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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)

  • Andrew says:

    Oh, that would be good on a domestic flight. Heading to GLA or EDI on a Friday night and being offered a Gregg’s Haggis or Macaroni pie and a can of Irn-Bru meal deal for £5.

    They’d run out half way up the plane for sure.

    Would you like to go large with a Gregg’s Custard doughnut?

  • 1ATL says:

    I actually feel sorry for whoever gets the contract. The middleman (Tourvest in BA’s case) contracted to procure the on board offering made a complete shambles of it and M&S took the majority of the flack. Unless whoever contracts this
    time takes the supply and procurement in-house it’ll be more supply chain disappointment and apologies of there not be being enough catering all over again.

    • Nick says:

      Absolutely this. BA does deserve stick for signing with Tourvest with crap service but it’s absolutely Tourvest who were at fault. They sold BA a ‘world leading forecasting system’ which was anything but (turned out it was one person with a spreadsheet who knew nothing about data). BA had to loan them some of their own analytics specialists to do it for them. And because the liability for unsold stock initially lay with Tourvest, there were (deliberate) shortages on most flights. They only agreed to change it if BA offered to pay for any unsold stock at the end of the day. What Alex doesn’t get any credit for is that he agreed to this to help the PR impact and stumped up from BA’s pocket.

      • chabuddy geezy says:

        Cruz does not deserve any credit, he initially said they received great feedback from the introduction of BoB. In reality the food shortages were shambolic. The way he gaslighted customer experiences was another episode where he undermined his and BA’s credibility.

  • Nick_C says:

    I honestly thought this headline was a joke! Greggs? Was this Alex Cruz’s parting shot?

    Nothing wrong with Greggs per se, it just not the image I expected BA would be wanting to aspire to.

    Isn’t the best sandwich on the High Street from Pret?

    Perhaps they could start serving Greggs coffee though; much better than anything you can get on a BA flight, even in First.

    • Josh says:

      Mcdonalds coffee is far better than Greggs.

      Why not go the whole hog and sell mcmuffins on breakfast time flights…

      • Nick_C says:

        I’ve not been into a McD for years. The coffee used to be dreadful. It was only “drip”. Do they do espresso now? Greggs “bean to cup” machines produce good coffee at a fair price.

      • mradey says:

        Agree about the coffee. Last time (OK a couple of years ago, may be fine now) I tasted Greggs’ coffee it was like going back to 70’s chicory substitute.

    • flyforfun says:

      “Isn’t the best sandwich on the High Street from Pret?”

      No! They are just mayo and mashed meat or veg in bad bread and expensive prices. If I never see another platter of their vile products again at a working lunch I’ll be happy! That’s one benefit of Covid and working from home!!

      EAT! were a far better chain. Shame they were gobbled out by Pret. Their products tasted fresh and inviting. Pret taste of stale mush with combinations of flavours and ingredients that don’t work.

      • marcw says:

        You do not want to know what happens in a kitchen of any Pret. When I first moved to London, back in 2010, my first job was at a Pret. I’ve been there, worked there, seen it. Never ever would I eat anything from Pret, Eat and alike.

        • Dubious says:

          I remember when there was an EAT at Glasgow Airport. I remember well the day I picked up 2x wraps (one was never filling enough for dinner) on the way to the gate…ate one of the late afternoon flight and the other for when I got home…except to find that when I got home 2 – 2.5 hours after buying it there was visible signs of mould!

          Can’t have been that fresh for that to happen!

          • Rob says:

            EAT food wasn’t fresh. All Pret food is made on-site. EAT stuff came from centralised factories and often sat on the shelf for a bit, which is why it had expiry dates on it. Pret sarnies don’t have expiry dates because they are eaten almost immediately after being made on-site and are given away if not.

      • Rob says:

        EAT was so good that it lost all its customers to Pret and went bust.

        EAT had a strategy of opening next to a Pret and picking up stragglers who refused to queue. Once Pret started opening mega stores (Kings Road probably has 100 seats) they were doomed.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          The best product doesn’t always win unfortunately.

          • Rob says:

            But this was very democratic. Everyone went to EAT and decided they were going back to Pret next time! Wasn’t exactly a high risk gamble for customers.

            You can make that argument when customers won’t gamble on a new brand in a high priced category, but sarnies?

          • TGLoyalty says:

            There’s brand awareness, marketing vs substance and all of the other factors that go into why humans make bad choices 🙂

            I personally found EAT or Leon better than Pret but Pret are everywhere and instantly recognisable. I don’t mind greggs tbh

        • Fenny says:

          It must be nice to live in a place where all of these outlets exist(ed)! My small town has an abundance of cafes and coffee shops, but most are local independents. In terms of chains, we have Costa, Gregs Coffee #1, Subway and McDs. Nearest Pret is at least 12 miles away. But Waitrose does a roaring trade at lunchtime, even though there’s not currently any free coffee.

          • Nick_C says:

            “It must be nice to live in a place where all of these outlets exist”

            You must be joking? You would rather have a multi national chain than a local family run place? Give me a local business any day. I am sick every High Street looking the same across much of the world.

          • mradey says:

            Reply to Nick_C – problem with these local family run businesses (which I do try and use) is that their opening hours are rather limited in many cases and they cannot handle larger throughput – which is fine but not suited to the breakfast and lunch rush.

