30 Year Journey: I Met Another Ex-Shipyard Welder Like Me. Billy Connolly!

By: Maxine Sheppard

June 26, 2014

It’s been 30 star-studded years since Flight Service Manager Malcolm King Mackinnon first took to the skies, and he certainly has a story or two up his sleeve…

You get what you give

I came to join Virgin Atlantic 30 years ago by default really. It was my girlfriend at the time who had the interview with the Cabin Crew Manager, I had just gone along to give moral support. So there I was, sitting on the couch waiting when the door opened and I was asked if I’d like to come in for a chat. Why not, I thought. So I did. And here I am now.

Looking back, the thing I’ve learned most over the last 30 years is that you get out what you put in. On a personal level, I can now swim. Not that I’ve had to put that particular skill into practice after baling out of a plane over the ocean, I’m pleased to tell you!


At the risk of name-dropping, I’ve met a few celebs along the way, too. I met the comedian Billy Connolly on a LAX flight a few years ago. Talking to him, I realised that we had both worked in the same shipyard in Glasgow as welders – which was an amazing coincidence! Also, back in the years of Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Challenger project, I had the opportunity to steer the Challenger at full throttle down the Hudson River in New York with Roger Daltrey from “˜The Who’. I’ll never forget him riding on the bow, shirt wide open, doing his take of the Leonardo Di Caprio/Kate Winslett scene from “˜Titanic’ – incredible.

A world of opportunities

Apart from meeting the rich and famous, there are many other things that stand out. I was on board the first flight back to Newark after 9/11. There were a lot of Americans travelling with us who had had family or friends caught up in the Twin Towers tragedy and you could feel the raw emotion on board. On a lighter note, I remember watching two “˜Peabody Ducks’ waddle into our room party on the 26th floor of the Peabody Hotel in Orlando and wondering how the hell they got there! I’ve got to mention, too, that the job has given my wife and I the opportunity to visit all the continents on the planet. The place that really sticks out for me is Bora Bora in the South Pacific, but I remember that Richard Branson promised my wife and I a trip to Necker if we made it to 30 years. I hope you’re reading this, Richard!


If you’re thinking about a Cabin Crew job, my advice is to treat every trip as an adventure, treat it like it’s your last and get out of the hotel and do something. It’s a fun and rewarding job, but you do need to be approachable, professional and loyal. If you’ve got those qualities, you’ll get on.

Malcolm King Mackinnon

1984: Hoped his girlfriend would get the cabin crew job.

2014: Hoping Richard honours his Necker trip promise.

Find out more about our culture and what it takes to ‘be Virgin Atlantic’ on our careers website


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.