"THE EARLIEST flight from London to Lisbon", was the confident claim of an advertisement from Dan-Air.

"Dan-Air fly to Lisbon almost two and a half hours earlier than anyone else," it continued. "From Gatwick, London's most convenient airport. With English breakfast on the way out and lunch on the way back."

Once British Airways swallowed British Caledonian in 1987, the mantle of an independent scheduled airline passed to the venerable charter company Davies and Newman, abbreviated to Dan-Air London. It established a network of scheduled services from its base at Gatwick to a number of European capitals, but never had the frequency and market penetration necessary to succeed; the Lisbon service ran just three times a week, compared with daily departures from Heathrow with British Airways and TAP Air Portugal.

There are echoes of AB Airlines' attempt two years ago to break the duopoly on the London-Lisbon route. Its flights from Gatwick foundered soon after the no-frills Go started flying from Stansted.

And does anyone recall Prestel? Travellers were urged to consult Dan- Air on this precursor to the Internet.

Fares are now lower than they were 10 years ago: pounds 120 return on Go, compared with pounds 146 on Dan-Air.

"Dan-Air Scheduled Services - we're going places", the ad concludes. This was all too true. The destination was takeover by British Airways, via bankruptcy.