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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)

  • Nick_C says:

    LGPS retails at £119.99. That’s £97.13 when you strip out VAT and WIne Duty.

    Nicolas Feuillatte is currently £19.99 at Waitrose (surprised it costs this much, or that Waitrose are selling it). That’s £13.80 when you strip out VAT and Duty.

    £80 a bottle saving. Nice one BA.

    • Nick_C says:

      Oops. LPGS!

    • James says:

      You’re surprised that Waitrose even sell it?
      Pleaas, get over yourself.

    • Sean says:

      except BA will be paying nowhere near that price

      • WaynedP says:

        Agree. Nicholas Feuillatte is consistently cheapest Champagne available at Tesco, retailing around £14 per bottle, or £12.50 around Christmas/New Year.

        A Joe Pleb like me who times it well can pick up a dozen for a shade under £10 a bottle using the 25% discount for six at a time – BA must be doing much better give their purchasing power.

        It goes to show that airlines pay relatively few pounds to enhance an economy class journey experience, but charge a hefty premium for it.

        • old bob says:

          Quite agree, I generally take the shit show that BA is for everything , my record is 7 mini bottles of champers (37.5CL) on a J flight from LHR to Athens. They stopped serving me after I (allegedly) insulted a rather large fellow passenger.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Tbf to BA I doubt LPGS make stupid little screw top bottles to meet BAs limited touch service.

          If restaurants can use full size bottles etc now I don’t see why BA can’t.

  • Alastair says:

    Am on a Finnair flight from Helsinki to London right now, business class (free WiFi)
    Just had a perfectly fine hot meal, proper crockery – full (or near enough) bar service, coffee tea etc. Feeling perfectly safe with all this.
    Sure service is a little leaner with the COVID situation (no proactive offerings of top ups) but it’s all fine so I think BA may be doing a bit too much enhancement here.

  • MadeUpName says:

    Who’s the club Europe catering now for a 3.5 hour flight? Should I expect sandwich in a bag or crisps in a bag?

    Just trying to plan what to eat before boarding!

    • Cheshire Pete says:

      We just did Band 4 to Corfu it was a nice box with the same chicken Caesar sandwich we had on the MAN domestic the day before! It is rather nice though! On the MAN it’s served in a paper bag with water, Desert. On the Band 4 box we got
      An extra salad side in the smallest desert style container you could imagine!

      At least the champagne was free flowing!

      • Cheshire Pete says:

        Oh we were cheeky and asked for the Economy snack which was a Larry bag of crisps & a chocolate biscuit! We did say only if there’s some left, so we didn’t deprive anyone, and they came back later with the plastic snack bag!

        • Richard says:

          Thanks Pete, that sounds fine – and a valid reason to de-mask for a few minutes!

      • MadeUpName says:

        That sounds ok – better than the bag of crisps and a kit kat I was expecting a few weeks ago!

  • Tom says:

    Richard G,

    A lot of people who fly F don’t bother to eat – they’d rather get more sleep instead.

    And the best food in F is no better than a fairly average restaurant anyway.

    People fly F for the hard product, the space and the service. And right now, for that all important distance from other passengers.

    • Andrew says:

      But many of us on this site use this site to be able to fly First because we couldn’t afford to otherwise. So First is a treat, not just an opportunity to sleep (I can do that in my bed at home). So yes for some of us First is about getting a nice meal and lashings LPGS. Catching a couple of hours of sleep and then waking to a full English in bed.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      A rather large generalisation there. I’m sure people fly F for the whole package.

      Otherwise why would they bother with F on day flights?

      Even if the main draw is the better seat (CS narrows the gap), and the space/privacy they won’t put up with being served rubbish on their own dime.

    • Sam says:

      I don’t know how many people flying in first that you know, or how many experience have you had travelling in first. But I’m pretty sure no one can sleep for the entire 10-12 hour flight and everyone would eat at some point. And even for those ‘don’t bother to eat’ should be quite upset being served with a depressing meal box after paying grands for a ticket.

  • Chris says:

    My wife and I have flights booked in first in November, if BA don’t get their act together and reinstate normal service by then I’ll be cancelling and flying with another airline.

  • Sam says:

    Virtually every major international airline EXCEPT BA has resumed/been providing full hot meal catering in premium cabins.

    The argument is that both short- and long-haul travels should still be minimised as the infection level varies in different countries (especially now at the other side of the world) and for those who travel now simply means they need to travel even if it’s not a full real-cutlery meal. Until air travel fully resumes I doubt other competitors can add enough pressure to BA to ditch it’s meal boxes and this will be for months. Cost-cutting comes the first at BA, and passenger experience is always not their concern (unless competitors are strong enough to pressure them to change). This is just a budget airline packaged as full-service.

    • Lady London says:

      “Virtually every major international airline has resumed [not insultingly cheapskate] catering..hot meals”.

      And which major international airline is the most profitable?

      Sadly we know the answer

    • Mitul says:

      I agree with you , seems like a Ryan air first class experience.

  • Anthony Brooke says:

    Let’s be honest BA doesn’t care about the customer, just the bottom line come results day. Which in itself is strange as BA’s largest shareholder is Qatar who offer a far superior service.
    They will keep with the cheap option, and let the customer suffer.

  • meta says:

    I know BA’s current food offering is rubbish at best. However, in these times I wish BA paid more and really improved their cleaning standards. On both my inbound and outbound to Amsterdam the seats were . Crew just shrugged it off and continued making announcement about their enhanced cleaning procedures.

    • meta says:

      *seat were filthy

      • Lady London says:

        that’s worrying. I would never have accused BA of actually lying about their cleaning procedures.

    • Journeying John says:

      BA haven’t done effective cleaning on their cabins for several years but the PR hype around enhanced cleaning is especially galling given the reality that their cabins are generally filthy and not just with the last flights detritus but engrained dirty that simply can’t be addressed in the 7mins or so allowed during turn arounds.
      #BestAvoided as with catering, IFE and cabin maintenance BA is BelowAverage but continue to charge a premium, exploiting the inherited slot dominance.

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