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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)

  • TGLoyalty says:

    Reality of short haul flights (up to 2/3 hours) is not everyone actually wants a meal/snack etc

    I’d happily not have a meal / drink as I can get something at either side, and have done in the past. However, in exchange for taking away food/drink Id want a bit more legroom or free wifi onboard?

    However, reality is probably that fares will stay the same, legroom will stay as it is and wifi will take 10 years but BA will make more money

  • Billy Buzzjet says:

    Like most companies , BA understands that the reasons customers buy a product or service varies. And in competitive markets , service is seen as a key differentiator. I, like many of you , am not convinced the removal of free food and drinks will be damaging. Instead, they need to focus on what passengers actually want or value. The quicker they implement free ( and decent) WI-FI the better ! Now there’s an actual unique selling point !

    • Billy Buzzjet says:

      P.S. I’m still befuddled as to why BA didn’t take the opportunity to introduce WI-FI on their new aircraft such as the 787-9…. does anyone know ?

      • Rob says:

        To be fair, the idea was good but until Gogo launched their new system this year delivery (over sea) was poor.

        • Billy Buzzjet says:

          Thanks for that. Yes, maybe so. But works fine on American and Norwegian for less bandwidth intensive apps and services. Let’s see what the future holds….

          • Quark999 says:

            Norwegian has transatlantic Wifi? Not when I flew them…

          • Billy Buzzjet says:

            Just an observation that it worked on LGW – LPA – technically over water. Never flown them trans atlantic and probably won’t in the coming year (although never say never right) so was surprised to hear that. Thanks

          • Callum says:

            They were using “water” as shorthand for the Atlantic. The satellite(s) covering Europe will still cover the route to the Canaries as it’s right next to the mainland – they won’t cover much further than that though.

  • Alex says:

    RE the Heathrow Passenger Service Charge is now £29.81 – I would pay extra that amount to fly from Heathrow as it comparable with taking Gatwick Express or Luton/Stratford trains … and being equal on cost the airport is better and travel time by tube more predictable and faster

    Don’t really care about food on board for 2-3 hours flights , but hot drinks ( tea or coffee ) are must have for me … paid of free doesn’t matter …

    Screens in seats would be also be useful addition even on short haul – and I would pay say 10 pounds extra per flight for that …

    I think BA should try to make itself different to LCC … like offering Heathow european routes … more convenient time of departure … and get paid some premium for that … but if they will start flying from some crappy airports at 6 am … Why choose them vs LCC if they are more expensive

  • jhk says:

    we will get a new Vueling back with the new CEO from BA. it will and it is getting less and less I do not understand BA. other things they spend money like crazy. and at the end BA will loose his loyal customers!!!. Vueling is also a Dissaster never ever fly with them. it takes me to get a refund more than 6 months!!! no reply no service.

    so we need to find a new supplier> klm is doing at the moment a great job and Swiss also.

  • Ian says:

    Easyjet has 4 cabin crew and 2 trolleys. They start at both ends and meet in the middle, normally with the most senior crew at each ends going back and forth to the galleys to get stock… If you order a bacon baguette at the back, they push the call bell to get the attention of the crew at the front and point to their nose lol oink oink

  • Rach says:

    This seems to be part of a worrying downhill trend at BA (like the hand baggage only fares). A lot of BA passengers detest the Easyjet experience and that’s why we choose BA so why are they trying to copy the likes of Easyjet and RyanAir? They are giving up all their USPs! The food isn’t good at the moment but the focus should be on improving it and offering customers a pleasing experience so they will return to BA. Drinks are particularly important, as it’s easy to get dehydrated in an aeroplane and why should we have to faff around buying on on board picnic in advance or be faced with the rip off food and drink prices of low cost carriers (plus the inconvenience of having to wait longer for the items). I seriously hope BA reconsider this move

  • 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.

  • Greg says:

    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.

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