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Words: cabotage, n.

RICHARD BRANSON'S guise as a perennial student rebounded at JFK when the pilot announced that, with more passengers than expected, take- off would be delayed while extra fuel was put in: this recalls undergraduate whip-rounds to get a clapped-out Ford Anglia to the pub and back - and was duly reinforced by the blow-out of an engine over Boston and a long night on the tarmac.

And now he seeks the right to fly domestic services in America - that is, cabotage. From the age-old French for shipping trade along the coast (cabot is a type of boat), it reached England in the 19th century and became an aeronautical term in the 1930s. What with litter and ballooning stunts, Branson is more a case of cabonitage: from cabotin, playing to the gallery.