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What is the British Airways temporary catering like in First Class?

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Two months ago, British Airways revealed its temporary coronavirus in-flight catering.

Unlike other airlines, BA reconstructed its food offering from scratch. The old recipes and menus went out the window, to be replaced with a smaller, more limited selection.

The change also involved a move to cold dishes (mostly sandwiches) in virtually all classes. First was the only cabin to feature hot main courses.

Instead of being presented on trays, your food would arrive in a box to avoid cross contamination:

British Airways coronavirus catering food drink

BA’s temporary covid catering in First class

Thanks to reader Joe, we now have some photos of what the temporary catering really looks like in First. Joe was on a flight from London to Hong Kong.

Drinks are being served in plastic cups in all classes. British Airways is serving Nicolas Feuillatte Réserve Exclusive Brut NV Champagne, which has previously appeared on the M&S buy-on-board short haul menu:

British Airways coronavirus catering food drink

For dinner, you are given this large box:

British Airways coronavirus catering food drink

…which includes two cold starters/sides, a bottle of water and some bread. Your main (hot) meal comes in a separate box, with an economy-style metal foil covering:

British Airways coronavirus catering food drink

It doesn’t look quite as bland as an economy meal, but it’s not far off!

British Airways coronavirus catering food drink

For dessert you get three little plastic-wrapped cups including DO&CO’s signature chocolate dessert:

British Airways coronavirus catering food drink

British Airways is currently serving afternoon tea as its second meal, at least on this flight.  It features a selection of finger sandwiches, macarons, a fruit salad and some clotted cream and jam to go with what I imagine will be a scone:

British Airways coronavirus catering food drink

Is it time to improve catering again?

At the time British Airways re-introduced its Covid-19 catering measures, sit-down restaurants across the UK were still boarded up. BA’s meals were a sensible compromise between comfort and safety: an improvement on the ‘cheese sandwich and a kit kat’ that the airline had been offering in previous months but with fewer contact points than pre-Covid catering.

A lot has changed since then as lockdown restrictions have eased. Crucially, restaurants were permitted to open in early July and whilst measures have been taken to minimise cross-contamination, you’re unlikely to see your waiter or waitress bringing your food in paper boxes or with plastic lids.

It is not entirely BA’s fault. Government guidance to airlines still suggests that they offer “pre-sealed and pre-prepared food and drink,” which British Airways is clearly following.

Whilst BA’s temporary meal service is an improvement, it is now generally lagging behind in comparison with its competitors and the hospitality industry at large. Virgin Atlantic, for example, is offering hot meals in every cabin, whilst Lufthansa is offering its meals in a more normal service on trays with real crockery.

Is there a way that British Airways can safely improve its offering whilst still adhering to government guidelines? I’d say so. Pretty much all in-flight food is pre-prepared and packaged anyway, with cabin crew only required to re-heat and present dishes. I’m not sure that boxing food rather than serving it on re-usable crockery really moves the needle.

It will be increasingly important for British Airways to prove that it is offering a good service, especially in premium cabins, as it encourages people to make future bookings.

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Comments (86)

  • Dubious says:

    “It will be increasingly important for British Airways to prove that it is offering a good service, especially in premium cabins, as it encourages people to make future bookings.”

    I agree – I am being careful to avoid booking something if I think I will get a poor service like that. I prefer the journey to be part of the enjoyment of travel rather than a means to an end.

    As schedules and frequencies becomes less relavent this year and next, the different levels of service amongst competitors will become more relavent.

    • Oliver says:

      It’s northing to do with service. Cabin crew are doing best service they can and they only can serve customer with what they have onboard. It’s poor inflight products. When you say poor service people only think is crew service.

      • Dubious says:

        To be honest when I write “service” I mean the whole service experience as provided by British Airways; I’m not limiting it to the service of the cabin crew. For me the meal is part of the service (the service being carriage of myself from one place to another and more) rather than the product.

    • Andrew says:

      Couldn’t agree more – premium cabins are about the whole experience and the elevated catering, particularly in First. That current offering is another pitiful cost saving initiative, with other airlines back to a near normal service, BA will I’m sure continue to offer this rubbish for many months to save a few quid. Club Europe service on a First seat – that’s all that is.

  • Harold R says:

    And still no special meals?

    What’s the problem with offering special meals assuming they conform to BAs new regular meals standards.

    • Ian M says:

      They just want to save money.

      • Charlieface says:

        Yeah, considering Kosher meals are 100% wrapped and 100 % disposable, this is a worrying sign

  • Phillip says:

    Hats off to Lufthansa on the catering front – they have maintained their usual service with a few Covid related enhancements and their shorthaul business class offering surpasses BA’s longhaul catering offering in FIRST. Special meals included!

    • Andrew says:

      As have Qatar Airways – near normal catering and table set up. And they kept their lounge in Doha open throughout.

  • Erico1875 says:

    Its a pity they cannot “follow Government guidelines” and try to retain jobs instead of the mass slaughter they have started

  • Henry says:

    Have prices been adjusted to match the obvious reduction in quality?
    Its disgraceful tbh and thats why my money goes to other operators.

    • Ian M says:

      I highly doubt it.

      • DB2020 says:

        If anything, prices are higher on the routes I would normally fly. No plans to travel at the moment but when countries open up for UK passport holders, then I will have to take into account the price and what one gets for it.

        Perhaps that means I will have to fly another airline!

  • Paul says:

    That is Shocking for first class. The desserts- the chocolate sludge in the middle, is in the crushed sandwich bag handed out on domestic flights and is vile.
    I spent last week touring around Scotland where I ate fantastic meals in small cafes in various towns. I paid £7 for a Caesar salad in one establishment which would shame that BA supposed first class-offer.

    And don’t let them hide behind guidance. They are choosing to do this to save money.

  • Aaron C says:

    If they want to try to fill the premium cabins with leisure travellers (which maybe a good idea while business travel remains depressed) then they need to make the journey part of the holiday – and that means a proper catering operation not something like this.

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    What I want:

    Clean aircraft
    Space – and being able to lie down
    and something nice to eat.

    There’s only one I can bring myself – so a decent picnic!

    I think BA’s effort shows a serious lack of thought, but it’s not top of my priority list.

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