Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

We put the new BA ‘Speedbird Cafe’ (and Tom Kerridge pie) to the test

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

In January, British Airways made the unexpected announcement that it would be improving the food and drink in Euro Traveller (short haul economy).

This involved the re-introduction of free water and a small snack for all passengers. Alongside this would be a brand new pre-order menu for heartier items and drinks called ‘Speedbird Cafe’, with selected items curated by chef Tom Kerridge.

Unfortunately, few of us have been flying in the past four months and have had little opportunity to give the new menu a try – until this week.

With Scotland open to tourists with hotels and indoor dining open, a trip beckoned. We thought it would be a good time to see whether Speedbird Cafe is better than the M&S catering it replaced.

British Airways Eurotraveller Tom Kerridge steak and ale pie

‘Speedbird Cafe’ is pre-order only

The big change, apart from the different selection of food, is that British Airways has moved to a pre-order only system. This replaces the buy-on-board system used previously.

This is a genuine improvement as long as you can plan in advance. Under the old system, you had to try your luck and hope that your flight had been loaded with enough M&S sandwiches or that your fellow passengers weren’t particularly peckish.

This didn’t happen very often. It seems that British Airways insisted that the catering company pay for unsold fresh items that had to be thrown away. This meant that supplies were meagre, leaving those at the back reliant on long-life snacks.

Pre-ordering solves this problem. By ordering online you can expect your meal to be delivered – no taking chances.

How do you pre-order a meal on British Airways?

This is where things get a little messy. Due to the legacy IT systems airlines use, adding ancillary products such as meal pre-orders during a flight booking is quite difficult.

(This is one of the reasons why airlines are rolling out something called the ‘New Distribution Capability’ or NDC. But that’s a whole other story ….)

You can pre-order your meal on the High Life Shop website here after you have booked your flights. You must pre-order at least 24 hours prior to departure.

The ordering process itself is fairly simple. You add in your flight number and personal details:

Speedbird cafe pre-order

…. and British Airways will automatically match your order up to your booking. You don’t need to know your booking reference.

You add items to your bag and check out, just as with any other online order.

Delivering your food

I was interested to see how British Airways juggled the delivery of pre-orders with the free water and snack provided to all passengers. This is especially tricky on a short flight like London – Edinburgh.

It seems BA has decided to get the free service out of the way first. As soon as the seatbelt signs were off cabin crew whizzed up to the top of the economy cabin with the trolley and duly dished out free bottles of Harrogate water and a packet of crisps.

They did tell me my food was on its way as soon as they had doled out the free snacks. This only takes five minutes at most – it’s amazing how much faster offering a free snack is vs a buy on board menu.

But how does it taste?

When your meal is delivered it comes in a little paper bag like this:

Speedbird Cafe Tom Kerridge British Airways

The pie itself is wrapped in a separate brown paper bag.

Annoyingly there is no paper plate, so you have to eat the pie out of the foil case on a napkin:

Speedbird Cafe Tom Kerridge British Airways crisps

I have a bone to pick with the pre-ordered crisps, which seem super eco friendly when they arrive in a little box. When you open the box, however, it contains a plastic bag. This is a completely unnecessary waste of cardboard and / or plastic when just one would suffice.

On to the Tom Kerridge Steak and Ale Pie, which is a little less brown on top than in the PR photos:

Speedbird Cafe Tom Kerridge British Airways steak ale pie

…. but was, I have to admit, quite delicious. I would definitely order this again. On my return flight I tried the Chicken, Bacon and Celery Brioche Crunch:

Speedbird Cafe Tom Kerridge British Airways chicken bacon brioche

…. which again tasted great although it wasn’t particularly ‘crunchy’. The brioche had become slightly soggy with the moisture in the filling.

Is the Speedbird Cafe expensive?

It is, I think, more expensive than it ought to be.

This is what I ordered on my flight:

Speedbird Cafe order

In total, I paid £9.35 for a Tom Kerridge Steak and Ale Pie and a can of Brewdog Jetstream – this was a combo for £8 – plus another £1.35 for the crisps.

What I had forgotten – and what you are not reminded of during the purchase – is that you get a free bag of Tyrells ready salted crisps anyway. Bizarrely, BA offers a sandwich combo that includes a soft drink AND crisps – slightly unnecessarily.

£8 isn’t bad for hot pie and a can of Jetstream. It is worth noting that the pies are specially made at a site overseen by Kerridge – the manufacturing is not contracted out to a random supplier.

£8.15 for the sandwich meal deal does seems overpriced, given you can get a meal deal at Boots or WH Smith for close to £5.

Is BA really providing £3 more value than what you would find in the terminal? I’m not so sure. Remember that moving to pre-ordering takes all the financial risk away from BA. There is no unsold stock to be thrown away at the end of the day.

With the sandwich deal, you are effectively paying a £3 premium to have your meal delivered to your seat.

Conclusion

Reintroducing free water and snacks is a step in the right direction for BA’s short haul economy offering. The new Tom Kerridge-led Speedbird Cafe is a good addition for those that want a bigger bite.

That said, there is plenty of room for improvement in terms of pricing, ordering and delivery.

Ordering via a separate website rather than via the booking process is something I’m sure BA is keen to change.

