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British Airways drops M&S for short-haul economy food – Greggs to take over?

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British Airways has announced, via The Sun, that it has terminated its contract with Marks & Spencer to provide ‘buy on board’ food for short-haul economy passengers.

In a short statement, BA said:

We’re off on a new flight path.

“We look forward to announcing our exciting new buy-on-board proposition with a great British brand that customers have told us they love.”

This is believed to be either Greggs or Waitrose, with The Sun reporting that both companies have submitted proposals.

There could be a link with Avios dropping Tesco, with Waitrose potentially getting the on-board contract and becoming the Avios supermarket partner. This also makes it less likely that M&S/Ocado will get the Avios deal.

British Airways and Marks and Spencers food

But M&S doesn’t really provide BA catering …..

It is a common misconception that M&S actually ‘provides’ the food in short-haul economy. In truth, Tourvest – the supplier – buys a small number of M&S items and adds them to its existing range of products. If you count down the menu, the percentage which is branded M&S product is relatively small.

Whilst introducing buy on board was controversial when introduced, in truth it was a mercy killing for the existing offering. BA had actually fallen behind other airlines – on BA, you would get a drink and a small bag of pretzels. There was no other alternative even if you were hungry. Other carriers, whilst charging, did at least have a full offering.

Unfortunately, BA screwed it up. In various trips with Vueling, easyJet and Ryanair over the past couple of years, it has been clear that all have a far broader range – with better availability – than British Airways. Simply swapping an M&S sandwich for a Waitrose one, both of which are likely to come from the same factory anyway, won’t change that.

Comments (187)

  • MT says:

    I always felt they missed a trick with the M&S, people like to build a meal from the menu on flights, but with the limited availability of items it was usually impossible to build up a “normal” meal. By the end, you couldn’t even choose a healthy option either. They kinda lost touch on what the purpose of food is.

    • ChrisW says:

      Especially when you can get a normal meal deal from most UK airports to just take on board to eat anyway!

  • J says:

    BA could follow Finnair (and SAS I think) and offer free tea/coffee and soft drinks while charging for food and they’d at least distinguish themselves as a brand from Ryanair/LCC’s.

  • Ben says:

    I think it was only “a small bag of pretzels and a drink” on the shorter flights, and in the final years of the old free offering. Longer flights got a sandwich if I recall, and I think there was a different offering at breakfast. Anyway, I get why BA want to do buy on board but the problem with the M&S offering was always limited choice and lack of stock. If they can improve on this then it might work, regardless of supplier… For me though the ideal would be the Finnair model i.e. free tea, coffee, juice and water for all with a full buy on board menu also available (and a free alcoholic drink for emerald status holders). At least then there’s some differentiation from a full LCC.

    • Polly says:

      Their glass of blueberry juice was such a treat. Agree, it’s a good model.
      But Waitrose will do us well, if it’s chosen. We usually split our shops between Waitrose and Morrisons these days, as no driving involved.

      Double dip there, Morrisons points whilst buying JL GCs to spend in Waitrose for avios. Not a big D dip of course, but something.

      The Ryan air food and drink model is surprisingly good, it wouldn’t do them any harm to follow it.

      • Lady London says:

        Yes. You’ve never seen anything till you’ve seen the cabin crew on a short Ryanair flight get selling.

  • Ian says:

    Bring back the LOVEAU flavoured sparkling water, that was the best.

  • Cheshire Pete says:

    They should be concentrating on getting a proper full service back than actually putting this effort into BOB. I was rather hoping the new CEO would reverse this race to the bottom. Perhaps this is more of an indication where is still thinks BA should be positioned, ie carry of Cruzing…..!

    • Alex Sm says:

      That Sun article actually mentions that return of free catering in Economy to differentiate from LCCs (the paper calls them “no-frills airlines”). But it seems to be quietly back already: my partner and I were on the Heathrow – Newquay flight two weeks ago and BA gave everyone a pack: a bag of crisps, THOSE (in)famous pretzels and a small bottle of water. And it was a normal BA flight, not a City Flyer franchise

  • Andrew says:

    At least you still get a free G&T and mini bag of crisps on LCY flights.

  • Jonathan says:

    BA should’ve followed the approach that US based carriers do, a two tiered buy on board system, soft drinks are free, along with a selection of snacks and everything else has to be paid for. But the (now former) BA boss who implemented BOB would’ve never considered this…….

    Either way, I think BOB will always be a huge failure for BA, where other rival carriers offer things people will actually be happy to get, instead of a sandwich that doesn’t look anywhere near as good as it’s picture, and a small pack of heavy inflated priced pack of nuts

    • callum says:

      I think it’s beyond obvious that Cruz did indeed consider that model, then chose not to implement it.

      I certainly can’t see how it’s so clearly superior? You’ll still get incessant moaning that it’s not good enough from a small minority while the vast majority of flyers remain completely indifferent.

  • Rob says:

    I’m trying to imagine the carnage of the cleaners having to remove sauage roll pastry crumbs from 160 or so seats each flight.

    • ChrisW says:

      This. Flaky pastry is a nightmare on aircraft. I’ve never understood why croissants are still served for breakfast!

      • BP says:

        Because the croissants they serve are doughy monstrosities. There is little to no flake.

        • RussellH says:

          Surprising to some, maybe, but the only place in the UK to buy croissants is Lidl. Very comparable to 99% of those bought at bakeries in France.
          I accept that there are, hopefully, one or two artisan bakeries in places like Edinburgh or Manchester that sell comparable quality, and the ones I saw yesterday in Booths looked very good too. The price, though, was 3½ x as much as Lidl.

          • VP says:

            I second that. Lidl croissants and pain au chocolate are so much better than the Waitrose and M&S ones at 1/3rd the price.

          • Rhys says:

            Their pasteis de nata are excellent too.

          • Anna says:

            The Lidl bakery section is excellent, I don’t know people see the place as cheap and nasty.
            RussellH – I bought some olives from Booth’s deli counter once, it was a long time before I recovered from the financial shock!

          • Optimus Prime says:

            Does Lidl sell pasteis de nata in UK too? I’ve seen them in Tesco and Co-Op at 80p each. In Portugal they sell them at €0.30

          • Rhys says:

            Yes, they do.

          • Char Char says:

            *Only Place* hahahahaha

          • Lady London says:

            The curved ones, when they stock them are better. The straight ones seem to have some kind of non-natural fat in them.

          • Genghis says:

            @Optimus Prime. 6 for £2 in Lidl. I was tempted to buy some last week.

          • the_real_a says:

            The iceland frozen ones are very good too… 10 minutes in the oven on a sunday morning.

          • Optimus Prime says:

            Thanks Ghenghis. I don’t have a Lidl nearby, otherwise I’d stock up on those 🤣

          • David S says:

            Totally agree. Lidl is my go to for Croissants when in Portugal