      • 1ATL says:

        +1
        I’ve never understood the fascination with Pret. Overly complicated and over priced. Many a work meeting with the dreaded wrap and sandwich platters, although the carrot cake and chocolate brownie bites were pretty good. EAT was always far superior in terms of quality of the bread and the ingredients as well as the simplicity of of the fillings.

        • Jonathan says:

          It’s making me chuckle hearing you all moan about having to endure a Pret platter for your lunch meetings. Try having to buy your own sandwich from the selection available in the average hospital canteen. A soggy slice of iceberg is what counts as the salad contribution to most of the options. They’re not cheap either now everything not frontline is outsourced.

        • Cam says:

          Pret’s filter coffee is by far the best in the UK, and their other drinks are OK. Otherwise, I’ll take a chance on something more local – unless I’m packing provisions for a flight, in which case I might give in.

  • David Cohen says:

    The reason I’m about to renew my Lufthansa Senator card for the third time (as opposed to GGL) and dropped to Lifetime Gold, was the introduction of buy on board.

    The whole thing is/was a total debacle.

    Rather than think about the whole service, end-to-end, it was done in a low-cost disjointed way.

    Why not get the logistics right and allow customers to pre-order via the website? Allows you to far more accurately predict loadings of food, waste and spoilage, plus reduces transaction times on the aircraft.

    Use that as an opportunity to bundle the price of a sarnie and G&T via the website. There’s a HBO and Plus fare. Why not add a Premium fare for a fixed tenner on top that includes this?

    The whole saga is shambolic – Sean really needs to get a grip.

    • Nick says:

      Pre-ordering doesn’t work on shorthaul because so many people change their flights and the catering has to be prepped too far in advance. Seriously you’d be amazed how many people end up on something different on the day. It could work on longer holiday routes (e.g. Tenerife) and I hope they’ll do it, but on business routes there’s no chance it’ll work.

      • flyforfun says:

        Agreed, but I think if you book food and have the option to switch flights – at your choice, then you’d have to agree to loose it. The only caveat would be that something would be available to buy on your new flight -at your cost of course.

      • David Cohen says:

        So that’s where some proper BI and big data comes in to look at what people have been ordering, and ensure the flights are adequately loaded at the right times of the day.

        Drinks are super easy to cater like this, food shouldn’t be too much harder. A few targeted hires from Amazon should see this implemented easily.

        After all, they’ve got all the technology in place for doing revenue management; they just need to tweak the skillset slightly to ensure that they get the right products on the right flights.

        • mradey says:

          🙂

          I’m not convinced you’re going to get many people to switch from Amazon to BA

      • Lady London says:

        Does Austrian make pre-ordering with Do&Co work? IIRC they were offering it out of Vienna. Happy to pre-order Do&Co and makes it more likely I wont change the flight.

        • marcw says:

          Austrian is also a much smaller operations, is way way reduced frequencies, compared to BA. If you are smaller, distribution and management is way easier.
          Finnair has something similar, but they don’t offer it on the Nordic routes. Again, a smaller operation.

        • Bagoly says:

          AirBerlin used to offer “proper” knife-and-fork food if one booked more than 24 hours in advance and paid EUR10-15. On a flight of over three hours over lunch or dinner time it made a lot of sense.

    • John says:

      Lufthansa Y food (sandwiches and snacks) are frozen and then defrosted as needed. The cheapest meats and processed cheeses and full of chemicals in order to make freezing process possible.

      How absolutely delicious.

  • r* says:

    Greggs.. BA have won the race to the bottom!

  • TripRep says:

    I’m kinda surprised they intend to serve any food on a domestic flight in a country struggling with battling a pandemic. <90mins isn't too long to keep a mask on?

    • Navara says:

      👍

    • Anna says:

      40 mins MAN-LHR. It’s always entertaining seeing the crew trying to get round a CE cabin of 12 or 14 people. And if they don’t get to you, you can claim 5000 avios from BA. It’s all good!

      • Stagger Lee says:

        Ilve always found it bizarre that airlines serve food on such short flights.

        I remember being on a BMI flight from LBA to LHR about 20 years ago and the whole plane were offered breakfast. I got my bacon sandwich about a minute before the ‘cabin crew, seats for landing announcement was made. The crew seemed stressed the whole flight and they probably had to turn around and do it all again on the return flight. Just seemed totally unnecessary for a fairly inexperienced flyer as I was back then.

        • Tony says:

          Ha ha. You have not flown on the Ryanair Athens to Santorini flight lasting 20 mins with full service!

          • John says:

            How’s it comparable? Every pax on BD would get the service. Not 189/189 pax on FR with crew selling a few drinks and snacks.

  • _nate says:

    Home Bargains used to do surprisingly nice sandwiches. They also have a curious range of drinks. Perhaps BA have cottoned on…

  • Mark Whitelegg says:

    Have done dozens of short haul flights since M&S were implemented, rarely had a problem with availability, certainly after the first month or so, liked the range, liked the food was much better than offerings from Wizz (although it wasn’t bad tbh), Ryanair (terrible), Easyjet (passable), KLM (free, but terrible) and Lufthansa (free and mediocre)

    • Tony says:

      The BA offering far better I agree. With Ryanair and EasyJet simple sandwiches no longer available as pre Covid all they wanted to do was sell you expensive heated up stuff. Easy Jet also stopped selling the bacon roll which always rather enjoyed regardless of the time of day