BA to stop offering free food and drink in short-haul Economy – even water!

Some links to products and partners on this website will earn an affiliate commission.

On Tuesday, InsideFlyer received confirmation from BA CEO Alex Cruz of the news that many of us had long been predicting: starting 11 January 2017, BA is to join sister company Iberia in removing free food and drink in short-haul Economy Class.

ba stop free food
(Photo by: Nick Morrish/British Airways)

The new “paid for” food menu is to be provided by British institution Marks & Spencer, as part of its “Food on the Move” range (if you’re really enthralled by this news, see a video of some of the food items here… and then take a good long hard look at yourself). The service will be rolled out from Heathrow and Gatwick on 11 January 2017, and from London City and London Stansted by Summer 2017.

While I obviously can’t comment on the quality of M&S’s hitherto non-existent in-flight dining offering, I am a big fan of M&S food. That said, I am easily pleased on a culinary basis, and if I am being completely honest, I rather liked those snack boxes BA offered.

The free service cessation is absolute – it even extends to coffee, tea and water! 

ba stop free food

What’s the rationale?

The headline selling points of this move, according to BA, are as follows:

  • Two great British brands partner to provide Food on the Move for short-haul fliers
  • Airline is acting on feedback and giving customers the choice and quality they’ve asked for.
  • Options selected are M&S customer favourites chosen for their flavour at altitude
  • Everything on the food menu priced at under £5 – ranging from just £1 to £4.95 and customers can pay with Avios
  • Menu choices include vegetarian, gluten free and healthy fresh options plus snacks and comfort foods
  • Bespoke menu options and seasonal changes to be introduced throughout the year
  • First airline to offer leading brand sandwiches, all of which are fortified with added fibre and vitamin D

What will it cost? Can I pay with Avios?

BA’s communications included a number of example prices, which are set out below.

Note that in addition to hard cash, you will also be able to pay for the food and drink with Avios (using the BA App or your BA Executive Club card), and where we had an Avios price flagged to us, we have included it next to the cash price.

For all the examples we have seen, you get around 0.8p per Avios point. This is not at all bad, although it’s not amazing. Also bear in mind the cash prices here are not exactly cheap, so unless you really were going to pay for the food/drink otherwise, you may be better advised to channel your Avios spend elsewhere.

Breakfast options

  • 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).
  • M&S Café bacon roll with pork from British farmers (£4.75)
  • Tomato and mozzarella focaccia (£4.75)

Fresh sandwiches and salads

ba stop free food

  • 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 (£3.00) (375 Avios – so 0.8p per Avios)
  • Balanced for You spiced chicken with quinoa and rice salad (£4.95)

Apparently these sandwiches are, and I quote, “fortified with both vitamin D (good for healthy bones and teeth) and added fibre helping customers boost these essential nutrients, providing at least 15 per cent of the daily recommended requirement of Vitamin D. Because of their strong umami flavours, the sandwiches work particularly well at altitude, where taste buds behave differently“. I wasn’t entirely aware that my taste buds had the capacity to “behave” (or not), but good to know that BA are looking out for me here.


ba stop free food

  • Nut assortment of almonds, brazil, cashew 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) (125 Avios)


ba stop free food

  • “Made without wheat” salted caramel hazelnut millionaire bar (£1.45),
  • Grab-bag sized milk chocolate covered popping popcorn and pretzels (£2.45)
  • Packs of mini oat biscuits (£1.10)
  • Swiss milk chocolate mountain bars (£1.70)
  • The famous Percy Pigs (£1.80)
  • ‘The Whippy One’ (£1)


  • Water (£1.80) (225 Avios)
  • Tea/coffee (£2.30) (300 Avios)
  • Gin & Tonic (£6) (750 Avios)
  • Small bottle of wine (£4.50) (575 Avios)

BA will otherwise offer customers a full bar service (drinks supplied by Tourvest, not M&S) with soft drinks priced from £1.50 and alcoholic drinks from £4.

ba stop free food

To clarify the situation further, BA even provided an in-flight food and drink cost comparison table. It suggests that, relatively speaking at least, the food is not bad value:

ba stop free food

Club Europe (short-haul Business Class) customers will continue to be offered a full, complimentary menu.

Anything to add?

I appreciate this point may be a touch controversial, but I’d argue that to call in-flight dining “free” is a misnomer in any event. You pay for the flight, and the food and drink is part of that, so it’s not free. Therefore removal of the “free” food (or “food you don’t have to pay any additional cash for when on the flight”) should lead to better service elsewhere, including better value tickets. Grossly naive? Probably.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. Andrew H says

    It’s the little things about BA that I appreciated because they weren’t available on other short haul airline. Free food and drink, free newspaper, free seat booking, free seat selection. When the little things go, why would I stay with BA when I can get the same service from the likes of Easyjet at a fraction of the price?

    I can’t understand the logic of any of BA’s changes this year. It makes zero sense from a customer point of view.

    • Adam says

      Totally agree, its the small extras from BA which made most think twice before opting for a cheaper flight with a lesser known carrier and opting with BA.
      Its just seems they are on a collision course recently with heading to the bottom as quickly as possible.
      I think it will take a while but people will vote with their feet or bums!

  2. Adam says

    Removal of free water even if dispensed in a plastic cup for passengers is IMO taking things a little too far for BA.
    I believe these reductions will effect BA’s overall customer perception, they are no better than a budget airline now for short haul flights.

  3. Joe Deeney says

    Yep, certainly from the regions there is basically no reason at all to fly BA short-haul now, and even from London I would just focus purely on whatever works out cheapest and has the most convenient flight times.

    Andrew is right – the little things all together did make a bit of a psychological difference, so that spending more to fly BA made sense because it just felt a bit ‘nicer’ somehow. Particularly being the flag carrier, the decision was more emotional than strictly rational in terms of actual economic value, but that’s what branding is all about!

    As a customer I think this is a mistake, but obviously I haven’t seen the internal financial data and I can imagine that the business case (in theory) could well be compelling – I wonder if reality will match the theory though.

  4. Andrew H says

    I wonder if Easyjet might be interested in a MAN-LGW schedule. Offers a little competition against BA’s route and Gatwick is their biggest hub I think?

    Virgin’s Little Red didn’t succeed on that route, but that was before all the BA cuts recently. If Easyjet offered competitive prices I’d be very tempted.

    • Joe Deeney says

      I would love to see more domestic competition from the LCCs. If I’m going to London itself I’d always rather just take the train rather than fly (from the North of England), but if I’m connecting at one of the ‘London’ airports to somewhere else, then I’d much rather fly down. I wonder if they could get the economics of a more traditional style hub element within their operations to stack up – I suspect they might be re-examining the idea very soon! With the rise of long-haul lccs I think it could work well- easyjet/ryanair down to Gatwick and then Norwegian to the USA for example.

    • Tom Sumner says

      BA specifically labels its short-haul Economy flights as “Euro Traveller” (or UK Domestic). As you can probably guess, Euro Traveller means flights within Europe. It’s these that will lose the free food and drink, rather than the long-haul Economy (“World Traveller”) flights.

      Full details of BA travel classes can be found here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *