prevented food for the return trip that would spend several hours inside a small, confined space from going off. For the airline's cabin staff, it eliminated handling trays while airborne and resulted in a reduction of their workload. To prevent outbound passengers from consuming meals intended for return passengers, locks needed to be installed on the lower compartment that could only be opened by cabin staff during the aircraft's turnaround at the destination airport (although these were not always effective at deterring determined passengers). Who found that a pair of tweezers was all that was needed to open the box.
In addition to Court Line/Clarksons, Great Universal Stores (GUS) subsidiary Global was a major proponent of "seat-back" catering among the UK's leading contemporary tour operators. It demanded that package holiday costs be driven down to the bare minimum by replacing the traditional meal service on holiday charter flights with something much cheaper that would simply give passengers "a slice of pie". Industry insiders referred to Global's new inflight catering concept as Global Pie. The cost advantage industry leaders such as Court Line/Clarksons and Global gained over their rivals as a result of their onboard catering innovation eventually forced every other major UK charter airline to adopt "seat-back" catering on most flights serving short- and medium-haul IT destinations.
Seat Back Catering
|Clarkson's spectacularly went bust in 1971 and Court Line had to rescue them. The company had invested heavily in computer equipment and sold holidays cheaper than they were able to organise them. Just three years later Court Line also went out oof business. Thousands of passengers were stranded. The ATOL bonding scheme ensured everyone was repatriated. Those who had booked holidays scheduled for future dates were not so fortunate. The secretary of state, Tony Benn, mindful of an upcoming election promised that all passengers would get their money back. This had happened. With Clarkson's no longer in business, there was no necessity to offer the seat back catering which had proven to be unpopular with passengers and crew. By 1975 the concept was dead and buried.|
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