‘WELCOME to the greatest job in the world, The stratosphere and the beach await you darling”. The captain on my very first flight welcomed me to the team (we all call each other darling or dolly; no-one ever remembers anyone’s name).

My uniform hat was band-box fresh and my dizzily high heels shiny and new, I walked up the spiral staircase on the classic version of the Jumbo Jet and sat on the flight deck during my supernumerary training flight. The pilots and in-flight engineer talked me through the take off and I listened to the scratchy air traffic controller tell speed bird that we were cleared to go.

The Jumbo – that most beloved of aircraft – was to be my office for the next 25 years and sadly in the same week as British Airways sent me a redundancy offer they also announced that they were grounding all of their Boeing 747 fleet.

The 747 spiral staircase to the heavens has long since been a thing of the past but her big brother the Boeing 747-400 was supposed to be flying until 2024. Grounded by Covid-19 for the last few months I always thought I would know my last flight on the old bird. Have a chance to say goodbye, one last look around the office.

This is not to be. The British Airways management committee wrote to all colleagues last week to tell us that the flagship of the sky was set to be immediately retired ... and that my time as an International Long Haul air hostess was soon to go the way of the Jumbo.

You never forget your first time taking to the stratosphere and you never forget your first time seeing the Aurora Borealis. I was lucky enough to experience both on the same flight. It was like the heavens themselves had decided to bless my thrilling new career.

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If seeing the Northern Lights is magical on the ground then believe me when I say there are no words to describe seeing the greatest show on Earth through the flight deck windows of a Jumbo Jet.

I didn’t know at that time that flying is like a drug ... the highs are incredible and the lows devastating. It’s a lifestyle and not a job and the sacrifices are difficult. I’ve missed birthdays and weddings, funerals and friends’ important events, Christmases with my little girls. And yet I can’t get over the privilege and the fun and laughter and the glamour, the rockstars and the A-list celebs, that lovely old couple travelling to see their newborn grandchild, the romance and the dreams on the faces of honeymoon couples, helping babies be born and crying as someone we tried to save just passed away.

How could anyone ever be anything but wowed at watching Joan Collins, sunglasses on, sashay up the stairs in white fur with what seemed like a million hat boxes and obliging entourage?

I’ve been invited to embassy parties and even to the Playboy mansion. I started my flying career out of London Gatwick, on the division of the company known as Beach Fleet, and while we worked hard we partied even harder, out of LGW (Let’s Go Wild Airport as it was known to the crew. A champagne lifestyle on lemonade money. Being part of the crew and laughing so hard you could cry. Instant intimacy and friendship.

The tales come flooding back to me now. A colleague once fell over and ripped her skirt almost clean off while handily falling into the lap of the one and only Bond, James Bond himself. Pierce Brosnan, ever the gentleman, caught her and made her laugh when he said “well no-one has ever fallen for me quite that hard before”. Friends tell stories of trying on the coats of world-famous fashion designers and rock stars whilst sashaying around trying not to get caught, stolen weeks with an A-list movie stars, joining the Mile High Club.

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NOW that this is all coming to an end for myself and my friends as the world waves “buh bye” to the queen of the sky I feel so very sad. For 25 years I’ve been rocking the skies, I’ve seen the whole world many times over, made best friends, fallen in (and out of love) seen the pyramids along the Nile, the Bedouin fires by night, and when I travel, I never ever turn right.

I’ve learned to dive in the Seychelles and to ski(ish) in Santiago de Chile. I bought fresh coffee in a tiny village in the blue mountains, I celebrated Chinese New Year at Victoria Peak, Hong Kong, got kissed by Clooney on the cheek, was hugged by De Niro, played air guitar with Keith Richards and showed him my tattoo.

I swapped lip liner gossip with Pamela Anderson and cried over babies with no future in Ugandan orphanages. I’ve stood proudly by my friends in picket lines in gold high heels, I’ve had fried fish at Oistins in Barbados and sipped too many Singapore slings at the long bar at The Raffles Hotel. I’ve made coffee for the most handsome of the Peaky Blinders and David Essex once held my hand.

I’ve danced to rock music at the base of the Grand Canyon, danced with Rastas at Jamaican fiestas and partied too hard at the carnival on Copacabana …it’s been a blast. Doors to manual, old bird. This time forever.