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Visitors fly the flag but keep it quiet

TO Stonecutters Island where visiting General Sir John Stibbon, the Chief Engineer, was host at a champagne celebration of 150 years of the Royal Engineers in Hong Kong.

As the distinguished guests - who included executives from the Royal Engineers Museum in England - milled around, accumulating cocktail sticks and sipping the finest champagne, the talk somehow turned to the type of carrier used by the British visitors for the journey east.

''British Airways of course,'' one revealed, ''you have to fly the flag''.

Then, lowering his voice to an almost inaudible level he added: ''Besides, I think they're more comfortable than the others, what!'' The reason for his whispering tone? Rod Eddington, the gregarious managing director of Cathay Pacific, was circulating just metres away.