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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.

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Comments (110)

  • thomas says:

    Ending food? What food…….

    • Mud Island Mlungu says:

      A spiced bun and a ham chutney bread mouthful… Lol

    • Mr Dee says:

      I remember once something that resembled a muffin which was gone in one bite…

      I like the Club Europe meals at night time but the Afternoon Tea is not so good

  • John says:

    For status holders there is usually something edible in the lounge so I don’t really care if there is nothing in flight. I wouldn’t buy on board, much better to get something when you arrive.

  • harry says:

    In before Oscar Wilde… you’d have to pay ME to eat BA food 🙂

  • Alan Wan says:

    Raffles, your point regarding loosing long haul business due to the poor CE product is s valid one. A few years ago United Airlines only served some routes with its budget subsidiary called TED. This had no first or business class, so premium passengers who started or ended their long haul flights were only offered seats at the front of the plane with an extra 2″ of seat pitch and no other perk. I flew a few times on this model, and it was disappointing e.g Las Vegas to London via Washington. The first leg which was about 4 hours was on a TED A320 before the 7 hour flight on mainline United 777 in Business

  • Joe says:

    I don’t agree that easy jet makes this model work successfully. Last couple of times I’ve flown with them they’ve completely run out of all food and left everyone who hoped to be able to buy something on board starving. Need to bring your own packed lunch whoever you fly with…

    • Rod says:

      I think it is relatively successful if you sell out of your buy on board menu -shows that the logic behind it works.

      • Mr Dee says:

        I have to disagree here as the prices they charge for the food will mean that they are missing out on a large profit margins which will far outweigh the risk of purchasing extra food that is left over.

        • David Murray says:

          Of course there is only a finite amount of capacity. Agree that food wastage shouldn’t be the concern, but if they’re selling everything they can carry, they’re successful. If they’re selling out because they’re not buying enough, it’s hard to tell how successful they really are.

          • Mr Dee says:

            Yes good point, if they sell out then they have successfully met their limit whether they could make more money is another issue.

            The main issue is keeping the customers happy as flyforfun mentions people will start bringing their own food after being stung not being able to buy expensive food.

            Personally I can do without the high carb snacks they usually offer.

      • flyforfun says:

        So you run out of food, and customers are left hungry and unhappy with the airline. Next time they fly (if they do indeed bother to fly you again) they bring their own food on board so the airline misses out on the revenue. Eventually everyone brings on board, no one buys on board and the airline still has all the rubbish to deal with.

        • Rich. says:

          Spot on. Morning flights following an EZY night stop are often not catered and it is what is left over (dry goods) from the night before. A recent flight from Inverness (6.45) didn’t even have any hot water so there was no tea, coffee, instant porridge…..
          So now I buy a coffee in the lounge and don’t bother on board.

          • Barry cutters says:

            Buy in the lounge ?? Doesn’t sound like a very good lounge if you have to pay for coffee!!!

          • Rich. says:

            Departure lounge….

  • James A says:

    BA gets a lot of flak from regular flyers. But just recently my father in law (who is an expat in Spain) took a BA flight to LGW. He was impressed by the free meal and drinks, and said he would pay more to fly BA in the future (he also complained that they didn’t fly direct to Manchester, as that is his usual destination, but that’s another story). Alas I don’t think BA cares what a pensioner that flies short haul economy three times a year thinks, but it’s just another point of view.

  • Paul says:

    “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.” It has been in discussion for around year at least, not by the ‘Cabin Crew’ department though, they will only get a say in how it is handled.

    Last I heard is that the paid for options will be in addition to the free offering, not replacing the free ‘snack’

    • dicksbits says:

      Could be mission creep, could be the way forward… I flew to ACE last Feb and the passengers in front of me turned their nose up at the ‘box’ of food they were handed in Euro Traveller and asked what they could buy. “Nothing sir, ” came the reply, ‘We’re a FULL service airline”. They weren’t very happy, most likely used to buying food on LCC for a 4h flight.. If BA serves it alongside some freebies they could give the passenger more choice.

  • Britbronco22 says:

    The easy jet service is also more disruptive to pax that don’t want food. The commotion of getting change for people paying cash, ordering the food and then it arrives 10 minutes later etc… Just a less relaxing experience

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