THE DEATH OF “THE WORLD’S FAVOURITE AIRLINE”
Today is the end of an era at BA, complimentary drinks and food are history now. As from this morning, if you’re flying BA, you’ll have to pay for drinks and food. Flag carrier ends its complementary food service on short haul routes and teams up with Marks & Spencer to sell ‘the best food in the sky’
And the media is full of details: “Final call for a free G&T: BA starts charging for food and drink in short-haul economy” (http://www.independent.co.uk/travel)
I love airline food. From the soggiest bacon sandwich on a EasyJet flight, to the grandest culinary fest (which is not really that grand anymore) when I flew business.
Since my first flight back in ’80s, I find it all thrilling and delicious, an important part of the flying experience. When I’m at home I am more a gourmand than a gourmet, but at 10,000 feet, I genuinely enjoy and analyse all flavours even hot, salty and brownish-yellow. When you’re flying, the food is an event, and the ritual of unwrapping and discovering what’s for dinner is one of the highlights of my every flights
The slogan “The World’s Favourite Airline” was introduced in 1989 with the launch of the iconic “Face” advertisement. Today the “Face” can be replace with the image of a cold sandwich.
The airline has signed a deal with M&S that will see it replace free meals on flights of less than five hours and join no-frills rivals such as Ryanair and EasyJet in charging for sandwiches, crisps and drinks. Previously, economy class passengers could expect a small snack, such as a bacon sandwich, and a complimentary drink. Was not a lot but still gave BA the chance to make a difference on the UK market. I still remember the banners in Gatwick airport when BA started to give space to EasyJet and Norwegian: “Have a drink is on us!”, “Have a snack is on us!” or the proud announcement of the stewardess: “Shortly we will start the on-board service offering complimentary drinks and food to all our passengers!” Not anymore!
The first blow to British Airways standards was in 2005 when Willie Walsh, managing director of Aer Lingus and a former pilot, became the chief executive officer of British Airways. That was the starting point of major changes which affected the quality of on-board and on the ground services. BA started to lose the love of the nation but still was flying the flag successfully. Even under Walsh management BA carry on to distinguished itself from its budget rivals by including meals in ticket prices. But was just the quiet before the storm. The nail in the coffin was the appointment of Alex Cruz as British Airways chief executive, having previously run its low-cost Spanish sister airline Vueling. Is the moment when British Airways passed the PNR (the point of no return).
In 2016 I was flying British Airways at least 20 times, both long and short haul, mostly in Club Europe (Business) and couple of times in Euro Traveller (Economy). Was easy to see, from a flight to another, how the “low-cost style” changes were replacing the old BA experience: mediocre quality of food, deteriorated enthusiasm of the crew, hectic “train station waiting room” atmosphere in the lounges and poor service on the ground.
Cruz’s boss, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of IAG, recently told media that he was an admirer of low-cost, long-haul operator Norwegian, which charges transatlantic passengers £28 for a pre-ordered meal service or £10-11 for fresh food from the trolley. “There appears to be consumer acceptance of that … that if you want a meal on a long-haul flight, you’re going to have to pay for it. We’ll see what happens.”
So, no surprises about the new hit in BA’s image and popularity! Charging for meals would remove one of the last on-board differences between BA and its budget rivals, as has already added charges for checking in bags, brought in under the guise of discounts for hand-luggage-only fares. How low BA can go? Don’t relax too much if you have plans to fly long-haul with BA in the future. You may not be immune to the developments. A new “enhanced meal” option on long-haul flights has recently been introduced by BA, where passengers pre-pay for a menu of their choice.
Recently a BA spokesman said: “We are constantly reviewing every element of the experience our customers receive, including the in-flight catering, to ensure we’re delivering what they want. Everything we do is with our customers in mind and we will make changes that reflect their feedback.” Even Mr. Cruz declared that “We know our customers expect a great experience with British Airways”. To be honest I think in my 20+ flights last year I missed Mr Cruz’s survey or I misplace the email sent with the other 1001 electronic information by BA in my Silver Member account. Come on guys, grow up: they don’t care about the paying passengers and their needs. With their background they just make BA an air carrier from A to B, profitable for the big guys and where “customer experience” doesn’t fit. And doesn’t matter either. My recent feedback about a Club Europe flight to Genoa was “low cost” ignored. “To Fly, To Ignore” is the new motto, or maybe “To Fly, to Sell”?
Speaking to media when he launched the “buy on board” range, Mr Cruz rejected the suggestion that BA was turning into EasyJet. “Absolutely we’re not,” Cruz said. “There are millions of other things that BA has to offer that EasyJet will never be able to offer. Things related to loyalty and the service we provide, the lounges, the generous hand-baggage allowances we have, etc.” A spokesperson for Ryanair said: “Given you can fly from London Stansted to Bucharest for the same price as a posh BA sarnie, this is just another good reason to fly Ryanair.” And this is just the beginning.
