BA reported to be ending free food in Euro Traveller – good news or bad?

There are, I suppose, some people out there who consider a mini bag of crisps (average content – 4ish) to fulfil the dictionary definition of a ‘snack’.

For the rest of us, the ‘free food and drink’ offered by British Airways in Euro Traveller has been an embarrassment for many years.  Many of us remember the happy days of the Gate Gourmet catering strike a few years ago, when a lack of food on board meant that status passengers could pick up a (pretty impressive) ‘tuck box’ in the lounge for free to take with them.

A number of speculative articles in the press over the last couple of days suggest that BA has now decided to axe free food and drink in Euro Traveller.  I first heard about this from crew gossip a few weeks ago but there has been nothing in writing, and it still appears to be based on rumour – albeit that BA would presumably have jumped on the story when it first hit the press if it were untrue.

Even if it does happen, it will be at least 12 months away.  There is nothing happening at even the most high level cabin crew / management discussion groups.  More importantly, it would be difficult to implement with less than 12 months notice because passengers with tickets issued before any change would have a contractual right to free food and drink.

However …..

It may all be nonsense.

Not that I’m suggesting Simon Calder (who started the rumour) is getting his information from social networking sites but ….

easyJet make this model work successfully with, generally, four cabin crew.  Two prepare and deliver food orders whilst the other two sell drinks and ambient snacks from the trolley.  This works well.

British Airways often runs short haul flights with just three cabin crew members, of which one is focussed on Club Europe.  That leaves just two people to serve Euro Traveller.

It is not impossible that this would work, but it would require a bit of dexterity.  On a busy short flight like Amsterdam it would be virtually impossible to serve a full cabin.  You would probably need to make everything paid-for (ie no free drinks either) in order to reduce the number of orders to a manageable level.

BA catering

Is it a bad idea per se?

I had a toasted ham and cheese sandwich on my easyJet flight to Paris last month and it was perfectly fine.  I think I ended up paying £6.50 for a meal deal which included a coffee and, forced on me because it was effectively free, a jumbo Kit Kat!

I think the majority of hungry passengers would prefer a toasted sandwich to the free BA offering (example pictured above).  Drinks are different, of course.  All that happen here is that you would be going from free wine to paid wine – a clear drop in standards.

You are also left with the question of what will happen to Club Europe.  Will they simply be offered a free item from the paid menu (which at times would be an improvement and an other times a big cut) or would they get a ‘take it or leave it’ meal for free whilst Euro Traveller gets a totally different buy on board menu?

At the end of the day, BA’s obsession with competing with low cost carriers is pointless.  Most flights operate from Heathrow and Heathrow is not served by low cost carriers.  Airlines operating from other airports have a head start on costs due to airport fees (the Heathrow Passenger Service Charge is now £29.81) so fighting on price will never work.

The risk, as with the cut in Club Europe leg room last year, is that you start to lose high yield long haul business class passengers because they refuse to fly your short haul product for the final leg.

Finally, it is about time that BA stops the myth that short haul flying is unprofitable.  The new On Business programme is a revenue based, as we have discussed before.  If you look at how long haul flights with a short haul connection are treated, the points awarded for the short haul are pitiful based on a couple of examples I’ve seen.  Logically, this must be the £ number that BA uses for its internal accounting – a number which bears no relation to the value of that short haul flight.

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  1. blackberryaddict says:

    Well, so far BA have not actually confirmed this is going to happen. So far it’s just a Simon Calder rumour.

    But as Alex says above, he would take the LHR flight if it is £29.81 more expensive. The implication is though that if the flight is £40 more, he won’t go to Heathrow, but grudgingly perhaps get on the Gatwick Express. What he is really saying that the cost for BA at Heathrow must be the same for easyjet at Gatwick, plus the extra 29 quid. At that rate BA absolutely have to cut costs because they have to be the same as easyjet. And that doesn’t even take into account the other costs of operating at Heathrow, like delays and slower tunrarounds.

    It also highlights what most passengers base their decision on: costs. Yes, a few a willing to pay a (small) premium to avoid the easyjet experience, but that premium gets eaten away quite quickly. And the”race to the bottom” is actually something that is forced on the airline by the passengers looking for the best deals.

  2. Just wait until there’s real competition. When living in Turkey there was THY Istanbul to Ankara around 5 flights a day. 40 minutes flight, decent meal plus drinks. Then came along Anadolu Jet and Pegasus. Number of flights rose to about 4+ an hour peak time while THYs standards stayed the same. You still get a snack and a drink, but its good fun seeing the trolly dollys rushing to clear up before the wheels touch the ground.

