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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.
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!
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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)
- “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.
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:
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.