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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


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)

  • callum says:

    It’s clearly motivated by cost cutting (which given the flights would presumably often be running at a loss, I guess is more understandable – but still dishonest).

    Even if you buy the claim that the only safe way to provide food on board is to hang it in a plastic bag before the passengers arrive – they could have put far better items in the bag. A sandwich, bottle of water and kit-kat would be fine for short haul – but for 10 hours seems a bit ridiculous (is that genuinely all that is given on those flights!?).

    • Gerard says:

      I flew with BA back to HK on Saturday and can confirm that above is what was served for dinner (the plastic bag was given to us not handing on seat). For breakfast we were given a hot pastry in a cardboard box and another plastic bag containing a kit kat and water bottle.

      I agree it is cost cutting rather than health reasons but I am not going to complain – grateful there is a service running but I do wonder if this will be the norm for economy in the next year or so…

    • Memesweeper says:

      The flights are making money on cargo. Passengers are a bonus.

  • Lux says:

    Costco bottled water is (literally) identical to Harrogate Spring, and retails under 10p a unit, so BA is quenching a light-loaded 777 for about a tenner. It’s impressive.

    • Andrew says:

      The water out of my parent’s tap is identical to Highland Spring.

  • Chris says:

    Unfortunately the consistent message to BA’s customers, including those with status, is that we do not really want to try very hard to keep you flying with us. The meal service is another demonstration of that approach.

  • Paul says:

    Flew back in First March 24th and was one of the first to get the “new” service. It was worst than that pictured. In addition no amenities were provided. Complained twice couldn’t care less.

  • Craig says:

    Not to forget that the cabin crew’s motivation levels will be rock bottom tight now. I wonder what detail the risk assessment contains and whether the cabin crews unions have accepted it?

  • Matty says:

    I think the consistent message from BA is “F*** you, you’ll be back.” And they are correct.

  • Chris L says:

    It would be much safer to serve only hot food in the current climate. This is clearly cost-cutting.

  • Nick G says:

    It’s pretty much in line with the way it treats its staff by the looks of it

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