Branson fails to shoot down BA's favourite slogan

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The Independent Online
VIRGIN ATLANTIC failed in an attempt yesterday to prove that British Airways was not, after all, "the world's favourite airline".

In a rare victory for what has become a much-mocked corporate image, BA was given permission by the Independent Television Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority to continue using one of the most famous slogans in advertising.

In a co-ordinated mischief campaign, timed to coincide with its rebranding exercise this week, Virgin applied to both regulatory bodies to ban the slogan. Virgin claimed BA has won fewer industry awards and said it had two customer surveys showing travellers prefer Virgin or other carriers.

BA produced customer surveys that showed plenty of people thought it was their favourite airline.

The ITC and the ASA decided to ignore a bewildering array of competing customer surveys - describing them as self-selecting - and said the key factor governing use of the phrase was the number of international passengers carried by BA.

This has always been the justification for the BA claim and International Air Transport Association figures show it continues to be true. BA flew 28 million passengers in 1997, 5 million more than Lufthansa, the second biggest international carrier. In fact, the American carrier Delta Airlines flies three times as many passengers a year as BA, but as 96 million of them are in the US, and because there is no open access to American skies for international airlines, the regulators do not count them.

The slogan has been used since 1983 and Mr Branson's airline failed in a 1991 attempt to stop BA using it. But the US Department of Transportation is now looking into the claim and a Virgin spokesman said: "There, where BA is way down the list of the biggest airlines, its claim looks even more ridiculous."

n A second false emergency announcement within six weeks was made on a BA flight, the company admitted yesterday. Passengers travelling from Heathrow to Philadelphia on Monday on BA 069 sat horrified as they heard a voice saying: "This is an emergency announcement" as their Boeing 777 cruised at 37,000ft over Ireland.

Moments later the captain admitted it had been a mistake. The spokeswoman said the announcement was accidentally triggered by the chief steward as he used a touch-sensitive screen.

On 25 April, an emergency announcement telling passengers the plane was about to crash into the sea was set off by a prankster during a BA flight from San Francisco to Heathrow. Some passengers were so distressed a doctor had to be called.