By George Parker, political editor
David Cameron did his bit for the age of austerity by flying into Washington last night on a commercial BA flight, dropping the practice of previous prime ministers of crossing the Atlantic in a specially chartered plane.
Onlookers noted Cameron snugly billeted alongside Ed Llewellyn, his owlish chief of staff, as he caught some sleep ahead of the two-day visit to Washington DC and New York.
The decision is supposed to save money, but it also gives Cameron a good excuse not to talk to the travelling press en route to Washington – an informal feature of previous prime ministerial visits.
Cameron is understandably wary of the way the media tends to cover trips to the White House. Gordon Brown’s encounters with the US president invariably ended up being stories about “snubs” – a storyline the new PM is anxious to avoid.
As a pre-emptive strike against the media, he wrote a Wall St Journal comment piece railing against those who obsessively monitor the length of meetings between the British PM and the US president.
As it happens, Cameron’s meetings with Barack Obama on Tuesday look like lasting a creditable three hours or so. The PM might not like this “Kremlinology”, but it won’t stop the media getting the stopwatch out.
UPDATE: David Cameron has just been interviewed on National Public Radio. The presenter couldn’t help giggling when asking whether it was true that he had arrived on a commercial flight. Not very Air Force One, after all.
Cameron confirmed that he had travelled business class and managed to fit in a plug for beleaguered BA, saying he found the service “very comfortable”.