BA plays safe on the truth about air crashes

People & Business

The Economist recently flagged an investigation into "How safe is your airline?" on its cover, a blood-curdling series that suggested air crashes would probably rise with world air traffic.

British Airways, which has an arrangement to distribute 5,000 copies of The Economist free to passengers, decided to take no copies. Several US airlines did the same.

Bill Emmott, editor of The Economist, is not impressed: "Some third-world countries ban us when we write about their nasty countries - we're regularly banned by Indonesia. I'm surprised to find BA in that company. This is unprecedented, and rather weak-willed of them. Boeing gave us a call, congratulating us on our balance and good research."

A BA spokesperson hit back: "We didn't want to cause unnecessary anxiety to our passengers. It [the issue] looks in depth at air crashes over the past few years. In the same way, we don't show aircraft disaster movies to passengers."

On a happier note for BA, Concorde celebrates the 21st anniversary of its first commercial flight today. In that time more than 2 million passengers have flown on BA's supersonic flagship in the utmost safety.

BA says: "More than 80 per cent of Concorde passengers are business people and an increasing number go to the US and back in a day. For them, the cost of a day-return ticket to New York represents real value for money, saving the two days of travelling and the added expense of hotel accommodation."

Wonderful. That certainly puts my fears about rising bus fares in perspective.

Is Lord Palumbo planning a new City club? He is already a director of Capital Club, a private establishment near the Bank of England opened three years ago by owner Dieter Klosterman, who also owns Brocket Hall. Capital Club offers elegant dining and hotel facilities right at the heart of the City.

I ask this question because City Acre Property Investment Trust, a company owned by Lord Palumbo, has applied to the City Corporation for permission to change the use of 37a Walbrook, a building he already owns and a stone's throw from Capital Club, "from office building to private club".

Needless to say the launch of a new club just behind Mansion House and so close to Capital Club might be seen as competition. As a spokesman for Capital Club puts it: "I don't think the City needs another club. I don't think it wants one."

Mike Longshaw, managing director of Capital Club, adds: "It's certainly news to me. I haven't heard anything about this. Perhaps it'll be a second Ministry of Sound."

For those readers living outside London and over the age of 30, I should explain that the Ministry of Sound is a "hip" nightclub owned by Lord Palumbo's son, Jamie Palumbo, in Elephant & Castle.

Sadly, a call to 37a Walbrook, where Lord Palumbo has set up office while his nearby property development at Number One Poultry is completed, failed to elicit a response. Never mind. I look forward to my invitation to the first "rave" night in his exciting new club soon.

Just as you're beginning to recover from the ill-effects of festive over-indulgence, along comes Burns Night to ruin all your New Year resolutions. Neill Clark, a firm of Glaswegian lawyers which has done due diligence work for 34 AIM flotations, is having a London Burns "luncheon" for journalists today, in advance of the Scottish bard's birthday on Saturday.

The beano at the City's Waterman's Hall will include a cornucopia of Scottish fayre such as Cock-a-Leekie, Haggis, Hoggart (lamb) and Cranachan (treacle shortbread), as well as a "blind" mature whisky-tasting.

Ross Macdonald, Neill Clark's managing director, has promised to "address the haggis" which will be piped into the court room. A spokesman says: "The date has been carefully selected in advance of the official Burns Night to allow the directors and management team to recover in time for the Scottish lawyers' bash later in the week." You mean there's more? Pass the Alka Seltzer.

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