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Last Updated: Monday, 20 October, 2003, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Living Concorde's high life
By Bryony Jones
BBC News Online, Bristol

For most people, flying on Concorde is an impossible dream, the stuff of lottery wins and holidays of a lifetime.

For the lucky few, 'The Bird' is a convenient method of travel, the equivalent of a bus or a train to the rest of us.

Neil Smith, a member of the Concorde cabin crew
Neil recently attended a Concorde 'memory day' in Bristol

But for one or two, stepping onto the supersonic aircraft is the start of just another day at the office.

Neil Smith, 28, from Thornbury, near Bristol, became Concorde's youngest cabin crew member when he took up his post 18 months ago.

He looks after the rich, the famous and anyone else who can afford the 1,000-plus ticket price on transatlantic flights from Heathrow.

"I normally fly the London-New York route, but my last trip is from London to Boston as part of the farewell tour," he said.

"After that I'll go back to working on 747s."

A childhood spent moving from place to place fuelled Neil's desire to work in the travel industry.

'Ultimate thrill'

"My dad's job meant we moved around a lot - I knew I wanted to keep travelling, so becoming a cabin crew member seemed ideal.

"The idea of flying on Concorde was always at the back of my mind."

Identity badge and crest belonging to Neil Smith, a member of the Concorde cabin crew
Concorde is so much more than nuts and bolts - it has a life of its own
Neil Smith

And Neil's fascination with the aircraft has not worn off - despite the fact he sees it almost daily.

"Some people just view it as an aeroplane, but to me it is much more than that," he said.

"It's not just nuts and bolts, it has a life of its own, so working on Concorde has been the ultimate thrill for me."

The job means he is used to dealing with stars and royalty on a daily basis.

"We had Queen Noor of Jordan on the other day, and the Duchess of York, who always likes to sit in the same seat in the front row, and Sting was on last week.

'Hard work'

"During the war in Iraq, I felt that I was getting to watch history as it happened, because Jack Straw was back and forward to the UN in New York so often.

"He seemed to be on every flight I was working on, so I got to know him, what he liked and so on, he even had a BBC film crew with him on one occasion."

Sting at the Concorde check-in desk
Sting is a regular Concorde customer

But it is not all champagne, caviar and celebrities.

"It seems very glamorous, but it is actually plain hard work," he said. "You have a job to do, three hours to do it in, and you have to get on with it.

"There are 100 people on that plane who have paid a lot of money to be there and you have to make sure they are all having the same experience."

Neil added: "One of the things I love about Concorde is the fact that the person sitting in the next row could be Queen Noor, or it could be your next-door neighbour who has remortgaged his house or spent his children's inheritance to afford the flight.

Famous people

"Everyone is treated the same way - flying on Concorde is special for everybody, no matter who they are."

And everyone, it seems, is getting excited about the impending end of the supersonic era.

"There has been a bit of a frenzy whipped up about Concorde since they announced it is going to retire, and becoming more intense as the final days get closer.

"Famous people are just as keen to fly on Concorde in its last few weeks - Gwyneth Paltrow and Catherine Zeta Jones were on the other day.

"They want to say they flew on one of its last flights just as much as everyone else."


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