British Airways Served Premium Economy Passengers A Single Cereal Bar For Breakfast

Premium economy, depending on the airline, often has similar or identical meals to economy class, but they may be served in a slightly better way (for example, in proper china/crockery rather than plastic, or with proper metal cutlery, rather than with plastic).

Some airlines make premium economy food significantly better than economy, while others make little effort to differentiate. For example, Virgin Australia’s premium economy breakfast is typically on par with what you’d find in business class on other airlines.

A British couple was flying from Tampa back to London Gatwick following a recent holiday. I noticed this story because coincidentally I was also in Tampa yesterday.

The flight departs at 7:25pm and arrives at 8:35am the following morning, and lasts around 9 hours and 30 minutes. As with most transatlantic, overnight flights, dinner is served shortly after take off, while breakfast is served an hour or two before landing.

The couple was served a standard premium economy dinner after takeoff, and the following morning before landing the crew came through the cabin to serve breakfast.

This was what they received:

This would be a disappointing meal in full service economy, but in premium economy it’s ridiculous.

The couple is understandably unimpressed with their premium economy experience. British Airways was unapologetic, saying:

Following a full meal service, the breakfast option is designed to offer a light snack before landing.

Feedback is always passed on to our catering teams who check the quality of the food we serve on board every week.

We have a £6.5bn five-year investment programme, including a multi-million pound investment in catering across all cabins.

There was a huge uproar years ago when Qantas decided that its passengers on the fairly short overnight flights from Asia (some of which are barely seven hours long in total) would prefer to have a quicker, lighter meal served as close to landing as possible to maximise sleep.

So they served what they called their ‘cafe breakfast,’ which was just a pastry and a hot drink.

There was outrage in the Australian frequent flyer community, so much so that Qantas fairly quickly changed back to hot meals.

British Airways’ refurbished premium economy

Bottom line

It’s stories like this that make me avoid premium economy.

I personally don’t see the value in paying a significant premium for it as I can’t sleep sitting up for more than about 20 to 30 minutes at a time, so if I’m not going to be able to sleep on an overnight flight because I’m sitting up, I may as well just find a cheap economy fare.

If I was served a single cereal bar and a half glass of juice in economy on a full service flight of nine hours I would be unimpressed, but I won’t be hurrying to try premium economy on British Airways after this story!

Given it is unlikely British Airways was remotely interested in maximising rest for their premium economy passengers by serving a quicker, lighter meal (I’m willing to bet this was served more than 90 minutes before landing), this just smacks of cheapness and cost cutting.

Do you think this is an acceptable premium economy breakfast?

Comments

  1. “It’s stories like this that make me avoid premium economy”

    Uh. No. It’s stories like this that make me avoid British Airways!

  2. Shame but this is true. The budget for Premium Economy is different to Economy. So when they upped the Y budget, they didn’t for Y+.

    So embarrassing serving a cereal bar and a small juice to Y+, especially when Y would get a small tray..

  3. The tregedy is that they’ll wake you up to serve that miserable mueslis bar!

    As far as I’m concerned PY has always been a gimmick for any airline, and only worth it as a means to upgrade to Business.

  4. Premium economy is such a ridiculous scam that I hope it flops and fails hard. The airlines’ real plan is to make premium economy into the new business class and business into the new first, devaluing both. Nobody asked for premium economy and nobody wants it.

  5. “I personally don’t see the value in paying a significant premium for it as I can’t sleep sitting up for more than about 20 to 30 minutes at a time, so if I’m not going to be able to sleep on an overnight flight because I’m sitting up, I may as well just find a cheap economy fare.”

    Describes me as well, which is why the ability to book lie-flat seats using miles is such a godsend.

  6. I’ve heard that BA serves the exact same Economy meals to Premium economy. A cereal bar and juice isn’t even enough for TATL economy!

    My experience so far is that PE is worth it for AA and LH.

  7. Regardless of the food, for me PE is a stuck in the middle product. Too expensive for still sitting on a chair the whole flight. Better take regular economy and save the money for a discounted business fare next time.

