Flying food The world's first inflight meal was served between Paris and London on February 8, 1919. The aircraft was a converted first world war Farman Goliath bomber (below) and was operating the first scheduled commercial passenger service between the two cities. It was fitted with 12 wicker chairs and each passenger was provided with canapes and champagne. Little changed for the next 30 years, mainly because aircraft flew at altitudes prone to turbulence, which limited the kind of food that could be served. In the 1950s, the jet age brought higher, smoother flying, along with frozen food and ovens. It's not uncommon now for airlines to offer more than 20 kinds of special-diet options on top of their standard menus, but problems still arise. Virgin Atlantic is being sued by an Indian passenger who, on a flight to Mumbai, found his pre-ordered vegetarian meal was topped with chicken. He had ordered the Hindu meal, which he expected to be vegetarian, but which most airlines say contains no beef, pork or veal. Even Air India states on its website that, 'A Hindu meal could be vegetarian or non-vegetarian.' Virgin Atlantic's error, it seems, was to advertise its meal as vegetarian. 'Virgin Atlantic started flying to Mumbai only in March 2005, but has been flying to Delhi for the past two years,' said Vipul Shah, 'and I believe a large number of New Delhi passengers must have unknowingly had meaty meals on board.' The airline apologised and offered Shah an unspecified number of air miles, which he refused, saying, 'The miles awarded to me are worth #100 ($1,350) only, when passengers in Europe get much more for delayed flights. This shows how seriously they take the whole issue.' Not-so-wise cracks As you may recall, Australia introduced a law in March making it illegal to crack security-related jokes at airports. The temptation to introduce some levity to the pre-departure proceedings has, however, proved too strong for many. Since the legislation was enacted more than 70 people have been detained for questioning and given a stern talking to, and five of those have been convicted and fined up to A$3,000 ($17,300). A recent statement released by the Australian Federal Police reminded passengers to keep their humour under wraps. 'While it might be the Australian way to make light of serious topics, comments such as, 'Never mind the bomb in my bag,' are not funny in today's high-security environment at Australian airports,' it read. Going with the flow The British Caribbean island of Montserrat, once a favourite holiday playground for the idle rich, was almost wiped off the tourist map in 1995 when a volcano destroyed its airport and most of the capital, Plymouth. Although life has returned to normal in the past decade, there were no scheduled flights to the island until two weeks ago, when a 19-seat Winair Twin Otter started flights four times a day from neighbouring Antigua. If you're looking for somewhere different this summer, and have plenty of cash to spend, Montserrat could be the place to relieve you of it. For more on the island visit the Montserrat Tourist Board website ( www.visitmontserrat.com ), where it is pointed out that, 'The enticing wonders of an active volcano has [sic] enhanced our rugged terrain.' Deal of the week Dragonair Holidays' new Shanghai Select package includes round-trip, economy-class flights to Shanghai and two nights' Deluxe Room accommodation at the Four Seasons Hotel ( www.four seasons.com). July and August prices are $2,888 for Friday and Saturday departures and $3,288 on other days. Breakfast and travel insurance are included but airport transfers are not. For further details and reservations contact Dragonair Holidays on 3193 3388, or e-mail ka.holidays@ dragonair.com. Business and pleasure British Airways is offering a significant discount and double Asia Miles on its business-class flights from Hong Kong to London and numerous other European destinations. The Club World Summer Offer runs until the end of August and will get you to London and/or Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland for $26,310 (the full fare to London is usually $41,490). BA's arrivals lounge at Heathrow (left), which includes a Molton Brown Travel Spa and a business centre, can be used while waiting for transfers. To qualify for the double Asia Miles you must register before the flight at www.asiamiles.com . For flight reservations, call any travel agent or British Airways direct on 2822 9000. Tax return As part of its 'We Know Why You Fly' campaign, American Airlines recently held a contest that rewarded the winner with 12 round-trip flights to any of its destinations. The winner, Jack McCall of New York, however, returned the prize after finding that if he took all 12 flights the tax payable would add up to US$19,000, which works out at about US$800 a ticket. American Airlines valued the prize at US$52,800, tax not included. McCall said it would be cheaper to buy the tickets elsewhere.