WHEN, LATE in 1989, the East German airline announced its plans for the brave new world of German aviation, it was taking a revolutionary step. A direct flight from the capital of austerity, East Berlin, to the capital of indulgence, Bangkok, was shocking enough; it made a startling addition to a destination list that mainly featured places like Moscow, Tripoli and Ulan Bator. Even more rebellious was the choice of a new plane, a gesture of rebellion towards Moscow by its most loyal satellite. The German Democratic Republic had bought an Airbus A310, made in Western Europe.

The obsolete fleet of Soviet aircraft was augmented by a modern, safe wide-bodied plane. In the search for hard currency, Interflug actually began advertising the new route in English, hoping to cash in on the increasing demand from British travellers for cheap flights to the Far East.

But few Western travellers got to use the new service. Interflug went the way of many other inept enterprises from the DDR. While neighbouring airlines - LOT Polish Airlines, Malev of Hungary and Czech Airlines - have reinvented themselves with some success, Interflug simply disappeared.

West Germany's airline, Lufthansa, took up some of the staff and the slack, but nobody wept for the demise of one of Europe's shortest-lived and least successful airlines.

Its erstwhile home base, Schonefeld, has since been nominated as the main airport for the new capital of all Germany, and Virgin Express has just started flying there from Stansted. However, bizarrely, given Berlin's new status as all-German capital, the intercontinental route network from Berlin has actually shrunk substantially in the past decade. Only Cuba and Outer Mongolia are accessible direct from the city. If you want to go to Bangkok these days, first fly to Frankfurt.