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Marisa Mackle: Industry tailspin ends heady days

'I come to work for a rest,' the mummy air hostesses used to say to me.

When I first joined Aer Lingus as cabin crew I couldn't understand why the older girls would go straight to their hotel rooms after landing to get a good night's sleep. Some of them would tell me they'd have a glass of wine in the bath before snuggling into bed with a book.

I was 23 when I joined Aer Lingus and the last thing I wanted to do when I got to my hotel in Paris, Switzerland or Boston was go to my room. I would immediately change to go out partying.

Now, as a mummy, I understand where those older girls were coming from. Sometimes I think I'd love to leave baby Gary at home and spend the night in a luxury hotel, quietly reading magazines.

Back then I had a ball. I shopped in Chicago, sunbathed in LA, life was one great party. My friends were in awe of my job. People would greet you on the street if you were in an Aer Lingus uniform. It was as if they owned you. You represented their national airline. Sometimes, people clapped when you came into arrivals. It was a bit like being a celebrity.

There was often a great atmosphere on board. Nobody paid for drinks or food and the champagne flowed.

I could have stayed on and partied some more, but I realised that I wanted something more so I moved to head office to work in the communications office, travelling first class around the world.

Then came September 11 and the airline business changed forever. I accepted voluntary redundancy and became a novelist. Some of my colleagues, however, remained loyal to the airline. That loyalty has not paid off. The party is over. And the resulting hangover is anything but glamorous.