WE were treated like celebrities. We regularly stayed in four- and five-star hotels with our own huge ensuite bedrooms complete with mini bars. It was pretty normal for our hotels to have fancy gyms and luxury swimming pools. We often had Champagne in the evening, followed by breakfast in bed.
We sometimes travelled by limousine from the airport to our hotel, if our private minibus wasn't available. Although we had to wear a uniform at work, it was one created by a top designer. Even the luggage we were provided with was simply the best quality.
A new series, PAN AM, starts on RTE2 on Monday evening and it follows the fortunes of four air stewardesses in the rapidly changing world of 1960s America. It's an era when a visit to the airport signified excitement and glamour.
Although I don't know much about PAN AM, I have fond memories of working for Aer Lingus. I was very young when I started, with a passion to see the world and live life to the max. When I got the call to say that I had been accepted, I almost cried. I had to pinch myself to make sure they weren't joking. They were going to pay me to fly? Hell, I would have paid them!
The training was quite intensive. Safety was the priority, of course, and we had lots of exams to pass -- you had to score 100pc. Some of our training sessions were held in the swimming pool at Dublin Airport which, as you can imagine, was a lot of fun. We also had grooming and make-up lessons and were taught deportment -- such as how to walk as though you were looking over the top of a wall.
I had never worn nail varnish before I started air hostessing so at first I found it a bit tiring having to wear it every single day. We were encouraged to wear very bright lipstick because of the harsh lights in the cabin. Also, we were told not to wear strong perfume because it might overwhelm passengers eating their breakfast.
You had to be a lady. You couldn't raise your voice and shout down the cabin to another crew member. You were expected to conduct yourself with dignity at all times.
You couldn't be fat either. If you put on weight you couldn't just order another uniform in a bigger size. Instead, you would have to have a meeting with your supervisor to discuss going on a diet. I'm not sure what the protocol is now but I hope they don't still get away with that!
No matter where you were in your uniform, people would stop to talk and seemed very pleased to see you. I remember checking in to the Corrib Hotel in Galway with my crew, and everybody in the lobby started clapping. It was nice to represent your country and your airline and I was very proud to do so.
The transatlantic flights were especially exciting. You could be in Boston for maybe three nights in a row, or in New York every week during the summer. I became very good at shopping and spending my cash overnight allowance.
My fondest memory was spending Christmas in Santa Monica, California, with my entire family courtesy of the airline. There was a lottery for who got Christmas abroad and everyone wanted New York or LA. I worked the flight out with my family onboard, stayed four nights and then worked the flight back. We were on Venice Beach on Christmas Day and then had Mass in the courtyard of the hotel. All the crew had their families there and we all ended up swimming in the outdoor pool on Christmas night under the stars.
Boyfriends would get a little jealous and passengers did regularly ask for your number, but they rarely got it. I was always looking out for wedding rings, too. The fun we had was fantastic. It was amazing to be working with so many people the same age as you, and every night was party night.
If we were staying overnight in a hotel and I had forgotten my party clothes, I would buy a Guinness T-shirt from duty free and wear it out clubbing with my uniform skirt.
People always ask me which celebrities were the nicest. Every day you seemed to meet somebody famous so it was hard to say, but Bono, Adam Clayton, Daniel Day-Lewis and Helena Christensen were my favourites. Dana was the nicest politician by miles.
When I joined Aer Lingus I was in the first group to be recruited in eight years so, naturally, the pilots were excited to meet us. I only went on two dates with pilots in six years and never joined them for a drink in their room -- I remember one particularly randy captain phoning my room at 3am looking for a corkscrew but I can safely say he got short shrift!
I always tried to work in first class if I could because you had fewer passengers to deal with and you also got your pick of the lovely cabin-crew meals. The food came especially prepared from Dublin's top restaurants and it was delicious. It was so hard not to eat your way from New York to Dublin.
I remember when I first joined the airline, some of the older cabin crew used to reminisce about the good old days.
The jumbo jet, by all accounts, was like a flying hotel. In the '60s and '70s there were fewer flights so crews could stay in the States, or sunning themselves in the Caribbean, for a week. Some of the older cabin crew would secretly call us newbies the 'yellow pack' girls.
They didn't like to accept change. Maybe they were seeing their earlier years through rose-tinted glasses. I suppose now, I'm doing the same. But isn't it such a nice way to look back?
PAM AM starts on RTE2 on Monday at 9pm Marisa Mackle is the author of the international bestseller The Mile High Guy