It's fair to say that Dan-Air is best remembered as a charter carrier. For many years the vast number of passengers were, indeed, flown on charter services. The regulations that were in force in the UK, and for that matter, Europe, placed heavy emphasis on Scheduled Services being carried out by state run national carriers. Regular charter flights in the 1950s could only be operated if the whole of the holiday package price was the same as a standard scheduled return fare. No UK airlines other that BEA and BOAC could operate scheduled services out of London Heathrow and even then, a scheduled service licence would only be granted to an independent airline if the two state airlines had no objections to another airline operating it! Licences in the early days were granted by the Air Traffic Licencing Board (ATLB) and later on, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It is inconceivable today, that those two organisations would not only be responsible for granting licences, but that they would decide what days the services could operate, what frequency it would fly and even the fares! Each time an airline wanted to increase or decrease a fare, it would have to be approved. Approved services would be licenced for a specific period of time. At the end of the period, the licence would be reviewed.
Dan-Air's initial scheduled service would operate from their base at Blackbushe to Jersey. That service would transfer to London Gatwick when Blackbushe was scheduled for closure. Dan-Air and other carriers then moved their main operation to the recently upgraded Gatwick.
British European Airways (BEA) objected when Dan-Air applied to serve Liverpool to Rotterdam. BEA already flew Manchester to Rotterdam. BEA stated that a Liverpool service might dilute their own operation from Manchester, if people had a choice of two airports!
BEA were permitted to fly direct from Heathrow to all the European capitals, most regional UK airports had domestic services into Heathrow operated into Heathrow - the airport that denied entry for independent operators. In addition to this, BEA and the intercontinetal operator British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) flew direct services from secondary airports like Manchester to many European capitals. There was very little for the independents to operate profitably. Unless a carrier like Dan-Air flew Liverpool - Rotterdam! Something, that was objected to! Ultimately, the licence was granted and Dan-Air would have to work hard to make the service a success.
In 1968 Dan-Air created 'Link City' in an effort to offer something that BEA had not tried. These short hop trips would operate, as the name suggests, in a circular rotation, flying many sectors a day. A passenger could fly from Gatwick to Bristol, where other passengers would join the flight on a ten minute flight to Cardiff before carrying on to drop off and pick up passengers in Gloucester, Manchester, Liverpool, Carlisle, Newcaslte and Glasgow.
The Nord 262 joined the fleet in 1970 offering passengers greater comfort. The 'Link-City' flights had minimal turnarounds of a little as five minutes at the airports served. This convenience pleased passengers, but irritated British Rail, who formally objected to the flights.
By 1971 several different 'Link-City' services were being operated. Birmingham, Tees Side, Prestwick, Leeds/Bradford and Bournemouth were added to the network. Several aircraft flew the services in different directions, giving passengers greater flexibility. The seventies saw Dan-Air operate a huge programme of scheduled services into the Isle of Man, at one time, the island was served from Manchester, Carlisle, Prestwick, Cardiff, Bristol, Leeds, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Tees-side, Jersey and Glasgow, among others. The Channel Islands were well served from many UK airports. With Jersey and Guernsey having services from Gatwick, Bournemouth, Leeds, Manchester and others.
Only a few International services were operated in the early 1970s - Seventeed years after the airline commenced operations. These being:
- Newcastle - Stavanger & Kristiansand
- Tees Side - Stavanger
- Gatwick - Berne
- Gatwick - Ostend
- Liverpool - Amsterdam.
The Liverpool - Rotterdam service had been successful, but Dan-Air believed that there would be bigger opportunities if the service was changed to Amsterdam. There would be hearings at the CAA to weigh up any implications of the change. Naturally BEA objected, but for once, they were over-ruled and the new service began. For quite a long period this service was the only international flight to operate from Liverpool.
In 1972 licences were granted for
- Gatwick - Montpelliler
- Gatwick - Beauvais
- Gatwick - Clermont Ferrand
- Newcastle - Bergan
Dan-Air took over troubled carrier Skyways, and their fleet of Hawker Siddeley 748 turboprops. The aircraft had forty plus seats, a dozen or so more than the Nord 262 which left the fleet. The 748 allowed for improved catering standards. The 748 was suited to the 'Link City' operation and had the performance to match the Ambassador on the Scandinavian flights.
