CAREFUL HOW much you eat in the coming fortnight. Britain's cosiest airline is planning a radical rethink - and it's all our fault, for putting on weight. Palmair, the Bournemouth-based holiday company, is having to trade in its single British Aerospace "Whisperjet" for a boring old Boeing. The reason: the complex equations involving distance, speed and weight that affect aircraft performance have been rewritten.

"The Civil Aviation Authority undertook a major re-weighting exercise which concluded that passengers, and their baggage, had got heavier," says Palmair's managing director, David Skillicorn. "As a result, the aircraft wasn't easily able to operate fully loaded to destinations as close as Faro and Malaga. The Boeing 737 will enable us to reach those destinations and go much further, so we can now operate our own flights to Madeira, and non-stop to Corfu."

Until now, passengers from Bournemouth bound for the Greek island have had to put up with a refuelling stop at Venice. While the historical aptness is commendable, the overall journey time was very long - especially since the BAe plane is slower than the average Boeing. But Mr Skillicorn says that even the new, higher-performance plane is short of ideal: "The ideal aircraft is an elastic one - for every flight where we wish we had 20 extra seats, there'll be another one where we'd wish there were rather fewer."


AROUND NOW, Britain's tourism businesses will be counting the cash to find out if 1999 has been as dismal for inbound visitor numbers as much of the anecdotal evidence suggests. The British Tourist Authority maintains that the UK is doing creditably well in attracting tourists. But individual proprietors warn that the strength of the pound has kept visitors away in their thousands.

Life is far from merry for those who depend on overseas tourists - but at least part of the blame must attach to our failure to do everything we can to enhance the country's image.

Take Kent's fine county town of Maidstone. It has three railway stations, called East, West and "Barracks". The latter is on the Medway Valley Line, one of the loveliest branch lines in Britain. The station is handily placed for more than just the barracks - it also provides useful access to the river, so wouldn't Maidstone Medway be a rather more attractive name? And while the signwriters are at it, they could get to work on the Docklands Light Railway. While some of the stations have stirring names - Cutty Sark, All Saints and East India - Mudchute surely deserves a more glamourous title. The DLR need not look far for a replacement: a street adjacent to the station rejoices in the name Thermopylae Gardens.


THE DLR affords some fine views of Britain's newest tourist attraction. But anyone planning to visit the Dome should know the nature of the contract that this implies for media coverage, in particular "general filming and sound recording in or about the Dome.

"Purchase of a ticket signifies the visitor's consent to their being included in, and to the exploitation of, such films and recordings worldwide in perpetuity and in all media without any rights to payment."


AVIATION IN India has been enhanced in the past few years, because of increased competition. Yet the slogans used by some of the new airlines are a little ambiguous: "Sahara Airlines - experience a new High", is the latest.

Another worry is the "flight safety" information provided by the first- rate domestic airline, Jet Airways, about an emergency landing on water. "The Economy-class seat cushions are certified as safe flotation devices ... life jackets are provided for Club Premiere passengers." In other words, one of the extras you get by paying the premium for business class is an inflatable life preserver, while the rest of us must cling on to those cheap seats.


THERE IS one Christmas bash to which I wish I had been invited this December: the launch event for (deep breath) Tucker Clarke-Williams Creative/ Magneto Interactive Manchester.

The invitation to this party elaborated on the standard airline safety- briefing card, with the warning "please study card carefully before replying to invite". Do this, and you will see warnings about using the photocopier for non-documentary purposes, and the correct procedure for dealing with "motion sickness".

CHRISTMAS TELEVISION will elude me this year, because I am currently in Guatemala, heading for Panama City, and not even the festive edition of Only Fools and Horses travels that far. But I gather that my own modest involvement with television is about to receive a blow from which it is unlikely to recover.

Auntie's Bloomers, as you know, is a collection of the out-takes that were never supposed to be seen by the viewing public. I now know the procedure by which unwitting contributors are informed. The letter that the producers of the programme sent out does not mince its words:

"The BBC would like to include the following material in which you appear in the forthcoming programme Auntie's Bloomers (to be shown on New Year's Day).

"Programme title: The Travel Show.

"1. You bang your head on a reception archway.

"2. You bang your head leaving a building.

"3. You bang your head walking into a bedroom."

Regrettably, there is one more, which I blame on the number of bangs to the head received while filming.

"4. You mistakenly put the car into reverse."

It said, "car" - but perhaps it should have said, "career".