Experts predicted last night that the move by the UK’s biggest airline would anger loyal customers who are used to complimentary food and drink on all its flights. And if you need some fun tonight just read the comments on social media.
Mr Cruz added in his statement that while cost was a factor, choice and quality was the main reason – and also reducing the amount of food thrown away (or given away if non-perishable) at the end of flights as the new mode allows BA to match supply to demand. When asked if the move would lead to lower air fares, he replied that the airline was already offering ”very cheap” tickets in short haul services. Really?????
I just check now ( 13.1.2017, 09.05) some prices (www.skyscanner.com)
London – Madrid / 1.02 – 8.02 / Economy Class / 1 passenger
Airline combinations £90
British Airways £140
Interesting result! No comments!
Here is what BA and M&S was offering to economy class flyers (www.ba.com)
Greek style natural yogurt with summer berry compote and granola (£1.95)
Classic fruit salad with pineapple, melon, mango, apple, kiwi and blueberries (£3.10)
Hot bacon roll with pork from British farmers (£4.75)
Hot tomato and mozzarella focaccia (£4.75).
Lunchtime and evening
Aberdeen Angus beef and red onion chutney bloomer (£4.75)
Classic cheese ploughman’s with nine-month aged farmhouse mature cheddar and vine ripened tomatoes, pickle and mixed salad (£3)
Spiced chicken with quinoa and rice salad (£4.95)
Nut assortment of almonds, brazils, cashews and hazelnuts (£1.60)
Wasabi peas (£1.60)
Salted cashews (£1.60)
Oriental snack mix (£2)
Super fruit, nut and seed flapjacks (£1.45)
Salt & vinegar and lightly salted hand-cut crisps (both £1)
Salted caramel hazelnut millionaire bar (£1.45)
Grab-bag sized milk chocolate covered popping popcorn and pretzels (£2.45)
Mini oat biscuits (£1.10)
Swiss milk chocolate mountain bar (£1.70)
Percy Pigs (£1.80)
The Whippy One (£1)
If you check the prices in stores you will realise that will be a ”small premium” to cover the cost of security and getting the food to the aircraft: for example, the £3 cheese ploughman’s typically retails at £2.60 in M&S stores, Percy Pigs are £1.60, though the beef bloomer is the same price. So, as a suggestion, stop and by before fly!
Passengers will also have to pay for beverages such as alcohol, tea, coffee and soft drinks, though these will not be supplied by M&S. Alcoholic drinks will cost from £4 and soft drinks from £1.50. Menu choices – which will be refreshed every three months and include seasonal changes – will also feature vegetarian, gluten-free and healthy options, with food aimed at children in the pipeline.
Cash will not be accepted on board, however, with payment by debit or credit card, contactless or chip and pin. So, if you have only cash, again, as a suggestion, stop and by before fly!
And finally, while the competitors offer duty free and flights, in an aviation industry first, passengers will be able to pay with their BA Avios frequent flier points via their smartphones. A passenger on an off-peak, short-haul flight with a “fare” of 4,000 Avios will spend more than half as many points again by buying a sandwich, a fruit salad with yoghurt and a G&T on board. I am more relaxed now…. for my future Avios… if I will get any.
However, you still have a chance to enjoy the old BA: the new menu started today for passengers flying from Heathrow and Gatwick, while anyone departing from Stansted or London City will still get a snack free of charge until summer 2017.
If you thought you knew the world’s favourite airline, think again. AirHelp (www.airhelp.com) have revealed at the end of last year, their best and worst performers in the sky. The quality and service scores come from Skytrax (www.skytrax.com) , which is a robust auditor, so those scores hold up well. And surprise, surprise: Virgin Atlantic is the only British carrier to win a top 10 placing – they’re at number six between KLM and Air Baltic why British Airways got only a number 14 behind Finnair and Air France.
After reading the online reviews I started to think very serious about my travelling plans for 2017. I already booked 3 tickets in Club Europe with BA: Naples, Dubai and Bucharest I can’t wait to see the “improvements” promised by British Airways. But for the rest of the year…
Food on a flight is a kind of punctuation. It’s like a cocktail hour, petits fours after pudding, or a old cognac after dinner. It’s a ritual that helps me to fantasise that I’m somehow still connected to the golden age of aviation with big trolleys and carving the meat at your seat. In-flight dinners allow me to maintain the idea that there’s still something glamorous about being on a plane.
I’m sure that cutting meals will save money, but for passengers it will make journeys slightly less exciting than getting Eurostar, a ferry or a coach. At least on the bus you get extra legroom, no grumpy stewardesses thinking at how much their job chanced and a more interesting view.