‘Very, very modest’: Johnson vs Trudeau on whose private jet

If you are a billionaire, it is standard to insist your private jet is the larger. For prime ministers, however, it is seemingly more politically expedient to argue the opposite.

Such was the narrative as Boris Johnson met the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, for a bilateral meeting on the first day of the G7 conference of major industrialised nations in southern Germany.

Both had recently arrived on gruelling overnight flights from a Commonwealth summit in Rwanda, with Johnson remarking on this as the pair sat down for their chat, shortly before reporters and TV crews were ushered out.

“I saw Canada Force One – it’s a big plane,” Johnson went on, a reference to Trudeau’s official aircraft, more usually known as Can Force One.

“It’s not quite as big as yours,” Trudeau replied, bringing a polite protest in response from his British counterpart. “No, ours is very, very modest,” Johnson insisted.

The truth is that both were correct, depending how you gauge it. Trudeau’s official plane is an Airbus CC-150 Polaris, a Canadian military variant of the relatively elderly A310-300, a model in service for almost four decades.

At 47 metres, it is a full 2 metres longer than the plane Johnson arrived in, but that is only part of the story.

Johnson’s official plane is a Voyager, an RAF plane used as a mid-air refuelling tanker as well as kitted out for VIP passenger use. Based on the long-haul Airbus A330, it is just short of 60 metres long.

However, the plane is also used for the royal family, who have precedence, and Prince Charles was also at the Commonwealth summit, meaning the plane is still in Kigali.

Johnson has access to a chartered jet, one similarly painted in union flag colours. This is yet another Airbus, an A321, which is a mere 45 metres long.

Trudeau, or at least a successor, might only be able to plead modesty for so long. Plans are being made to replace his 30-year-old official plane at considerable cost, although this is expected to take some time.

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