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Thatcher takes aim at British Airways tail logos

October 9, 1997 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ British Airways must have hoped the last shot had been fired at its new tail designs _ but ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher on Thursday raised her still-influential voice against the removal of the Union Jack logos.

``We fly the British flag, not these awful things you are putting on tails,″ Lady Thatcher told the British Airways workers who happened to be on duty at a corporate booth set up for the annual conference of the opposition Conservative Party.

In case anyone possibly could have missed her point, Lady Thatcher pulled out a handkerchief and wrapped it around a model British Airways jet to cover up the colorful new logo.

Lady Thatcher glowered at British Airways executives who responded with embarrassed laughter, then she walked off.

British Airways later characterized the exchange as ``a light-hearted discussion with her about our new identity, which we enjoyed.″

``She has always been a great supporter of all things British and so are we,″ British Airways spokeswoman Kate Gay said.

British Airways hit severe public relations turbulence after announcing in June it would replace its old Union Jack-style logos on the jet fleet with an array of colorful designs from around the world.

Lady Thatcher was prime minister from 1979-90 and was responsible for selling off formerly state-run British Airways on the London Stock Exchange _ a deal often held up as one of Britain’s most successful privatizations.

Chief executive Bob Ayling says the designs reflect the global character of the highly successful airline _ but many Britons have not been amused to see native African and Asian artwork on the jets that used the fly the British flag around the world.

``Absolutely terrible,″ Lady Thatcher said, even though the British Airways workers at the political convention in Blackpool, England, pointed out that some of the tail designs are from British artists.

British Airways had previously gotten an earful about the tail designs and acknowledges nearly a third of the Britons it’s heard from on the issue don’t like them. But the airline says the vast majority of foreigners are favorably impressed.