Travel: Despite the fierce fares competition, airline magazines are plugging rival operators

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AS YOU will know if you have been paying attention to these pages, when travelling economy on a two-class short-haul flight in Europe you can often get a business-class seat. Always ask to sit nearest the front of the plane; on airlines such as British Airways and Alitalia, where a "flexible curtain" defines the business-class area, the comfy chairs extend more than half-way down the cabin. On Monday mornings and Friday evenings these seats are filled with people who have paid five times the economy fare; at other times they are up for grabs by budget travellers.

Which is how, from the relative comfort of seat 12D on a British Airways flight from Berlin last week, I found a copy of BA's club class magazine, Business Life. One purpose of any in-flight publication is to promote the airline's services. What is curious about Business Life is that it seems entirely happy to boost the opposition.

A column called Designer Destinations surveys places in the world that could still be counted as glamorous - and gives useful publicity to rivals: "Tell someone you've got a ticket to Carcassone [sic]... and they're more than likely to let you check in first because you're clearly far more exciting a person than they could ever hope to be." The one airline that flies between Britain and the gem of south-west France has been so successful that it will double flights to Carcassonne in July. That airline is Ryanair.

As a destination, Paris, on the other hand, "gets nil points because no one takes you seriously when you say you're flying to Paris for business". I think I was supposed to infer that the emphasis was on business, and that the French capital is solely for liaisons dangereuses; instead I read it with the stress on flying - inferring that sensible business travellers take the Eurostar train to Paris.

There is also a section called Businet, listing handy Internet sites for travellers. "If ever there was an August not to visit Cornwall," says the writer about the site www., "this is it." This hardly seems likely to endear the people of Cornwall to BA, or help fill the airline's four daily flights from Gatwick to Newquay. Then even BA's arch-rival, Richard Branson, gets a plug. To contact the compiler of the section, Chris Smith, you are invited to e-mail him

I PREFER the Court Line in-flight guide, a copy of which has been supplied by Bob Milne Holme of High Wycombe. Passengers on this short-lived Seventies charter airline were told: "Your Court Line hostesses" - yes, no mention of male cabin crew - "will do their utmost to make your flight a holiday in itself. They're certainly dressed for the part. But please don't think of them as just pretty faces, friendly personalities and gay uniforms! All are trained in nursing. It means that if you should feel ill in any way, you'll be in very capable as well as sympathetic hands."