Last updated: 03:40 PM ET, Tue May 17 2016

Is British Airways Going To Charge For Food On Short-Haul Flights?

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | May 17, 2016

Is British Airways Going To Charge For Food On Short-Haul Flights?

When you think British Airways, you automatically think high-brow class and elegance. Its distinctive service – especially in guaranteeing a meal or a snack, as well as beverages, free of charge on flights – was a differentiation point from its rivals, especially low-budget airlines.

But lately those low budget carriers like Ryanair and easyJet have dominated the space, especially on short-haul flights.

Now reports out of London suggest that BA will do something that better positions the national carrier to compete with those carriers. The Independent is reporting that new chairman-CEO Alex Cruz – who, coincidentally, comes from a background of startup low-budget airlines – might soon offer short-haul economy passengers the chance to buy upscale sandwiches.

Using what it described as “airline sources,” The Independent even identified a food service company – Waitrose – that would supply the sandwiches and high-quality snacks.

A British Airways spokesperson said the report was “pure speculation” at this point and told The Guardian: “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.”

But from an airline standpoint, it makes sense. BA could cut its overhead by eliminating meals and at the same time create another revenue stream with the purchase of food.

In theory, that would allow the airline to cut its short-haul fares to compete with Ryanair and easyJet, and pull some marketshare from the two budget carriers.

John Strickland, a leading airline consultant, agreed, telling the Guardian: “In business class, passengers are still getting a very nice product offer. But it’s inconsistent in economy. People are used to going onboard loaded with food from shops at the moment because they don’t know what to expect on BA – a full meal, or a wrap and a packet of crisps. BA is in a no-man’s land at the moment. It needs to bring some clarity to better meet or manage customer expectations.”


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