    And I just checked – out next Tuesday, back Wednesday 130 TL (that’s £30 return)

    Imagine Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton, Birmingham to Heathrow for £30 return. With a meal and a drink thrown in.

  3. …. and just counted THY alone have 35 flights a day from Istanbul to Ankara

  4. Soloflyer1977 says:

    I can predict a future article “join a class action against BA” on this site…

  5. Mark R says:

    BA really need to make their mind up. Are they a full service airline or low cost airline. Cheapest. Abz – Lhr is £170 return that’s no hold luggage, no seat selection and soon (if true) no food.

    • That’s nonsense. Cheapest ABZ-LHR I can see is £96, eg try 11-12 Jan 2017.

      What you are really saying is – on my fairly near or peak time or already-starting-to-book-up dates, cheapest I can see is £170 rtn.

      Try booking further ahead?

      OK you can’t, I understand that. But then kindly concede it’s a nonsense to expect BA to keep a low ticket price all the way from T-355 days to date of travel.

      • I paid £37 to easyJet for a one-way to Paris 5 days before travel last month and got Anika an (eventually unused) fall back flight from Bordeaux in Feb, booked 3 days out, for £40. I was surprised by both of these prices.

        • OTOH yesterday my wife sprang a request in to get her onto any flight for long weekend of 27/5, to our place in the sun – same day as myself & the kids are going out for half-term hols. £600-odd with BA and not that much better with the cheapest LCCs – my wife unfortunately couldn’t be flexible on dates which (just 1 day’s difference) would have got ticket down to maybe £400. Normally cheapest HBO or LCC cost is in the range £150-175 rtn – but of course it’s the school hols coming up.

          Exactly as I expected – she should have decided 6 months ago.

          Your £37/ £40 flights at short notice can frequently be had all the time in off peak periods on lots of routes – it seems the dynamic pricing models used can throw up some unexpected prices. With rather nice consequences if you know about the EJ price g’tee

        • Could have got one of my Gold card mates here to book her the double Avios option ie 30K! Good job she doesn’t know that 🙂

          Always wondered how you would get the points to the Goldie or would you just agree a fair £ price?

        • Genghis says:

          I’m sure given the circumstances a 0.5p valuation would be fair 🙂

        • Asking a lot of cyber buddies as they’d see their Avios a/c balance go down 30K. I think I’ll save that big favour for when we might need it. Her mother’s health isn’t so brilliant, as in daisies, shame as we get on absolutely fine, not being able to speak to each other probably helps 🙂

        • Actually not an option as it needs to be done more than 30 days in advance.

        • Sadly not, needs to be >30 days in advance, she needed to tell you a couple of weeks back!

        • Aeronaut says:

          Competitive pressures. Bordeaux to London is served by BA, easyJet and Ryanair (the latter not every day, and also to Stansted not Gatwick).

  6. We live in Manchester. Every single BA flight we do has to start with a flight to Heathrow on which there is no premium cabin provided, no extra leg room, not even a priority lane entry if the check-in have run out of stickers! Once we were denied entry to the lounge even though we held full 1st class tickets because we were stopping over in London before we flew on. A packet of crisps doesn’t make a lot of difference!!

  7. The_Real_A says:

    There is a middle ground which has been missed. Jetblue on some flights offer a “come and get it” service of snacks from a fridge in the galley. Much like the club kitchen. Those that are hungry can grab something to tide them over, however most people do not bother – but the option is there.

    • The Club Kitchen is usually empty or “closed” by the time I want something

  8. I will miss the drink (£5.70 for a g+t on easyjet) and the DOM breakfast, plus the proper meals on flights like ATH. Otherwise I am not really panicked.

  9. Nick OCallaghan says:

    I am based a in the US now and no domestic carrier here provides any free food in economy on any flight, even a 6 hour leg from NY to San Francisco. All legacy carriers offer free non alcoholic beverages (alcohol is charged) and on short legs such as Los Angeles to San Francisco (1 hour) there is an option to buy things like pringles and nuts, but in theory no one ever seems to, and the crew don’t generally even ask if you want to purchase anything. People here in North America seem to be used to buying everything in the terminal and bringing it on board – everything from boxed salad to a pizza, which can make for interesting smells throughout the cabin.

