People & Business: Amsterdam en route to NY

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The Independent Online
BOB AYLING, the British Airways chief executive, seems finally to have turned his attention from multicoloured tailfins to best-selling literature.

The man widely discredited with replacing the Union flag with outlandish paintings on BA's airliners has snapped up the first 500 copies of Ian McEwan's Amsterdam, fresh winner of the Booker Prize. The books were presented alongside the customary cup of bubbly to the lucky few flying Concorde to New York last night.

The wealthy passengers of BA 003 were chosen as the recipients of Mr McEwan's free prose because they were likely to identify with the characters of the book, said a helpful BA spokeswoman. Amsterdam features a famous composer, a newspaper editor and a foreign secretary, just the kind of non-elitist crowd you find flying Concorde.

The BA marketing machine has also estimated that the winged great and the good will have just enough time to finish the book before landing at JFK. Apparently 178 pages can be digested by the quick minds who fly on Concorde in just over three hours.

So what will the in-flight literati enjoy as they whizz over the Ocean at ultra-sonic speed ?

"Amsterdam is a tale of professional rivalry and intrigue", the BA spokeswoman tells me. It sounds strangely familiar. Are you sure the book doesn't include a chapter about a "dirty tricks campaign" between a fictional giant airline and a smaller rival owned by a bearded tycoon?

TALKING OF allegged dirty tricks, Mr Ayling should have a word with Conrad Jan Oort, the chairman of KLM. The Dutch airline used a seemingly cunning ploy to launch its new service between Glasgow and London City airport.

KLM staff set up a stand in the middle of Glasgow airport offering business passengers en route to their BA flight to London bottles of premium scotch whisky.

How, I wonder, could the Dutch possibly think that Scottish business travellers would be wooed by a couple shots of malt and alcohol?

WAR HAS broken out between Tom Smail, chief executive of wallpaper manufacturer Vymura, and his near name-sake Carol Smillie, the gorgeous presenter of the BBC's Changing Rooms.

Mr Smail believes that a recent slump in wallpaper sales has been encouraged by a paint-your-room craze fostered by Ms Smillie's programme. The paper- makers are so incensed that they have set up a "marketing bureau" with a pounds 500,000 warchest. They are to appeal to the Beeb's famed impartiality and public service ethos to produce a series of pro-wallpaper shows or soaps to redress the balance.

Here are my suggestions for the title: "Another brick in the Wallpaper". "Changing Rooms - again". "What the Wallpapers say", "Wallenders", or "Decoration Street".

CHRIS MASTERS, the chairman of the plant hire group Aggreko, is the new King of Cool.

The resourceful executive has come up with a way to capitalise on the Christmas craze for all-things snowy and icy. Aggreko, recently spun off from Christian Salvesen, is to use its huge freezers to create more than 40 ice-rinks in major European cities, including Vienna, Paris and Berlin, over the Christmas weeks.

This is the second time that Mr Masters has found a wacky use for the company's equipment, normally employed in the rather-less-interesting oil and chemical industries (stop yawning).

Just a few months ago, Aggreko generators kept the temperature of the water sloshing around Leo and Kate in the film Titanic. If the ice-rinks experiment goes to plan, expect an Aggreko application to make the iceberg for the inevitable Titanic 2.

DAVID LLOYD, the former tennis star, has resigned as non-executive director of the golf course operator Clubhaus to avoid a conflict of interest with his chairmanship of health and fitness group Next Generation.

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