01 October 1997

AS WIDELY EXPECTED, British Airways announced its intention to launch a cut-price, direct-sell offshoot based at Stansted - hitherto regarded by BA as the tradesmen’s entrance to the UK. Project-named Blue Sky, the el cheapo airline will flutter to six European destinations in France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia and Spain at prices around 30% below BA’s norm. Barbara Cassani, a 37-year-old US national who formerly managed BA's American operations, will head the start-up which she likened to the ‘Ikea or First Direct of the air’ [er, Barbie, weren’t they pioneers, not me-toos?]. The announcement triggered Pavlov-style howls of protest from the usual suspects, headed by someone called Branson and the equally publicity-hungry chairman of easyJet, Stelios Haji-Ioannou. The latter threatens legal action on the grounds that BA's sole purpose is to drive other low cost carriers out of business.