  8. My experience is that Air NZ caters PE the same as J, just it’s a smaller range of choices and a tray meal rather than plated.

  9. From BA’s point of view, this seems pretty normal. As I understand it they serve business quality meals for the first meal and then economy quality meals for second.

    Really, I think for an actual premium experience airlines should be providing a premium meal throughout the flight and not offering half and half. But, I think it’s pretty standard to do this but only if you fly often (or read a site like this) might you be aware of it.

    It’d certainly be disappointing, especially if paying for the premium experience.

  10. I just read a review commenting on Air France’s Premium Economy breakfast as average And the photo showed a complete meal with a muffin , omelette, tomato , fruit salad, coffee and orange juice So compared with BA it was positively perfect in every way

  11. I find AC Prem Econ to be awesome. I am SE100K and find myself in Y and O class all the time and there is def a distinction between Econ and Prem Econ.

  12. IAG are at that across the board. Aer Lingus have become very mean and penny-pinchy since being incorporated into the group. Iberia aren’t known for their generosity either!

  13. Talking of breakfast food on airlines, I just came completed a trip involving four flights on Emirates. On three of the flights involving a breakfast, the croissant was served ICE (no relation to the inflight entertainment) cold, and in a wrapper! Ditto for the bread roll on one of the dinner flights. I know this is only a first-world-problem and that one should not expect rather much with airline food to begin with, but how much effort is it to serve warm bread? The rest of the food ranged from decent to very good, just for full disclosure.

    I mentioned it light heartedly to the purser on my last flight and she said on A380s the pax volume is so high that by the time they heat and serve the bread it would be cold and hard so they don’t do it any more.

  14. you should separate BA problems from general PE problems. I think PE has its own market, maybe not for you but there are quite many people who prefer PE over Y or J. That is why many airlines started offering PE recently. If not, why would they? For me, PE for 5-7h day flights is perfect because I don’t wanna spend so much on J but I don’t wanna sit in Y for so long. PE does the trick.

    Also, BA is just so bad these days. I have flown them many times in the past 5 years because of AA status but I came to conclusion that it is so shitty that I don’t wanna deal with BA anymore. So I stopped flying BA. Such a relief! I think when you try Asian airlines on the pacific side, PE is just really a PE, not Y. Seats are more comfortable, food/service is much better. BA and AA, LH are, in my book, not that premium, although I admit that both AA and LH were better in PE than BA’s PE. In general I don’t like both AA and LH service but in PE they actually make some efforts and differentiate from Y.

  15. @James – as one of the posts above alludes to, the fact that they serve a cereal bar in PE is really only half of the story.

    Since they upped the Y catering budget last year, short overnight Y flights now get a more substantial breakfast (eg from the east coast of the US, it’s usually a decent sized cream cheese pretzel-thing) than the PE breakfast.

    So, at the moment, the PE breakfast offering is materially WORSE than that at the back of the bus. Apparently BA are working towards a major upgrade of the PE soft product though, so that should change soon(ish).

  16. The problem I have with PE is that most airlines are removing seats from J to accommodate this class of seating. If it were just converting Y space to PE that would be fine, I’m sure there’s a market for PE even if I wouldn’t buy it. If I couldn’t find a reasonable J fare, I’d just buy Y because I don’t see the value in PE.

    As for BA’s “light snack,” it can’t get much lighter. It really says a lot about an airline that cares so little about it’s passengers that it would serve such a cheap crappy snack. How much did that cereal bar put them back – 50 cents? Wow, a new low…..

  17. Hey James.

    It has been the same ‘meal’ in WTP for years now. It’s the same offering on all the overnight flights from the East Coast of the US. Florida is kinda the longest sector they would receive that.

