Aer Lingus is celebrating a diamond anniversary and national milestone this Saturday, April 28 - exactly 60 years to the date since the airline commenced flying across the Atlantic.
The Aerlínte Éireann Lockheed L1049 Super Constellation aircraft embarked on its inaugural flight from Dublin and Shannon to New York with a crew of 6 tending to 99 guests in economy class.
Today Aer Lingus operates largely Airbus A330 aircraft crossing the Atlantic carrying as many as 317 guests on each flight.
To celebrate its diamond anniversary, Aer Lingus has launched a summer stateside deal offering €100 saving on return flights to all direct North American destinations, valid for travel from 16 June to 31 October.
Over the past 60 years, Aer Lingus airline has carried 35 million transatlantic guests.
Initially, guests could fly to New York and Boston, whereas today Aer Lingus offers direct connections from Ireland to 13 North American destinations.
This summer marks Aer Lingus’ largest ever long-haul programme with 2.75 million seats across the Atlantic including new direct routes to Philadelphia, beginning March, and Seattle which will commence in May.
In 1958, Aerlínte Éireann became the 17th airline to begin scheduled services across the North Atlantic and the inaugural flight touched down to a salute from the 165th Infantry of the New York National Guard.
Before departing, the airline held a celebratory banquet attended by then Taoiseach Éamon de Valera and Minister for Industry and Commerce Seán Lemass as well as the Mayors of Dublin and New York and a large press contingent.
Early flights were populated mostly with those emigrating from Ireland and it is estimated that the airline carried close to 15,000 guests to and from New York in its first year.
Flight time from Ireland to New York was then approximately 14 hours outbound and cruising altitude was between 16,000 and 18,000 feet making the journey more susceptible to turbulence.
In 2018, the outbound flight duration of the ever-popular Dublin to JFK journey is almost halved at a scheduled 7hrs 30mins.
Lily O’Connell, age 79 from Leopardstown is former Aer Lingus cabin crew, having started with the airline in 1958.
Speaking at the celebrations she said: "Becoming an ‘air hostess’ was my dream job, it was always my number 1.
“When I was flying back then we would fly from Dublin to Shannon and pick up passengers at both airports and then fly to New York. I loved the passengers, everyone was just so friendly and lovely. There was great excitement in the air.
“I remember the Americans on board coming to ‘I-R-Land’, as they called it, they were so excited to be meeting their Irish family connections for the first time. For Irish people flying home – they had saved for months for the airfare as they were so expensive back then so it was just lovely on board, everyone was in great spirits.
Commenting on the anniversary, Ruth Ranson, Director of Communications at Aer Lingus, said:
“This weekend we proudly celebrate the heritage of our national airline and commemorate an important milestone in Irish history.
"Over the past 60 years we have warmly welcomed leisure travellers, business travellers, emigrants and home visitors onboard, continually growing and championing connectivity between Ireland and the US.
"On behalf of Aer Lingus, we would like to express our gratitude to all those who have chosen to travel with us over the past 60 years and we now look forward to welcoming the next 35 million new transatlantic guests onboard.”
To learn more about Aer Lingus visit www.aerlingus.com.