Thursday, January 14, 2010

The British Airways Takeover

By Chip Tsao | published Jan 14, 2010

A British Airways strike over Christmas crippled flights out of London and provided additional costs to the airline, which is already suffering from an annual loss of some £400 million (more than HK$50 billion). Flight connections were badly disrupted, affecting more than a million British holidaymakers, who meted out a nickname for their national carrier with a typical sense of humor—ABBA, or “Anyone But British Airways.”

This kind of news falls right into our territory here in Hong Kong. If Carson Yeung, a former struggling barber in Kowloon who somehow became a multi-billionaire a few years ago, can take over Birmingham City FC with £80 million and make himself a household name in the UK, then surely buying out British Airways would be an easy ride for far too many Chinese candidates. There are probably a few Chans or Wongs here in Hong Kong who are interested, and even some Zhaos and Zhangs above the border—coal mine owners in northern China who have grown bored tossing their money away in Macau casinos for far too long and want to transition into a slightly different game.

A Chinese-owned British Airways would serve everyone’s interests. First, we’ll reform the first class cabin menu by adding some abalone and chicken feet and replacing the Mouton Cadet with a bottle of Maotai, thus globalizing the privileged but stereotyped jet-setting executive appetite that has been monopolized by American steaks, French foie gras and Russian caviar for far too long.

Then we’ll get rid of all the old wrinkly-necked, speckled, loose-skinned nannies who call themselves air stewardess, but arouse nothing but our deepest sympathies while we watch them struggle with their beverage trolleys. They’ll be promptly replaced by a troupe of young Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi look-alikes urgently transferred in from the nightclubs in Beijing and Shanghai. Trade unions and feminism have no place in China. To improve worker efficiency, complaints about sexual harassment will be internally banned. Meanwhile, cigar smoking will be permitted and live poultry and marine creatures will be allowed on board so long as they are held in hand (although killing a crab with a chopstick on your seat and handing it to the crew for immediate steaming would not be recommendable).

The Chinese-owned British Airways would also be pleased to announce that foot massages will be available for business class travelers, while acupunctural treatments would be reserved only for first class. For in-flight movies, passengers will be presented with a choice between a CCTV-produced documentary on the Hong Kong handover ceremony and the “The Opium War,” or a famous feature classic directed by the prolific Xie Jin, also known as the David Lean of China, that describes in detail the historical debt the Brits have owed to the Chinese.

We tried to get Cadbury but we didn’t quite nab the famous chocolate enterprise. But by selling British Airways to us, the British will have settled another old score. With Gordon Brown in power for only a few more months, we now have our eye set on Buckingham Palace. Oh yes. Just name the price.

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