    The irony is that the offering in economy is actually marginally better. It used to be the same product throughout the aircraft – the cereal bar. BA then decided to invest in the economy catering – adding cheese and biscuits to the main meal trays, re-introducing pretzels with the pre meal drink and enhancing the cereal breakfast bar offering to a breakfast box containing a little more. Weirdly, the project was only for economy and not World Traveller Plus. It’s the same with the Magnum ice creams given mid flight. This was an enhancement for economy only. Technically WTP get nothing mid flight. Although 99% of the time we have enough to go through premium economy as well.

    From the 1st Dec the cereal bar offering will cease in Premium Economy and they will get the same breakfast box as economy. ‘Project Cafe’ which is to enhance the overall Premium Economy experience will launch next year.

  18. “Cheapness and cost-cutting” – that’s pretty much BA (and most of the rest of this industry) in a nutshell, no?

  19. @Ken- I agree with everything you say. I think PE today encompasses everything from a-few-extra-inches-of-legroom-and-recline to a stand-alone, separate class of service between J and Y. Different airlines fit at different places along this spectrum.

    Although I would say (particularly as I get older and more crotchety) that for me the seat (cushioning and recline) is far more important than the food, entertainment and other soft-product components and in that department BA’s Premium Economy isn’t too bad.

  20. From the 1st December Premium Economy passengers will receive the same (more substantial breakfast) as Economy.

    ‘Project cafe’ is currently underway at BA which will bring further enhancements to Premium Economy early 2019.

  21. So what do folks think is the best TATL airline to fly to/from London? And does that decision change by cabin?

  22. I agree with the point of this article.

    But I think there is so much variance with premium economy products across all airlines. Some of which can offer lucrative mileage/elite status points on mid-range flights.

    I struggle to find the same informative/comparative reviews of premium economy that I can for business class reviews. I’m taking the opportunity to request that One Mile At A Time starts to review this product across the industry and build the same phenomenal index that it already has for business class.

  23. @ khatl – I think it doesn’t just depend on cabin but a/c too.
    Just my two cents worth (and i’ve never flown DL) but:
    If you get on one of AA’s new birds they are awesome in J but not great otherwise.
    Same with BA 747 upper deck – although i’d avoid BA Business Class on other a/c types.
    None of the TATL airlines have amazing F products i’d say they are pretty on par.
    I think Virgin probably has the best Premium Economy.
    As for economy – I guess it’s pretty much of a muchness although I would avoid the 787 on any airline in Y at any cost.

    If wifi is a must you’re probably better off with a US carrier too.

  24. I flew PE on BA ORDLHR last weekend. I would have been happy with that. I received a yoghurt and a stale croissant. No butter, preserve etc.

  25. When was that ridiculous cafe breakfast stopped in business on QF? I received it not that long ago. In fact I had a flight attendant make a comment when I asked for a second pastry. I’m fed up of full service companies trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes suggesting they’ve done it to help clients, like Amex Australia raising fees ($1400 for a platinum charge card) but cutting points by 50% for things like airline tickets and hotel charges saying the card will be more accessible and competitive. OMAAT could maybe expose this further in one of the CC stories. Not seen such outrage on an Australian business traveller forum as this generated. Sorry I know I went off target a bit but the issue comes down to providing service and expectation.

  26. I don’t know what the obsession is with HOT FOOD on a flight. Just to remind everyone, it re-heated food irrespective of which class you’re in. Why do airlines insist on hot food?

    With breakfast why can’t they just do some nice granola and yogurt, and a few slices of nice toast with butter and jam and other condiments. And some nice pastries. And fresh fruit. Really, but how wants re-heated breakfast food? Yuk.

  27. I flew BA premium economy SIN to SYD and my meal arrived with no salt and pepper packets, and the food was flavourless. When I hit the call button and asked for salt and pepper I was told it was only available in Business and First. BA premium economy is a complete rip off.

  28. We stopped by a PP pass restaurant in PDX before flying to PHX and got us some really good snacks for $32 (we had $56 to spend and should have grocery shopped). If I have to fly an American flag carrier BA or one of its bastard children to Europe, I will make sure the connection is through a airport with a PP restaurant and get a to go bag. Beats the hell out of a breakfast bar of a Deep dish pizza

  29. I flew PE on AC on a transatlantic flight last month. Breakfast was a slice of “ spice bread” in plastic. Tasty, but that was it. Usually fly Delta in PE and get yogurt, juice, and roll.

