The trouble with Footprints

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The Independent Travel
Take only photographs, leave only footprints" is the sensitive traveller's motto. So 10 years ago, a small Scottish company decided "Footprint" would make an excellent name for a series of maps and guides.The series is now flourishing, and Footprint publishes the guides for the Sustrans National Cycle Network. A story of small business makes good.

Until this year, when someone else decided that "Footprint" would make a good imprint. Trade & Travel, publisher of the South American Handbook, has been looking for a change of image. James Dawson, managing director of Trade & Travel, said he wanted his series of guides to move "from being a low-profile, fringe series, to one at the heart of the guidebook business". Accordingly, his company is re-branding its series of travel guides as Footprint Handbooks. From now on, two sets of Footprints are vying for space on the bookshelves.

"We can't stop them," says Patrick Blashill, one of the partners of the original Footprint. "Although we registered the name with the Publishers' Association, this has no legal status. For that we'd need to register a trade mark which, for a small company like ours, would be enormously costly." Mr Blashill says the existence of two Footprint series "will lead to endless complications. When bookshops are asked to order Footprint guides, they won't know which company to deal with."

Mr Dawson disagrees: "We don't believe there will be any problems. These are two series which could not be more different in look or content, which sit on different shelves in the shops and serve different markets."

Following our tales last week about flight delays (see Flights and Your Rights, above), Peter May of St Albans writes with a tale of six hungry hours on the ground at Heathrow on a plane busily not flying to Bangkok. "Even so, the Thailand holiday was the most enjoyable I have ever had. I decided then always to go somewhere hot in February. But I now carry a bottle of mineral water and a pack of sandwiches on outbound long-haul flights, and have a meal in the airport on the inbound flight."

This proved of little help to Mr May in March this year, on a flight from Johannesburg to London on South African Airways. "We arrived over Heathrow on time at 7am, but were diverted to Manchester because of fog. We sat at Manchester awaiting refuelling and clearance for take-off. Unfortunately, the first slot was 15 minutes before the pilots' maximum hours were reached, so we were offloaded."

Things rapidly became worse, writes Mr May. "We had to wait 50 minutes before the right sized stairs could be found. Our baggage took a further two hours to be offloaded, and we - the economy classes - had then to wait for buses to take us to Heathrow. At Heathrow a rude traffic warden refused to let us disembark at the arrivals area, but made us go to departures - so we then had to struggle with our bags back to arrivals to get transport. We arrived 11 hours late, and all that time were served no food at all."

Diversions due to fog are unfortunately common, and Prestwick airport in Scotland was, indeed, designed with them in mind (it is rarely troubled by fog). But what is the longest distance an airline has bussed passengers when flying has proved impractical? With the Channel Tunnel working, it is now theoretically possible for people to be sent overland from anywhere in Europe. And has re-routing ever proved beneficial? Presumably one or two of the passengers on Mr May's flight were actually heading for Manchester, and were therefore glad of the diversion.

On Thursday, Scotland's scenery began to brighten the journey to work of London's commuters, as posters of the Highlands were introduced in train and tube stations. "Leaves you breathless", reads the slogan. "Rather like the air in London".

The London Tourist Board is upset at the slur, though I suspect the law would side with Scotland if a case ever came to court. The thought that this is the first round in a knocking campaign rather appeals. The Glasgow underground could be enlivened by a pictures of a monster-eyed bug, and the slogan "Hate those malevolent midges in Scotland? Come to London". Scots would promptly add the caveat "only because the exhaust fumes have killed them all off".

The poorer parts of Edinburgh, where Trainspotting (the film about drug abuse) was shot, could trade insults with some of the dodgier estates in south London. Meanwhile the tourist boards in Wales and Northern Ireland would sit back and enjoy the spectacle, ready to pick up all the punters put off by advertising that seems dangerously akin to the present Tory poster campaign.

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