For more than a decade, Mandy Smith was an “international air hostess” for Virgin Atlantic Airways. In her new book, “Cabin Fever” (out Tuesday), she dishes on partying with Virgin mogul Richard Branson, meeting first-class billionaire suitors and joining the Mile High Club in a Cessna. Now 41, the happily married mom tells The Post’s Doree Lewak how after years of looking for love in the sky, she found it in her own back yard …
I was spending my layover in Dubai lying by the pool at a five-star hotel when a server came over with a bottle of Dom Pérignon. Then, a dark-haired hunk in a crisp white shirt approached me. “You look beautiful,” he said, as he extended his hand. “I’m Mahir Asker*, and I’d love to take you out tonight.” Hours later, a Bentley arrived at the hotel to pick me up and a white-gloved driver helped me into the car, which escorted us to our date aboard Asker’s million-dollar yacht. We spent the night sailing around the Persian Gulf, holding hands and munching on salmon tartare, lobster and caviar.
This romantic evening with the handsome billionaire was one of many glamorous dates I had during my 10-year tenure as a Virgin Airlines flight attendant. Life was a blur of moneyed suitors and over-the-top parties. It was more than I could have ever imagined when I was a little girl growing up in the modest town of Hartlepool in northern England. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I did know that I wanted a love like my parents had. They were always cuddling and kissing. Even changing gears in the car, they’d hold hands. They met in school and married at 16; their love was unshakable.
I was 9 years old when I first flew. My father — a sales director for an insurance company — would take us on a few holidays a year. On one trip, while flying to the luxe coastal city of Nerja, Spain, I was mesmerized by the glamorous air hostesses in their yellow and blue uniforms. They looked so elegant and I wanted to be one of them. But at my dad’s urging, I went on to study computer science at Hartlepool College.
After graduation, in 1995, I got a job at Virgin Airlines as a planning support officer in the engineering department. But after three years, I grew bored. “You know, you need to live a little!” my colleague told me after a long, tedious afternoon at the office. I was 26 and had just gotten out of a bad relationship and decided to take the advice to heart. I applied to transfer to cabin crew, figuring I’d rack up some fun experiences and get over my breakup. Who can resist an application that says: “You will work hard, but you will party harder”?
I couldn’t believe what goes on thousands of feet in the air. More than once, I had a passenger slide his hand up my skirt when I was attending to the overhead compartment. And when the lights are dimmed on overnight flights, I’d see randy passengers masturbating while everyone else around them slept. Then there was the couple in the throes of passion who ran around upper-class buck naked. It was a lot to put up with, especially for my meager starting salary of 12,000 pounds (about $19,000) for my 1,000 flying hours a year.
But it was so worth it. From the Caribbean to South Africa, I had a guy at every port. My favorite spot in Barbados was this club full of hot guys. One drunken night, I spotted a rugby team partying at a long table. I jumped on it and knocked back their drinks one by one. Later that night, back in my colleague’s hotel room, the hot tub collapsed because we had invited too many rugby players to join in the fun.
But nothing beats the InterContinental in Johannesburg, where the altitude is 6,000 feet and the booze goes straight to your head. We threw epic parties at the hotel — one time a steward tossed a sofa out of a hotel window. I always brought some wild props with me — my suitcase was like a traveling sex shop. Eventually, I started dating a pilot-in-training named Jonathan. His wings ceremony was epic — held at Sir Richard Branson’s mansion in Cambridge.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked up to the moat leading to the mansion. Richard shook my hand and welcomed me to the party. I’ve never seen so much Champagne in my life. Richard managed to spray everyone with all the open bottles. I stayed up for 24 hours, wired on Red Bull and vodkas. At the end of the glam weekend, guests left with goody bags in hand — stuffed with condoms.
Since I had a steady boyfriend, I decided the time had come to cross another item off my bucket list: the Mile High Club. Jonathan was flying me down to the Florida Keys in a two-seat Cessna when I decided to seize the moment. I climbed on top of him while he was flying and sealed the deal. We had fun together, but my relationship with Jonathan didn’t last. He didn’t want to commit — and I had an endless supply of handsome, wealthy men at my disposal.
One billionaire I met on a flight to New York pursued me relentlessly. He was in his late 30s and chubby, but when my friend told me his family owned football teams, I was intrigued. Robert came to England a few times to try to woo me, but since he was such a public figure, he didn’t like going out, so we’d get room service — Champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and oysters. But I wasn’t really into him, so it was on to the next one.
In Gatwick Airport en route to Vegas, I met a dapper doctor — a Hugh Grant look-alike with a posh British accent — named Stephen. I was convinced I’d found my husband. “I’m ready to settle down with a genuine girl,” he told me over a quiet dinner. As we walked hand-in-hand to the hotel room, I could see myself marrying him, walking down the aisle as a doctor’s wife. We had a steamy night of amazing sex, but when I woke up the next morning, he was gone.
I was heartbroken and humiliated. Soon after that, I decided the high-flying life wasn’t enough for me anymore. I was tired of the rich men buying me Hermès scarves and Manolos instead of making real connections. I wanted real love. In April 2008, instead of going to an exotic island for my vacation, I went to visit some old friends in Brighton. We were catching up over beers when a 6-foot-4 hunk came up to our group to buy everyone shots. Glenn was a former professional rubgy player, and as he chatted me up that night, we realized we had loads of friends in common.
“I play Xbox for a living,” he joked. “I earn a fortune.” The conversation was so comfortable — we just sparked. For our first date, he took me to a local pub — no yachts or limos. And I knew right away that he was the one. He’s certainly no millionaire, but he’s got his own company selling corporate gym memberships. We were engaged after just 18 months of dating. Now that I had found my Prince Charming I knew that I needed to say goodbye to my old, high-flying life. Six years ago, I took a buyout from Virgin.
Today, Glenn and I live in West Sussex with our 4-year-old daughter. I write full time and work for Glenn as his personal assistant. We still travel from time to time, but I couldn’t be happier to have my feet on the ground with my family. *Some names have been changed.