People: Crash-landing for officious airline

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The Independent Culture
AN EMBARRASSING slip-up by the German national airline, Lufthansa: the man with the bushy eyebrows whom they treated so rudely was Theo Waigel, the Finance Minister, who is responsible for 51 per cent of the airline's bills. Mr Waigel showed up at Berlin's Tegel airport dressed casually in jeans and sport shirt and was barred entry to Lufthansa's VIP lounge.

A hostess demanded his membership card and Mr Waigel replied he had left it in Bonn. When told he still could not enter, he claimed the right of his high office and marched in.

Worse was to follow. The manager complained that the minister was making his staff work overtime and that Mr Waigel and a dozen aides and journalists who had accompanied him on a tour of eastern German customs posts were eating into cost-cutting efforts by chomping expensive snacks.

When Mr Waigel asked to make a telephone call to Lufthansa's boss, he was directed to a public payphone down the corridor. Finally, the manager threatened to evict the group, but Mr Waigel's official plane was made ready before this threat could be carried out. 'This would never have happened in a privatised company,' grumbled Mr Waigel darkly. Small wonder that he has put Lufthansa up for sale. But at least, says our man in Berlin, this shows that standard behaviour at the airport is applied without discrimination.

THE PHILIPPINES president, Fidel Ramos, has passed up a chance of reconciliation with the Marcoses by declining an invitation to attend the burial next month of Ferdinand Marcos, the former dictator - and a cousin. Mr Ramos said it would not be in the national interest. 'The symbolic gesture that you are asking for has been done by me already by allowing the return of the remains of the late president,' he noted stiffly. As a gesture of family loyalty, however, his sister, Senator Leticia Shahani, will attend.

THE FORMER cricket pin-up hero Imran Khan, who led Pakistan to victory in the World Cup in Australia last year, turned down an offer by Pakistan's interim Prime Minister, Moeen Qureshi, to serve as a minister in the caretaker government. Khan says he is fully occupied with a cancer hospital project he is involved with in the eastern city of Lahore.

ARTHUR MILLER, whose play 'The Last Yankee' is wowing them in the West End, has been lauding Britain's policy of subsidising the theatre and urging Washington to follow suit.

Going to the theatre in the United States was far too expensive, he said: 'Tickets are dollars 60 ( pounds 40) or dollars 100 for two - something like that,' he told students at a writers' conference in Tennessee, 'so your audience is people on expense accounts or people from out of town.' Only government intervention could reverse the trend: 'England did it . . . but I don't look for it to happen here.'

THE EXPLORER Tim Severin sailed away from Japan on a bamboo raft on a Pacific crossing intended to prove that the Chinese could have reached North America 1,700 years before Columbus. He began his voyage from Hong Kong in May and hopes make a landfall in California by November.