Blair's airliner made 1,450-mile trip to fetch gourmet meal

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Indy Politics

It must be one of the longest-distance takeaway orders in history. A British Airways jet carrying Tony Blair back from his whirlwind diplomatic trip to Africa made a 1,450-mile round trip to stock up on prawn risotto, asparagus mousse and cheesecake.

It must be one of the longest-distance takeaway orders in history. A British Airways jet carrying Tony Blair back from his whirlwind diplomatic trip to Africa made a 1,450-mile round trip to stock up on prawn risotto, asparagus mousse and cheesecake.

The Boeing 777 flew from Addis Ababa to Nairobi and back while Mr Blair was holding talks in the Ethiopian capital to pick up a consignment of in-flight food ready for his return trip to London. Downing Street staff and press were happy with the hot dinners after they boarded the plane on Thursday, but others were not so sure.

Stephen Tindale, the executive director of Greenpeace and a former adviser to Labour, said: "He should have eaten Ethiopian food, sourced locally. The more we fly, the more people will die from climate change, and Africa is in the front line."

The packed visit programme for Mr Blair and his entourage started at 7.30am with a visit to a children's centre in the Ethiopian countryside. Mr Blair's day ended with a working dinner with the Commission of Africa.

In fact, as Downing Street pointed out yesterday, the Prime Minister did not touch his three-course airline meal. "None of this food was eaten by the Prime Minister," a spokes-man said. "It was intended for the press party travelling with him. The Prime Minister and his party had eaten in Ethiopia before they got on the plane."

The menu included a choice of fresh fruit or asparagus mousse for starters, followed by fillet of beef, prawn risotto or pasta with ricotta for the main course. Passengers were then served cheesecake with fresh raspberries or cream followed by a trio of cheese with oatcakes and grapes. The food was washed down with champagne and a selection of wines, including a Meursault 2002.

A British Airways spokesman said that the flight to Nairobi had been scheduled because the airline had no catering contract in the Ethiopian capital and could not keep food on board during the Prime Minister's visit. He said: "We fly to Nairobi daily and we carried some food, so during our downtime in Addis we flew there to pick it up. It made sense and the food was good quality."

A Downing Street spokes-woman insisted it had not asked BA to fly to pick up supplies. She said: "At no point did Downing Street ask BA to do anything other than follow normal company procedures; quite the reverse, because it was made clear matters like this were a matter for the company."

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