British Airways Makes Real Improvements To Short-Haul Economy Class Catering


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British Airways has today announced an unexpectedly good update to its short-haul Economy Class catering that sees the airline pulling back further from the cuts that it began to implement just a few years ago.

Four Key Changes To BA Economy Short-Haul Catering

– Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge will take over from Marks & Spencer as the official brand of British Airways short-haul catering.

– British Airways is introducing a new ‘Speedbird Cafe’ menu for passengers in Euro Traveller (short-haul Economy Class) that will include “gourmet food choices” from Tom Kerridge.

– The Speedbird Cafe menu will be for pre-orders only.

– British Airways will continue with its policy of offering Economy Class passengers complimentary water and snacks (that it first brought in when the pandemic threw the travel world into chaos) despite going back to offering onboard food from later this month.

This is what British Airways has had to say:

British Airways has today announced that it will be partnering with celebrated, British Michelin-starred chef, Tom Kerridge, who has designed a number of gourmet food items, which include signature pies and sandwiches, to pre-purchase for the airline’s Euro Traveller (short haul economy) customers.

The airline will also continue to offer complimentary refreshments in Euro Traveller on all fights comprising a bottle of water and a snack, such as a breakfast bar or crisps. Those wishing to purchase more substantial food options, designed by Tom Kerridge, as well as other food and drink items can do so through the airline’s new online Speedbird Café hosted on British Airways’ inflight retail site www.highlifeshop.com.

The items travelers can expect from Tom Kerridge include the following:

Warm Steak & Ale Pie – £4.50

The Ham Hock & Smoked Cheddar Sandwich – £4.10

The Spiced Cauliflower Tortilla Wrap (Vegan) – £4.20

The Chicken, Bacon and Celery Brioche – £4.50

The Brie Ploughman’s Sandwich (Vegetarian) – £4.20

Link to the full new Speedbird Cafe menu.

Here’s a video of Tom Kerridge discussing his latest tie-up with British Airways:

Although not explicitly stated by British Airways, these changes to short-haul catering will almost certainly be introduced on 20 January (the date on which the airline will also revert to offering “proper meals” in its long-haul cabins).

Thoughts

This is (mostly) a very positive move by British Airways. It was always going to be interesting to see which way the airline would go after its partnership with Marks & Spencer ended and based on what we’ve been told today, it looks like the onboard offering in Economy Class may be getting a little better. I’ve eaten at Kerridge’s establishments and while I certainly don’t expect to see fantastic quality food at 32,000ft, he’s clearly someone who cares about quality and with an eye for detail so I doubt he’d put his name to anything that wasn’t, at the very least, “good”.

It’s also great (and a little surprising) to see British Airways saying that it plans to continue to offer free water and snacks to Economy Class passengers after it goes back to offering a more normal level of onboard service. This is a very obvious rollback of the cuts that we saw when the airline first introduced its ‘buy onboard’ menu after which absolutely nothing was complimentary in the Economy Class cabin except for hot water.

BA’s old menu wasn’t bad, but everything had a price.

BA’s move to a pre-order only Economy Class menu will mean a number of changes for passengers – some will be better than others.

On the negative side, passengers will have to be a little more prepared than normal – if they don’t order in advance (they will be able to order up to 12 hours before departure), there won’t be anything substantial to buy onboard and they’ll go hungry (it will be interesting to see how BA deals with last-minute bookings and last-minute cancellations and aircraft swaps).

On the positive side, this should mean the end of British Airways flights running out of food after the 5th row of passengers has been served. BA flights have been notoriously poorly stocked since the day its buy onboard offering was introduced, and as British Airways insists on loading an aircraft’s outbound and inbound meals/food in the UK, there have often been times when passengers on the inbound flight were left with no food to buy because it had all been used up on the outbound flight earlier in the day. I won’t miss that ridiculousness (and neither will the crews).

One thing that gives me a little cause for concern is the way British Airways describes how passengers are expected to use the Speedbird Cafe:

Speedbird Café will launch as a pre-order proposition, which will allow customers to customise their journey by purchasing food, drink and inflight retail items up to 12 hours before departure.

I have no issue with having to pre-order food or inflight retail, but I’d like to know exactly what drinks customers are expected to pre-order.

How is a customer supposed to know what they’d like to drink or how many drinks they’d like 12+ hours before they’ll depart? If a customer orders three glasses of wine, will they all be delivered at once? Do hot beverages have to be pre-ordered? If so, am I going to get two teas at once (and then have to watch one go cold while I drink the other) or will my order be staggered? If it’s to be staggered, how will the staggering work? I really don’t understand how BA hopes to make this work.

Hopefully, British Airways means to ensure that drinks pre-orders are limited to alcoholic beverages (this could be a good way of making sure that some passengers don’t overindulge and then get out of control) and that sodas, bottled water, and hot beverages are still offered by the crew as and when they’re requested by passengers. There is, however, nothing in BA’s announcement to suggest that this will be the case so we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

Bottom Line

British Airways is making some significant changes to its short-haul Economy Class catering by replacing its old buy onboard offering with a pre-order menu that customers can use up to 12 hours before departure. In addition, Tom Kerridge will take over from Marks and Spencer as the recognized “brand” on BA’s short-haul menu (he’ll be supplying five of the menu items) and the airline will continue to offer the complimentary water and snacks that it introduced when the pandemic hit even after it goes back to offering a more normal (substantial) level of onboard service.

1 COMMENT

  1. This definitely a move in the right direction for BA to be able to distinguish itself from its LCC competitors.

    IRROPs, as you mentioned, was something that came to mind – what happens when someone misses their connection and they’re put on, say, the next shuttle to Edinburgh. Quite sure they won’t be running around transferring that person’s pie over. As they won’t be selling anything on board the pie will go on the original flight and then presumably be binned? What about that person’s refund? Will they even get a refund?

    You probably won’t be able to get a second G&T or an impromptu bag of Haribo. AirAsia delivers the pre-ordered first, then runs the cart down with a smaller selection and the drinks. Some version of this would be most sensible.

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