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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.

Comments (86)

  • Concerto says:

    You get better service and catering on SUN-AIR than in BA First, by the looks of it.

  • J says:

    There is no “safety” explanation for any of this – the use of plastic cups is particularly lazy. BA deserve to go bust or be broken up. Lufthansa are an equally nasty company but at least they’re continuing to provide a decent on board service. BA almost seem to be celebrating the virus as an opportunity to cut more corners on service and attack their staff.

  • Sam says:

    I only got into the points game a couple of years ago and I have just triggered my first 2 for 1. I’m always mindful of the companies I spend my money with. Having triggered the voucher, I’m loathed to travel with BA, not because of the catering (although that doesn’t help) but how they have treated their staff and just their whole conduct!

  • Yorkieflyer says:

    Surely this pathetic attempt at a meal, the matronly service, club suites and the inevitable down turn in business travel must mark the death knell of First class?

  • Calum says:

    Can you imagine the meeting where a bunch of managers decided we would buy the “safety” charade and then back-patted themselves because it was conveniently cheaper too. It’s insulting.

  • FloriGuy says:

    On a serious note, is there any indication as to when BA will return to their normal? I have been looking at doing a Xmas or NY redemption with them but don’t want to waste the points if this will be the quality of service.

  • Lady London says:

    I wouldnt even clean my teeth with Nicolas Feuillatte and I’m not even First Class Fiona… I tend to be a denizen of Y with occasional forays into J longhaul.

    • ChrisBCN says:


    • Anna says:

      I’ve had better cremants for £10 a bottle than Feuillatte, and I generally hate wine snobbery 😂. But I love sandwiches and crisps washed down with champers (the acidity makes them a great combination!) so maybe the current catering wouldn’t be too much of a disaster for me!

      • Hugh Jardon says:

        Ah Cremant! , I so love to wash down my pork scratchings and cheese and pickle sarnies with an effervescent appellation from the Loire

    • First Class Fiona says:

      @Lady London, you’re a lady with high standards, l love it! I once used Nicolas Feuillatte to clean my silver spoons and they came up a treat. Same league as diet coke in that respect…downright bloody awful x

  • Richard G says:

    I’m flying First in December, and to be honest, if that’s what they’re offering at that point then I’ll probably just downgrade.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Talk of CCR reopening September.

      All of this is purely to do with cost cutting but I hope some things stay like order to table across all lounges.

    • Lady London says:

      I dont think evrn chucking cassis into Nicolas Feuillatte improves it. (kir royale)