Dan-Air introduced a jet service when the Comet began operating the Liverpool - Amsterdam service. There were many obvious attractions in providing a jet on the service. The flying time was reduced considerably and passengers could be served a hot breakfast, something no competitors were offering. Sadly the greatly increased capacity of the jet saw many seats empty. The inefficiencies saw 748s replace the Comet. The first jet to operate a regular service was the BAC 1-11 which was introduced when Dan-Air was granted a licence to serve Gatwick and Perpignan in southern France in 1978, the airline's silver jubilee year.
Domestic services continued to grow steadily throughout the 1970s with several airports joining the Link City. Point to point licences would be awarded on
- Gatwick - Dinard
- Gatwck - Strasbourg
The start of the 1980s saw
- Gatwick - Toulouse
- Gatwick - Munich
By 1983, after a big push by Dan-Air more licences were granted:
- Gatwick - Munich
- Gatwick - West Berlin
- Gatwick - Berne
- Gatwick - Zurich
British Airways lost their licence on the London Heathrow - Inverness service following complaints of poor performance and service. BA had been operating the loss making flights for several years. Dan-Air were awarded the rights to operate the flights. It would be the first time that the airline would operate in and out of Heathrow, and they were determined not to disappoint passengers. Great strides were made with improved in-flight service on this and other scheduled services. Hot meals were provided where possible, as well as a complimentary bar service on domestic services. This was a new concept on domestic flights. Dan-Air was praised for all aspects of in flight service, even winning the best airline tea award.
In 1985 new schedules were introduced:
- Gatwick - Madrid
- Gatwick - Lisbon
- Gatwick - Alicante
- Gatwick - Seville
- Gatwick - Innsbrucke
- Gatwick - Saarbrucken
The introduction of the British Aerospace 146 in 1883 brought in a new standard flying. The super quiet engines and low operating costs would give Dan-Air a competitive advantage over many rivals. Dan-Air was the world's launch customer of the type. The jet could land in airports with short runways, in the case of Innsbrucke, it was the only jet that could serve the airport. In 1985 new route applications were successful for;
- Gatwick - Lourdes
- Gatwick - Ibiza
- Gatwick - Mahon
- Gatwick - Dublin
- Cork - Jersey
Also in 1985, for the first time, a foreign carrier would operat a domestic service in another EU country, when Dan-Air linked West Berlin and Saarbrucken in Germany. Domestic flights would operate throughout the eighties between Gatwick and Manchester, Newcastle, and Belfast.
Following the collapse of Air Europe in 1991, Dan-Air was in a position to take over many of the bankrupt carrier's routes. These included
- Gatwick - Palma
- Gatwick - Gibraltar
- Gatwick -Paris
- Gatwick - Brussels
- Gatwick - Rome
- Gatwick - Barcelona
- Gatwick - Stockholm
- Gatwick - Vienna
- Gatwick - Oslo.
- Gatwick - Athens
- Gatwick - Malta
- Gatwick - Istanbul
- Gatwick - Ciaro
For full details of individual routes that Dan-Air operated - Check out the airline's ROUTE NETWORK
Other services were added or withdrawn at various times during the airline's 39 year history. Some routes were remarkably successful, such as Heathrow-Inverness. Others were less succesful, such as Heathrow-Manchester, where the airline faced a price war and stiff competition from British Airways. Several regional services were operated from Manchester, Newcastle and Tees Side where Dan-Air had substantial bases. The in-flight standard of service aboard Dan-Air was high, even in the early days. The CAA, incredibly, even had rules about that! Airlines were not permitted to offer two classes on domestic flights. Nevertheless Dan-Air offered business travellers small incentives, such as radioing ahead if a passenger needed car hire upon arrival and offering wives half price tickets when accompanying husbands.
By the 1980s as competition became more stiff and rules less so, Dan-Air was able to offer services timed to meet business travellers' needs. Some aircraft did not have hot ovens to provide cooked breakfasts and Dan-Air pioneered the use of vaccuum packed catering boxes where meals could be brought on board and stay hot for several hours. The Inverness-Heathrow early morning service was heralded as a new standard in domestic service. Dan-Air served haggis on the glorious 12th, served local whiskey on Burn's Night and even sourced local preserves for breakfasts. The introduction of lounges for business travellers was introduced in the late 1980s. These sanctuaries provided quiet time for business passengers to work, eat and relax at airports. A dedicated business cabin 'Class Elite' was launched in 1987. This featured dedicated check in, lounge access, priority boarding and disembarking, increased luggage, limousine transfers, superior in flight catering on board a separate cabin, where passengers were given much improved leg room. If the cabin layout had three seats, the middle seat was not sold, but instead turned into a table. As the literature presented here shows, Dan-Air Scheduled Services had come a long way in thirty nine years.