  10. Sigh.

    I think the wider public considers BA to be a ‘proper’ airline with all-inclusive pricing and a market leading hard product.

    The continual erosion of on board comfort is, I think, a sad inevitability given the change in the market for short haul flights. The charging for seat selection is forgivable too, in et. Not in CE. The recent changes to ticket pricing also make it clear that the “standard” short haul fare is now HBO. Which left the free on board meals and bar (and the loyalty scheme) as the only real differentiator between BA and the low cost airlines. Nobody is going to get status flying short haul economy and the CE product is early worth paying for and no employer will, so the loyalty scheme is no reason to pick BA. And nobody with status gets any status benefit when flying on BA’s discount fares, so there is no incentive for BA’s status pax to fly their short haul product in many circumstances.

    Remove the on board dining and bar, and what you are left with is BA flying an overpriced, worse version of the orange lot and that irish bunch.

    • Some people do get status with 50 shorthaul flights, I know a Scottish bloke who connects in LCY. One European return a month will do it.

  11. MeHeckles says:

    A little off-topic from food, but having only recently dropped from Gold to Silver and now to Bronze, I was shocked to find that BA now want £78 per sector, per passenger for selecting a seat on a CW Avios redemption LHR-LAS-LHR. Both me and the wife will quite happily sit apart for 10 hours to not pay that! I don’t think even half that figure would tempt me.

    • You can select seats 7 days before you fly as a Bronze, in the mean time up until then you can check the seat map by doing a dummy seat selection to see what’s left. I don’t think you’ll have a problem getting two seats together.

  12. Ceri Chaplin says:

    A bit off topic, but was disappointed on the weekend when flying back on a cash CE ticket from Palermo that there was no lounge at the airport. Don’t have a priority pass so wasn’t able to use any lounge there during the wait. Staff at the airport advised that BA won’t pay to allow CE passengers to access the lounge.

    Did contact BA as there was no warning on booking that there would be no lounge access but their answer was simply that they were grateful for the feedback.

    Not sure I’ll be paying to fly CE again before checking lounge availability.

    Wonder if this is another cost cutting exercise by BA.

    • Billy Buzzjet says:

      Yes indeed . Buyer beware. There are many CE service ‘down grades’ depending on airport. I was surprised to find that at Helsinki recently, I couldn’t use the priority security line on a CE ticket for the very same reason. Although on a more positive note, BA’s proactive onboard customer satisfaction initiative on long haul services meant that the CSD handled my complaint about poor food quality and a broken TV by awarding me 9000 avios as compensation there and then on his i-pad.

      • Ceri Chaplin says:

        Now that is a simple way to resolve the issue…maybe a further to BA me thinks.

  13. “Most flights operate from Heathrow and Heathrow is not served by low cost carrier”

    Dangerous philosophy imho. Heathrow is simply BA short haul monopoly due to a lack of slots.

    Bad karma to rest on those laurels.

    I personally think BA should return to the regions with a low cost model plus Club Europe – they need to start thinking post Heathrow / 3rd runway.

  14. Hello everyone, I’m new to commenting but have been a reader of HFP for less than a year but picked up some good tips from Rob resulting in a more pleasurable travel experience at reduced cost along the way. This,imho, is the crux with this discussion regarding BA “allegedly” considering dropping good and beverages. I hope they don’t. Before HPF I used to get the cheapest flights with LCCs, sitting in a cramped aircraft seat with chavvie people and unruly children buying overpriced plastic food and extortionate alcoholic drinks. It was the result of spending less money but endured a horrible experience.
    Thanks to HFP I now enjoy VIP lounge experience, having found a bargain flight, using flights where BA crew will treat me as a human, not a shipping consignment. That is not in the upper classes only either but all seats. I like being treated that way and having a free G&T or wine helps provide that feeling of an enjoyable journey. And in terms of what you get it isn’t that much more expensive.
    Reading between the lines of the thread a few mention the higher costs imposed by Heathrow Airport being a major factor in price increases being passed to the customer and thereby making it more difficult in keeping competitive. BA should achieve a better deal from Heathrow or move more of their operations to another airport and vote with their feet. If Heathrow are taking advantage they need to be reigned in and shouldn’t get another runway. But I digress!
    Let’s keep supporting BA and let them keep feeding us and plying us with drinks, as there are those of us who like the travelling to be enjoyable in itself and not just the means to an end of getting somewhere.