  30. We have a £6.5bn five-year investment programme, including a multi-million pound investment in catering across all cabins.

    hahaha. big investment and hours of research in catering experts to come with a “gourmet” protein bar.

  31. BA’s PE is bad because BA is bad. I’ve flown the pioneer, Eva Air, transpacific and they have a very good PE product not a heck of a lot more expensive than Y.

  32. 9:30 and served juice and cereal bar for breakfast?? I know Cathay Pacific serves full hot breakfast with a choice of congee or eggs, even in economy for flights that long (HKG-SYD)

  33. I flew BA Club World and Club Europe (business class) last month. I got more food but I suspect the quality of the gourmet protine bar was better than any of the six meals served going to and from Athens via LHR. My advice is to fill up at the lounge before boarding a trans Atlantic flight on BA.

  34. Bit ridiculous to use BA premium economy (or any class for that matter) as an example of what is standard or normal for that class.

    Tbh finding a lot of what James says to be ridiculous/not worth the time it takes to read it.

  35. First,because BA. Secondly, it would not be difficult to serve a cold box with yogurt, fruit and a breakfast bar. #cheap

  36. @Jim

    Hahhaha that gave me a good laugh

    Has been many years since I was on BA but in addition to the 3 US airlines that are 60 years behind competion, I will now surely avoid BA as well.

  37. Folks, the main benefit of PE is not having your knees jammed against the seat in front of you for 10 hours, and not having your shoulders touching your neighbor for the same period. You’re paying for more personal space compared to economy.

    Honestly, for food I could buy/bring a couple of sandwiches and be just fine.

  38. I have had better meals served on a 45 minute flight from Nairobi to Entebbe on Rwanda Air. 2 hot pockets with chicken and vegetables and choices of juices.

  39. @nick … I don’t believe it is necessarily anything to do with “hot food”, it is however a matter of providing something decent when you have paid a reasonable amount for a ticket and you are on a full service airline. One pastry and a coffee is not what you have paid for especially if you have woken up from an overnight flight and had gone to sleep without the dinner service. Service. Service. Service.

  40. At least they got something. Wrote before, BA ran out of food in premium economy MIA-LHR. Not even a breakfast bar. Entertainment system went out. Dark and hungry flight. BA-Never again unless no alternative.

  41. Just when one detected a faint glimmer or two that BA might be consciously improving their product comes this; a loud thud as it again hits the bottom of the barrel, its natural home these days. Sad.

  42. “Premium Economy” is a scam. I recently booked a transatlantic flight on AirFrance. While I was booking it nowhere it was mentioned that the fare was some other “Economy” fare. No other fare choices were offered during booking. Only at the end when they were offering different baggage options I should have noticed that my fare did not include checked baggage. They were running a sale and the total price was a bit lower than usual price but still higher than the one offered by lowcosters WOW and Norwegian. The ticket and emailed reservation was clearly marked “Economy”. When I contacted AirFrance and KLM, they told me that I purchased “Light Economy” fare. When I tried to search for official definition of that fare, I could not find anything. This is unfair business practice in my book. They can charge whatever they want for the flight but they have to give truthful info so we can make educated decisions as to buying tickets from them. Will see what kind of meals will be served (if any).

  43. Here is the most tragic part BA does not realize how much damage people like Alex Cruz have done to this brand by their focus on maximizing the profit. I am a lifetime gold with BA and have not taken a revenue flight in over a year, I use to fly around 7-8 times on business or first class on BA to India now I only fly qatar or redeem my miles on star alliance. Hope someone is paying attention at BA because once you start loosing your diehard base there is no other way but down.

  44. Nothing new! Flown BA PE a bunch of times in the last 3 years and breakfast always comes from the snack basket of shame!

