British Airways to start charging for food
The last few days have seen various reports that British Airways will start charging for food served in Euro-Traveller (economy) on short-haul flights. This means basically nearly all European flights, with the exception of those longest flights like Athens and Istanbul. There are no changes planned at this stage for long haul flights or where British Airways is operated by Comair on domestic South African routes.
There has been no official notice from British Airways, but reports are rife that this change will soon be taking place. This despite year of claims by British Airways that food and drinks will always be complimentary on board. Why has this happened? It boils down to competition. The so called “Low Costs” carriers, like Easyjet and Ryanair pose massive competition to British Airways, and if they are to compete, British Airways needs to be able to offer a competitive price, and to do this, they have to cut all the little extras. Already, British Airways has introduced “hand luggage only” fares, which are their cheapest fares on European routes, and now it seems they will be cutting out the meal service, to bring their offering more in-line with the low cost carriers.
Up until now the typical offering has been a roll or wrap of some sort, with maybe a sweet on the side. As an example, the picture below shows what was served on a morning flight from London Heathrow to Oslo in March of this year.
It seems that going forward British Airways are looking at partnering with Waitrose, to bring a variety of options to be available to purchase on-board. There are many people who actually like this idea, claiming that the quality will be better, and there should then be a choice, rather than “here is your wrap, take it or leave it”.
British Airways have already been offering upgraded meal options on long haul flights for some time now, where you can pay a surcharge (normally around £10.00-£18.00) to upgrade your economy meal to something more enjoyable! This has proved popular, especially with people who are stuck on board for 12 hours and wanting something more than the usual “chicken or beef?”
Interestingly enough these changes look like coming in just after British Airways has appointed Alex Cruz as the new CEO. Mr Cruz comes from the Spanish low cost carrier Vueling (owned by the same parent company, IAG, as British Airways), and thus has in-depth knowledge of the low cost carrier model. British Airways will be the first major European “legacy” carrier to adopt this policy.
There are a lot of people already complaining about the move, crying that British Airways is becoming a low cost carrier itself now. Personally, I don’t mind the move. There is no way that realistically anyone can expect a company like British Airways to be able to compete with other carriers on price and still offer a full service. I for one would rather have the better priced ticket for a 1 – 2 hour flight and buy a snack if I really want it. Don’t forget you still (at least for now), earn Avios when you fly, and if you have status get access to the airline’s lounges, neither of which you get on the low cost carriers.
Don’t forget there are a lot of options available at Heathrow and Gatwick where you can buy food to take on board. The likes of M&S, Pret-a-Manger and Boots all offer food to buy and take on board. A Boots meal deal at around £3.50 will get you a sandwich, sweet or snack and a drink, not too bad really!
What do you think of this move? Comments welcome.