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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)

  • AJA says:

    I am amazed how hot a topic BoB is. It seems to me that BA is going to reintroduce it so there’s little point arguing that it isn’t worthwhile, BA seems to think it is. As for whether it is Greggs or M&S or Waitrose or some no-name brand that’s not really the key thing, what is important thing is the range, quality and consistent availability of the offering and whether they run out before they get to you.

    I used to work for LSG Skychefs and then moved to Gate Gourmet before leaving the industry. Aircraft supply logistics is a thankless task and operates on very low margins. It is one of the few non-safety areas that airlines can do cost control on but it is a very minor part of the overall cost of providing a seat on a plane. Catering for long-haul starts 6 hours before the flight. Shorthaul was only 4 hours before (this was before BoB). Both needed to be complete and ready to transfer to the aircraft 2 hours before the flight was due to depart due to the logistics of getting through the airport to the correct gate and get it loaded onboard. It is based on historic percentages of who will choose what and is based on load factors advised by the airline. Much in the same way that airlines historically oversell a flight because they know that x% will be no-shows industry data shows that x% will be vegetarian and y% will always choose beef over chicken. Sometimes that bites them in the arse because in the case of overselling all passengers show up. Likewise with catering occasionally the split of choices loaded onboard are wrong which is why sometimes your first choice isn’t available.

    I like the idea posted above of pre-ordering, Thomson used to operate that system where you would pay extra to order a meal but even then it sometimes went wrong. Sometimes passengers would transfer from another flight and they’d prebooked a meal so expected it to be loaded and it wasn’t. So it is possible to do and I am pretty sure BA has investigated whether it was worth doing. That they don’t seem to be offering it suggests that they don’t think it worthwhile.

    • Fenny says:

      Even giving passengers the option of pre-ordering in a limited way – “vegetarian or not” and “are you likely to want a bacon butty” -would help. For me, it’s always “does this sandwich have egg in it or not?” which is the killer question.

    • ChrisC says:

      BA did offer pre ordering of meals ex LHR certainly in F and Club but nore sure about premium/economy.

      What BA didn’t do was offer an extended menu for pre ordering – it was the same as the on board offering.

      I know Finnair and AA had an extended pre order menu indlucing things that could only be pre ordered. I had pre ordered Reindeer on an AY flight but that flight got cancelled.

  • Mark says:

    Switching from M&S to Waitrose would be easy as they are both supplied by Greencore. The number of sandwiches supplied to Tourvest will be insignificant compared to their normal daily production.

    I don’t see how a deal with Greggs would work as they don’t have a large central sandwich production line. Part of their advertising is that the sandwiches were made in-store on the day of purchase which would not be possible for the in-flight catering model.

    Most of the other cold products they sell are delivered on trays and then packaged in-store.

    I doub’t that Greggs (or Tourvest) would want to invest in a new production/packing facility when there are existing suppliers who can deliver pre packaged products.

    • Jonathan says:

      That’s not true, I work for Waitrose, and the sandwiches are made and distributed by two different companies, I won’t be naming any names at all, other than the statement ‘Greencore supplies all Waitrose sandwiches’ is incorrect

      • Mark says:

        Greencore is a supplier to Waitrose- the news articles regarding Covid outbreaks in Greencore plants mention Waitrose as a customer. I never stated that they were the only supplier.

        Even if they use a different supplier then most of my comments are still relevant as Waitrose have a range of pre-made sandwiches in sealed packaging.

      • Crafty says:

        Straw man, he didn’t say that.

  • Alex W says:

    Makes no difference to the likes of me who would not be seen dead buying anything on board! Stuff yourself silly in the lounge is the way to go, thankfully BA extended my silver card to May 2023 😆

  • Paul says:

    I think it is Brand poison to be associated with BA. Greggs would be my bet. I just don’t see the value for a company like Waitrose to be associated with something that is clearly cheap, bucket and spade.

    But what do I know!

    • TP says:

      Nothing, from the sounds of it.

    • Rich says:

      In fairness like many people I think you’re influenced by talk on sites like this and what you read in the press. Most of the population don’t have that view about BA judging from what I hear, see and by the passenger volumes, even on routes with fierce competition from the budget airlines.

    • Lynn says:

      Paul I think you are correct , it used to be true if you were connected with BA but not anymore

  • Chris Heyes says:

    The main problem with BoB is you can’t buy a meal, it’s basically a sandwich whichever way you look at it.
    Usually made with 2/3 day old bread with thinly sliced stuff on it
    Most supermarkets “bake” their own bread, but what the majority of customers don’t know is that any bread “baked” that is sliced is already over 1 day old (2 days old when reduced)
    If you happen to be in “ANY” supermarket late you will see them gather up bread with a sell by date then slice it re-package it for the day after (should be illegal but its not)
    i imagine Bob must be at least 1 day old if not 2

    • Doug M says:

      From what I’ve seen if BoB it looks like most of it would survive a nuclear event and remain as wholesome after as before.

    • mvcvz says:

      What’s this ridiculous obsession with consuming “meals” on flights? What in hell is wrong with a sandwich and a cup of coffee/quick vodka and tonic?

  • Sloth says:

    It amazes me the number of people who seemingly can’t go 2 hours or so without eating…I love my food but am perfectly capable of surviving 2/3 hours without eating

  • Mark says:

    Waitrose for the avios partnership would be a disaster for those of us in NI. BA would be I’ll-advised to have a ‘not quite all of the UK’ program – not very British…

    If there was ever a company that needed a proper loyalty scheme, it is surely M&S, that Sparks nonsense is pointless in its current incarnation, although they would have a wealth of shopper data there to bolster any proposal to adopt Avios?

    • mvcvz says:

      Having had the misfortune to visit a couple of M&S stores recently, I would suggest that far more than a proper loyalty scheme is required there.

    • Lady London says:

      Since the NI government has announced it will ensure yo continue EHIC cover that the rest of British citizens are losing, I think that’s swings and roundabouts.

  • Peter says:

    I love the Ryanair paninis – £5 for s hot sandwich is way better than what BA offers.

    • Polly says:

      Yep. Mentioned earlier that they could do with looking at and copying the Ryan Air f and b model. Seems to work. They sell loads on their flights, no matter how short it is. And you can build a meal if you like, Our kids loved the paninis back and forth to Dublin when they were younger.