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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)

  • Greg says:

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

  • Soloflyer1977 says:

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

  • 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.

    • harry says:

      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.

      • Rob says:

        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.

        • harry says:

          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

          • harry says:

            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 🙂

          • harry says:

            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 🙂

          • Gavin says:

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

          • Alan says:

            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).

  • Sue says:

    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!!

  • 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.

    • John says:

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

      • Rob says:

        It was appallingly stocked when we went to Abu Dhabi at Easter. Probably under £10 of contents.

  • Rich. says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • Nick says:


    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.

    • John says:

      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.

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