Yet another chapter in airline history

Delta and Northwest Airlines this week became the latest US airlines to file for Chapter 11, following United and US Airways through the revolving door of bankruptcy protection.

Good morning, and on behalf of the management and crew can I welcome you aboard this Delta/Northwest/ United/US Airways flight into Chapter 11 and out again at some suitably propitious moment.

As members of our frequent filer programme know, this is a tricky manoeuvre and things can get a bit bumpy. But don’t worry, our staff are hugely experienced and have practised this operation many times.

At this time we would ask your attention as we acquaint you with some of the safety features. Please take a moment to locate your nearest emergency exit – believe me, we already have.

Should it become necessary for us to seek bankruptcy protection, please leave the airline by the evacuation slides. We would ask shareholders, bondholders and unsecured creditors to make their way quickly to the exits leaving all investment behind you.

Members of the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation may experience some turbulence as they take on extra stock in the airline in return for helping us unload the excess baggage that is our pension fund. PBGC passengers who already hold airline stock should be aware that it may depressurise at some speed as we descend into Chapter 11. Should this happen, oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling for those passengers at this time. We recommend you attach them to your face and breathe deeply.

Once we arrive at bankruptcy protection we will be disembarking you in strict order. Shareholders and low-grade creditors will be offloaded first. Leasing companies and other partner businesses with contracts we find just that teensy bit burdensome will also be assisted off the aircraft, although they may be allowed to return later once we have carefully examined their terms and conditions.

I should warn you that we have been advised there is a lot of congestion heading into Chapter 11 this morning. We may be kept in a holding pattern behind other airlines for some time. But don’t worry; as soon as one of those ahead of us gets out, we’ll be straight in.

We apologise for this not entirely unscheduled stop, but if it is any consolation you should know that our main rivals will be following our lead once we have used our Chapter 11 slot to stiff our creditors and generally evade market forces. We still offer the most comprehensive network across the US, as long as you don’t mind changing at Cincinnati.

Some of you have asked what will happen to senior management. Don’t worry. We’ll be fine. We’ve made our own arrangements.

Legal aid

A barrister has been paid more than £1m in legal aid fees in one year, while 12 briefs shared nearly £9m in fees from the Criminal Defence Service.

The scene: A wine bar near Lincoln’s Inn.

First barrister: Ah, there you are. So how is the public defender? You should stick to civil law, old boy. I’m making a fortune. Bottle of bubbly? Don’t worry, it’s on me. I know how strapped you legal aid boys are.

Second barrister: Oh, I get by.

First barrister: I dare say, but you must be taking quite a hit, financially.

Second barrister: I don’t earn as much as I could, but it’s important to give something back to society.

First: Very noble, I’m sure.

Second: Legal aid is the cornerstone of a fair justice system. At least I can hold my head up high and say I do my bit. When I tell people I’m a lawyer I can look them in the eye and say it’s not just the money, that I actually do this to help people. I tell you, legal aid cases leave me feeling good about myself. (Bollinger arrives) Let me get this one.

First: No, not on what you earn.

Second: Oh don’t worry, I’ll manage.

Terror package

Charles Clarke on Thursday unveiled his tough new package of anti-terror measures. It listed several new offences to stop dangerous radicals slipping through the net, including:

1) Being guilty of terrorism.

2) Looking guilty of terrorism.

3) Possession of an offensive opinion in a built-up area. This includes activities likely to inflame public opinion or upset Richard Littlejohn.

4) Distributing writings glorifying terrorism, pamphlets on bomb-making, the sermons of radical preachers or the encyclicals of Pope John XXIII (the so-called Livingstone definition).

5) Being innocent of terrorism in the eyes of the courts but not in the eyes of the police.

7) Acts supportive of terrorism. These include membership of proscribed groups like the Court of Appeal or Liberty and conspiracy to strike down Home Office policy.

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