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Is British Airways disguising food and drink cost cuts as health measures? Let’s compare.

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We have given British Airways a fairly easy ride over its in-flight service standards in recent weeks.  There were a number of reasons for this:

the very fact that BA is running any long haul passenger services is a good result compared to many other airlines

we haven’t been flying ourselves and we try to minimise articles based on third party feedback

other airlines hadn’t settled down into routines of their own

the only people flying long-haul are those who had to travel, and food would not have been top of their priority list

However, I think we’re now past the inflection point in terms of travel demand.  This means that it is time to ask whether British Airways is just disguising cost cutting in the name of ‘health’.

EDIT: Since this article was published, British Airways has announced improved temporary coronavirus catering – see here.

If you fly British Airways Club World or First Class at present, this is what you will get to eat and drink:

British Airways food and drink during coronavirus

A bottle of Harrogate spring water, plus ….

British Airways food and drink during coronavirus

…. a cold sandwich (not as attractive as this one), plus ….

British Airways food and drink during coronavirus

…. lovingly served in a ……

British Airways food and drink during coronavirus

….. which is hooked on the back of your seat waiting for you when you board.

(To be fair, there are stories of reheated pizza slices in a cardboard box on flights over 10 hours, so you MIGHT get something warm.  The images I’ve seen are not pretty though!)

Don’t get too excited by the four-finger Kit Kat.  A reader sent me a photo from his First Class flight from Los Angeles last week and he only received two fingers, which seems appropriate in some ways.  He did get the congealed reheated pizza slice as well though.

If you think this is normal in the current climate, think again.

Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways are serving their standard onboard food.  Qatar Airways and Etihad have, admittedly, moved to a ‘single tray’ service but the product itself is unchanged.  What about the European airlines though?

Lufthansa first class food and drink during coronavirus

What is Lufthansa currently offering onboard?

If you think that the Middle Eastern airlines are not a fair comparison for some reason, let’s look at Lufthansa.

Here are Lufthansa’s revised service standards in Business and First Class for flights until the end of August.

Short haul Lufthansa business class:

Standard service, including special meals

(In case you’re wondering, British Airways currently offers Club Europe passengers a bottle of water and a small packet of shortbread.  What is amusing is that the shortbread is BA’s idea of ‘luxury’ to justify the extra £200 or so on the ticket price.  Passengers in Euro Traveller only receive a pack of pretzels with their bottle of water.  There are occasional sightings of bags of crisps and biscuits.)

Long haul Lufthansa business class:

Standard service, except that there are no regionally themed menus depending on route

Paper menus continue to be available, and there is a choice of three main courses including the hot options

Long haul Lufthansa First Class:

Standard service – the same menu as usual BUT the caviar trolley no longer rolls down the aisle (here is a photo of mine from 2017, the photo above is my dessert from 2017):

Lufthansa first class food and drink during coronavirus

and

Lufthansa first class food and drink during coronavirus

It is worth noting that Virgin Atlantic WILL be serving hot meals in both Economy and Upper Class when it restarts passenger flights next month.

However, if you do need to travel long-haul First Class over the next 2-3 months, remember that you DO have a choice.  There is either the Lufthansa caviar selection and full standard menu (and standard beverage service) or your British Airways plastic bag with a sandwich, Kit Kat, bottle of water and no alcohol.  Think carefully …..

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Comments (183)

  • BABetrayal says:

    I flew to Singapore at the end of March, and back to London on 7 June, in cattle class. Absolutely awful both times. Your evening and morning meal consisted of a cold sandwich, a couple of oreos, and a small piece of chocolate with a bottle of still water. No alcohol. Coffee, tea or juices served with each meal. Juice or water in between. It’s basically a load of BS – it’s not for health/safety – if you can pour juice and water in a cup, and make coffee and tea, you can certainly hand out alcohol miniature bottles. That’s not even to mention the fact that serving hot food is probably safer than cold food as a few minutes in the microwave would kill any virus or bacteria. I wised up on the return leg and brought my own food onto the flight. And then you hear about them sacking all their staff!

  • Alex Sm says:

    #FirstClassPassengersMatter

    But seriously, BA brand credibility has gone through the window a long time ago but has not hit the bottom yet, for sure. To lose loyalty is easy but it will be hard to win it back

    • Aston100 says:

      But so long as people only talk the talk and don’t walk the walk, the status quo will be maintained.

      • Andrew says:

        Well something that the last two weeks has shown us, is that Covid has created an “enough is enough” culture and a chance to step back and ask why are we putting up with things being the way they are just because they are the way they are. So never say never, maybe this time we actually will walk from BA.

  • Georges Pharand says:

    I flew on the only daily flight between London and Toronto on Air Canada at the end of April. There were 2 of us in business class and 16 in economy on a 787. I came prepared, 7 x 100ml containers of frozen white wine which had thawed to a nice cold temperature so I could enjoy it throughout the 8 hour flight. I also brought my own food, leftover chicken from the night before at home and a nice piece of cake. The crew found it very amusing although they did point out that they would make an exception in allowing me to drink my own liquor on board. So if you prepare in advance, you can easily overcome these challenges. But be discreet with the booze, they might not all be as understanding as the Air Canada crew.

  • Tony says:

    I flew in CE on the BA316 LHR-CDG on Sunday and got a packet of crisps, a pack of two small Walkers lemon crunch biscuits, the smallest bottle of water I have ever seen, and coffee (tea was also available).