Sunday, 10 April 2011

Sorry we said you received special treatment

Two weeks ago, the Mail on Sunday ran a story with the headline: 'The seven months pregnant woman told to give up her British Airways seat… just so Gordon Brown could fly Club Class'.

They trailed their 'exclusive' on the front page, with the main article on page five. The paper wrote:

Gordon Brown sparked a mutiny on a British Airways flight after he was blamed for an attempt to downgrade a heavily pregnant woman and Red Cross doctor into more cramped seats. The extraordinary scenes – dubbed Mutiny On The Brown-ty - unfolded on a flight from Abu Dhabi to London

The paper fails to mention who (in the Mail's newsroom) dubbed it 'Mutiny on the Brown-ty'.

The article included much sound and fury, as did the editorial:

We have pretty much put an end to privilege. The good things in life are obtained through hard work and effort, not through rank and status...

In a contest for a comfortable seat, between a woman a few weeks from giving birth and a man whose undistinguished period in office is already being happily forgotten, most people would know instantly which side to take.

But BA, and Gordon Brown’s aggressive and charmless aide, seem not to have realised this. In fact, a little diplomacy and good manners by the airline and Mr Brown’s assistant might well have resolved the problem.

Equality is a slogan Mr Brown uses plentifully. But it seems he prefers the theory to the practice.

Yet the paper also had a statement from British Airways which seemed to cast some doubt on their version of events:

A spokeswoman for the airline said Mr Brown’s arrival on the flight was a coincidence, and he had been unfairly blamed by the mutinous passengers.

‘The situation had absolutely nothing to do with Gordon Brown,’ she said. ‘We have apologised to [the complainant] and we have offered to pay compensation.

‘It is very rare for a customer not to be able to travel in the cabin that they have booked and we are extremely sorry that this happened on this flight. Gordon Brown and his party were booked in advance and were not involved in any way.’


Mr Brown's office was contacted on Friday. Yesterday afternoon, his spokeswoman sent a text message saying 'I assume you have read the BA statement and are now not ­running the story', making it clear that BA and the former PM's office had been in discussions.

She released a statement that said: 'As BA has made clear, the arrangements were nothing to do with Mr Brown, who had booked his flight and seats well in advance and made no requests for - nor received - any special treatment.

'As BA will confirm, all questions about bookings, overbookings and allocations of seats are not - and could not be - a matter for Mr Brown but for British Airways.'

Despite all that, the paper decided to run the story, with a front page teaser, anyway.

One week later, the Mail on Sunday had an 'update':

Gordon Brown

Last week we published a story headlined ‘The seven months pregnant woman told to give up her British Airways seat…just so Gordon Brown could fly Club Class’ and an editorial.

The flight was overbooked but we accept that neither Gordon Brown nor his staff received any special treatment from British Airways, nor behaved in any way improperly.

We apologise to Gordon Brown and Kirsty McNeill.

The apology appeared on page five. This time, there was no trail on the front page.

(More from Angry Mob here and here, Shouting at Cows and Press Reform)


  1. This obviously wasn't a true story.

    No airline in the world would force a pregnant woman to move out of her seat for someone else. What was the person who wrote this crap even thinking?

    I very much doubt Gordon Brown would stand and watch as Cabin Crew made a pregnant woman move either. If they had no space to accommodate him then GB would have obviously just switched to the next London Flight and BA would have compensated. Or they would have offered another traveller an incentive to take another seat/flight.

    They really will print anything.

  2. I disagree - I'm absolutely convinced it was a true story. It was compunded by the fact that the passengers were bounced form the origin of the flight (Brown didn't get on the aircraft until the second). Normally, those passengers joining would be re-booked. What you essentialy ahd here were empty seats on the first leg in order for Brown to park his fat arse on it on the second. BA has a long history of toadying up to movers and shakers of any persuasion. As far as I'm concerend they got caught with their pants down on this occasion - the Mail's retraction is more to do with expediance than anything else. Let's face it, if it was a genuine retraction, it wouldn't appear for another three months at least, and then it'd be on page 35.

  3. I disagree with your disagreement. For a start of (as I think even the article makes clear) the pregnant woman wasn't moved at all. Secondly, as Brown had no way of knowing what had happened to other passengers how on earth can he be responsible? Thirdly, anyone who takes photos of people trying to sleep on a flight and then sells them to the Daily Mail are really not going to get a lot of sympathy from me. I know it's still fashionable to blame Brown for everything but it's absolutely clear in this case it was nothing to do with him.

  4. Firstly, I said nothing about a pregant woman. She may or may not have been moved, I don't know. My understanding is she was - from ones eat to another of the same or different class. But, either way, I didn't mention it.

    Secondly, I didn't say Brown was responsible. Well, he was responsible in that he physically existed, but it was BAs mess, not his. I don't lay it at his door.

    Thirdly - photos. Well your choice, but whether you feel sympathy or not is neither here nor there.

    Fact is, other passengers were moved to honour Brown's booking. In my opinion, they WERE moved to honour Brown's booking, and not as would be normal, bump the adjoining passengers (like Brown was)instead.

    That the reportage was typically shoddy, however, I agree.


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