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

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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.

British Airways BA A320neo

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.

British Airways BA Amex American Express

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Comments (110)

  • 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.

    • Sav says:

      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.

  • 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.

  • Will says:

    “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.

  • Olly says:

    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.

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