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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)

  • harry says:

    RA on board menu

    Non-habitués might be surprised to see a small can of beer is EUR4.50, 175cl bottle of house red/ white EUR6.00.

    Whenever we fly LCC, the team are not exactly over-run with orders and poor value for money is the reason.

    On our BA route to Euro destination it’s 4 cabin crew – 1+3 – and I can see that introduction of paid food & drink would be a ready reason to make that 1+2.

    • Rob says:

      Cabin crew numbers are dictated by the number of seats on the plane. That is why Ryanair now has more economy legroom than BA – they wont squeeze in another couple of rows because it would require one extra crew member.

      • Bluejosh says:

        OT but that surely can’t be for all aircraft? I recently flew to Bulgaria on Ryanair and the legroom was non existent. Way worse than any BA flight I’ve ever taken.

        • guesswho2000 says:

          FR are hit and miss, I had to fly STN-ORK recently, the outbound was horrendous, return was absolutely fine, in terms of leg room.

          • Jan says:

            This sounds rather odd, it could only be because of the new interior and narrower seats. They operate a single type of A/C and I’ve been on over 100 flights with them. Always the same legroom (except exit row of course). I haven’t been on the ones with new interior, it just looks like the seats are thinner.

          • Aeronaut says:

            Yeah I don’t quite get that comment either. Ryanair have 325 aircraft, all are 737-800, all the same. It has to be the new seats, that’s the only possible difference (I haven’t yet been on one yet either).

  • Cheshire Pete says:

    Agree with ” 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”

    Hence why Manchester lost its Gatwick connection, which was extremely popular and was used frequently by myself!

    But BA shouldn’t let their flawed £ calculation hold them back, and they won’t especially now with the ne ex Vuelling low cost experienced boss at the helm…. Expect major changes 12-24 months out….

  • Kevin H says:

    I flew Vueling last week – rt AGP/AMS – in Excellence Class. it’s exactly the same seating system as BA Club – an economy seat with the middle seat unsold, except it’s only in row 1.
    On Vueling in Economy Class you pay for food/drink – from a good choice of sandwiches/snacks/drinks – with package deals of a sandwich & beer,wine or soft drink & chocolate bar costing between about €7 and €10. Items can be bought individually, of course,
    In Excellence, you can have whatever you want off the menu for free – including a very nice box containing Bombay Sapphire, a posh tonic and freeze-dried raspberries (reg price €10)!
    The new BA model could well be based upon this, I imagine

  • Ian says:

    Quite happy for them to remove all food & drink in economy on flights of under say 2 hours.

    I think longer flights to parts of Europe should keep it.

    I hope they do not alter business at all. This model works great.

    Sure the leg room now sucks, but generally you get great crew, which is more than you can say for AA!

  • mark2 says:

    We are flying to Venice in Sept in CE (only RFS seats available) leaving at 0650.
    In other people’s experience, should we expect to get anything decent on board or should we grab something from Hampton Inn before leaving or risk No1 Lounge?

    • Sebastian says:

      Grab something from the hotel and lounge

    • Rob says:

      BA cooked English breakfast, so it depends if sausage / egg / beans does it for you.

      • Simon says:

        I normally can eat anything but find the cooked breakfast in CE pretty a grim stodgy number.

    • Lumma says:

      I’ve only flew CE twice and I thought the meals were good both times. Two completely different routes as well, LCY-AMS and LGW-RAK.

    • Judge says:

      I really like Club Europe and always eat on board.

  • Stuart says:

    I generally eat before flying but like to have a drink or two on board. If BA scrapped this free service then I see little reason to choose them over any other carrier.

    • harry says:

      free food & drink £10+ value
      free checked luggage £20
      free seat selection T-24hrs £10
      Heathrow vs ‘London’ Luton/ ‘London’ Stansted/ ‘not-London’ Gatwick £?

      There’s more to the equation than you say, IMHO

      • Callum says:

        There’s more for some people, not everyone though!

        Free food and drink value – about £2.
        Free checked luggage value – £0 (though the standard fare has no luggage allowance)
        Free seat selection – £0 (though the standard fare has no official choice of seating, apparently you can change it at the airport but I’ve never been able to other than tricking the post-security customer services!)
        Heathrow vs Gatwick – Gatwick is more convenient for me, closer and cheaper to get to. I also don’t quite buy the point in the article that Heathrow services don’t compete with LCC’s. They do, just to a much lesser extent.

        • harry says:

          So you personally don’t swig 3 beers with your sandwich, you don’t have to carry (say) Xmas presents for your kids in checked luggage as you don’t have a family, you are possibly a wee shortar-so you don’t care about legroom or getting window or aisle, you are happy to fly from not-London Gatwick.

          Got it.

          • Callum says:

            Indeed, I’m childless and I’m not an alcoholic. Nor do I live in London, so Gatwick not being in London is only a benefit… Stansted’s location is irritating, but when I can fly from Barcelona to Stansted for £9 with a bus to central London costing £2.50 it’s an irritant I can live with.

            I am particularly tall, though have only not managed to get a window seat once in my life (1 out of the 8 Ryanair flights I’ve taken since they began allocated seating), and of course BA does not provide free seat choice at T-24 anyway.

            I don’t know if you’re under the impression that I’m some kind of freak-of-nature, but this is a fairly normal traveller profile! I’d say the dominance of low cost carriers demonstrates that quite well.

          • harry says:

            There’s a way to get free seat choice at T-24 on HBOs, maybe Raffles will do the article

          • Rob says:

            May do. I have had a formal complaint from BA already this week though 🙂

          • Callum says:

            Thanks that could be very handy, but is there a reason I need to wait for a theoretical article instead of you just telling me? Is it that complicated!

          • harry says:

            Posted the link in yesterday’s bits

          • Callum says:

            Ah that. That’s never worked for me on the day, though I’ve not tried the night before. (Kind of makes a mockery of the airport location advantage you previously mentioned if you need to go to the airport twice though!)

          • Alan says:

            @Raffles ooh what was the official complaint from BA about? 😛

  • Graham says:

    This would mean I’d start choosing other airlines based on price. I’ve often accepted paying a little bit more for the service at BA but if they scrap things like this I might as well go for the cheapest option – the service would be the same. BA though is unlikely to ever win on price.

    • Alex says:

      As I already said here before – and was ostracised for this – BA is rapidly moving into the direction of converging with LCCs to become a “no-frills with some perks” airline…

      They should also drop the second part of their famous “To Fly. To Serve.” slogan then…

  • kingy says:

    Another reason to abandon BA.
    So i just priced up my Economy business flight to Oslo via T5 from Manchester in excess of £500 and i won’t even get a can of Tiger en route.
    If that’s good customer service and value for money then i’m a banana.

    • harry says:

      From Manchester, why wouldn’t you just drive down to London?

      • James A says:

        Because the M6 is an utter nightmare? Your 3.5 hour drive can easily become 5 hours plus.

    • Alex W says:

      But you can just put a can of tiger in your hand luggage from the lounge??

      I think lounges are my main draw for BA short haul. If I didn’t already have status I would probably just get a priority pass and fly the cheapest option. Might draw the line at Ryanair, though.

      • Will says:

        Ryanair these days are actually very good, the new seats are brilliant.

        I’ll choose Ryanair ahead of BA simply as they are almost always on time.

    • Sav says:

      Economy or business to Oslo? not clear from above

      Also maybe Finnair via Helsinki would be a better option?

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