According to the Daily Mail (a regrettable source of mine for airline gossip), British Airways, the UK’s national flag carrier, has launched a partnership with luxury UK supermarket chain Marks & Spencers to sell their food on-board short-haul flights. This comes after announcements a few weeks ago of their plans to cut meal services on transatlantic flights from two meals to one meal, as well as introducing “enhanced” meal that can be purchased before the flight.
It would appear that British Airways is on a cost-cutting rampage, and budget conscious travelers flying in Economy, who make up the largest proportion of their travelers, are going to bear the brunt of it. Perhaps this is due to the appointment nine months ago of new British Airways CEO, Alex Cruz, formerly of Spain’s low-cost carrier Vueling. It would appear that he is trying to bring the agenda of a low cost airline to a national carrier.
So why should we care? So far, opinions are very much divided on this matter. Some say that, although they’ll be paying for it, passengers will receive a far greater choice and quality of food. Yes, we lose our bag of peanuts that probably costs 5p to provide on a short-haul flight, and we lose our sloppy stew on our trip across the pond (which we probably wouldn’t have eaten anyway).
But to me, it’s more than that. One of the defining features that differentiates a national carrier from a budget airline is the complimentary snack/meal service, and while it may not be much, it breaks up the flight, and is always, in my opinion, a nice surprise. A sandwich or hot panini in the morning is the perfect pick-me-up to a day on-board. And more to the point, it’s free. Call me stingy, but I love free stuff! Offering passengers something complimentary is the perfect way of thanking them for choosing to fly with you.
In fact, when I took my parents (frequent budget airline flyers) flying on national carriers this summer, they were shocked that they didn’t have to pay for drinks and snacks, and remarked that it just felt like a nice gesture, like someone offering you a cup of tea when you walk into their home.
I also think that merging the agenda of budget and legacy airline could be very dangerous for British Airways. One of the redeeming factors in my love-hate relationship with British Airways is their excellent short-haul product for both Economy and Business Class, and I think that chipping away so significantly at this could impact the customer experience severely.
Am I being too fussy? Making a big deal out of nothing? Possibly. But this is something I needed to vent.
What are your thoughts on this new cost-cutting strategy?