It doesn’t seem like British Airways is doing enough to inform passengers of the pre-ordering process. For example, despite the BA PR team assuring me that Speedbird Cafe is mentioned in three pre-departure emails and a text, none of the communications I received mentioned the offer at all. I was the only passenger on both flights to have pre-ordered anything.

I would love to see BA price this more competitively with in-airport meal deal options. At price parity there would be little reason not to pre-order via Speedbird Cafe vs buying in the terminal and it would be a home run for BA.

Head for Points made a financial contribution to the Woodland Trust as part of this trip. The Woodland Trust creates and manages forests in the UK in accordance with the Woodland Carbon Code.


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (August 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (116)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    Thoughts on the Jetstream? I quite liked the Speedbird and was sad to see it discontinued.

    • Ikaz says:

      I didn’t enjoy Jetstream at all, but was really fond of Speedbird.

    • Rhys says:

      Can’t really remember what Speedbird was like to compare!

    • MrHandBaggageOnly says:

      I preferred Speedbird to Jetstream too, although it is perfectly drinkable. Jetstream is much closer to a lager than Speedbird was, so aimed at trying to keep everyone happy.

      • John says:

        Bit of a shame that, I have a soft spot for the Speedbird too. Neither as good as the Air Craft though, which I think was meant to be exclusive to First Class.

  • John says:

    I thought BoB is almost always outsourced (same as duty free). The staff is selling the stuff on account of a third party. LSG (now part of Gate Group) is the big player in this.

    As you are speaking of risk to BA, Rob: Are you saying BA didn’t outsource BoB despite that being sort of the industry standard?

    • John says:

      So I am saying usually a company pays the airline for the BoB business. The airline gets a fee not conditional on actual sales. The third party decides what to cater etc. The third party usually pay the airline’s flight attendants a commission for the sales they facilitate.

    • David says:

      you are correct.
      In this case, its Tourvest.
      the M&S Tie up was damaging to both M&S and BA, as people generally were more annoyed at a lack of stock than anything else. hence M&S wanting to exit it for so long.
      while the issues were caused by Tourvests inventory management.

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    Did BA crew get a commission on BoB?
    Did they get a pay rise to compensate when BoB was discontinued (ha! ha!)
    Will they get a share of the new Buy Before Travel cash?

    • 1ATL says:

      Yes
      No
      No

    • ChrisC says:

      Yes they got commission but often it was pennies not pounds per flight so crew were relieved when BOB ended because whilst they lost a very small amount of income they stopped getting a whole load of aggro so they enjoyed the job more.

  • John says:

    Sorry for multiple posts, but another question.

    In the new system (pre-order rather than BoB) what happens if you are not on the flight? Do you get a refund? If so, under what conditions (say, IRROPS vs. you getting on an earlier flight through stand-by)?

  • Matthias says:

    Thanks Rhys. We’re going up to GLA this weekend and I just wanted to check you didn’t encounter any unexpected queues / questionnaires / other hassle on the trip?

    • Rhys says:

      Nope, super easy and speedy! You’ll be shocked how empty the Scottish airports are. There are about 5 flights a day at Edinburgh – literally everything is closed. No shops, no restaurants, nothing.

      • Alan says:

        Yep although strict lockdown released they’re still encouraging stay local and not being away overnight if possible, certainly no one flying anywhere that I’ve seen.

  • Catalan says:

    Gotra love your green credentials. Disappointed that there was no paper plate on which to place your pie and that crisps were double wrapped, yet flying hundreds of miles to test airline catering. Hehe

  • @mkcol says:

    I’m looking forward to the NDC story 😁

  • whiskerxx says:

    “£8 isn’t bad for hot pie and a can of Jetstream” — I’m still laughing at that. Do you live in Knightsbridge too?

    • mvcvz says:

      If you think eight quid is expensive, where do you live? 1965?

      • TGLoyalty says:

        🙂

      • whiskerxx says:

        In the real world.

        • Rhys says:

          You can’t compare London prices to the Midlands!

        • Rob says:

          The real world is rubbish. I was born there. Come down to London and live it up 🙂

          • Lord Doncaster says:

            There isn’t a continuous sulphur cloud from the steelworks hanging over Rotherham anymore, Rob 😂

          • whiskerxx says:

            I used to live in London. Just around the corner from you in fact in Wilton Place. Been a few years ago. Can’t honestly see the attraction.

      • bafan says:

        +1. I’m not wealthy and my rent is in the 4 figures in London. Sometimes I look on RightMove and see houses for rent around the country for the £500 mark…I guess to those people £8 is a substantial sum of money.

    • Rhys says:

      If high street shops in London do meal deals for c. £5 for a soft drink then £8 for a hot meal + booze isn’t outrageous, in my book!

      • WaynedP says:

        +1 @Rhys

        You always pay some premium over take-away when you sit down on site and eat & drink, part for the floor space you’re occupying (which granted you probably should already have covered in the cost of your airline ticket in this case) but also part for the labour cost of the service staff.

        Thanks for another informative article, Rhys – am I discerning a pattern that you land all the gourmet / gastronomic reviews ? 🙂

        At least you can get away with it still at your age, so enjoy while you can.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.