  45. @ Oscar I explained in the article the usual differences between premium economy and economy food for most airlines and gave virgin Australia as an example of an airline who goes above and beyond.

    Even for BA this is an abysmal breakfast in any class, and I hope it’s a warning for anyone considering booking BA premium economy.

  46. My understanding is that on AC the PY passengers get a better first meal, but subsequent meals are the same as Y. That means that Eastbound TATL AC PY passengers would get the dreaded nuclear banana bread. I’d rather have a cereal bar. BA looks better than AC in this case.

  47. First, because BA. Secondly, it would not be difficult to serve a cold box with yogurt, fruit and a breakfast bar. #cheap Lastly, ultimately are you not buying the hard product regardless of soft product deficiencies? In BA’s case it seems like a fail on both. Cater your own food and figure out the value proposition for seat comfort.

  48. I flew BA a few years ago, paid First class ticket LHR to IAH (787). It was a joke, passive lazy flight attendants, first class seat felt like inflateable beach float, not impressed.
    Considering chronic LHR airport delays, inability to cope with snow, bad weather, crazy immigration lines, surly border police staff…you would think BA would strive to offer better in-flight experience, knowing LHR issues can be horrible…
    If I must be in London for meeting or conference, I now arrive London via Germany, France, UAE etc…
    Long haul on BA…Never again.

  49. While I think this is unacceptable and worthy of complaint, I don’t see why this would be a deciding factor for buying premium economy. I want premium economy so my shoulders don’t touch the stranger next to me and my knees don’t touch the seat in front of me. That’s all the matters. Free booze or better food are just perks.

  50. I think there’s a lot more this blog can do to write about PE. In some ways, it’s more news-worthy than writing about business class, because just about all business class offerings on major carriers have lie-flat seats, decent food, etc. Yes, there is variation in the seats and of course the soft product too, but not by that much compared to PE.

    With PE, you’ll probably get more legroom but that’s the only guarantee. Maybe you’ll get a wider seat. Maybe you’ll get a better meal offering. Maybe you’ll get free unlimited drinks. Maybe you’ll get access to a snack basket. It varies so widely. There’s a lot to cover there.

    I choose PE for flights from the east coast to the US since they aren’t that long compared to flying to Asia, and just a little more room is worth it to me. Also we choose it when flying as a family to Europe — buying business class tickets for our family of 4 is too expensive, and there are few “saver” redemption opportunities if you need 4 tickets during the busy period. Can’t go in shoulder or low seasons since kids have to be in school then.

    Heck, even that Sam Chui guy did a review of SQ’s EWR-SIN flight in PE.

  51. Good riddance. I just used the last of my BA Avios for two business class tickets ATH-LAX. If the “premium” breakfast bar doesn’t get you, the heavy taxes on those two (NOT so) free tickets will. I always used my Avios for trips on Cathay Pacific to Asia and low, low fees. Now that Cathay tightened up award space, I had to bail.

    Will anyone still be applying for the Chase BA credit card?

  52. they could have paid me a quarter of that 6 billion pounds budget and I would have come up with something better than a candy bar and soda pretending to be healthy orange juice.

  53. Upthread, Ray said “Nobody asked for premium economy and nobody wants it.” A fwe other commenters have said similar.

    Delta would beg to differ. Sales have reportedly been so good that they are retrofitting their 777s now and will take delivery of all their A330-900s with J/W/Y+/Y (where W is true P.E. and Y+ is ‘comfort+’ which is just extra legroom and extra recline).

    CEO Bastian said revenue is 2X what they earn in Y, but P.E. has a density of 75% of Y, so that’s a fantastic return for DL.

    It’s fine that some folks don’t like or want P.E. But some of us are happy to have it and will pay to sit there, shockingly! 🙂

  54. Not to be a contrarian, but on a British airways 747 400 flight from Heathrow to ohare in PE, we found it quite pleasant, seats 36a and 36b. Decent diabetic meal I pre ordered , very good lunch box 2 hours from Chicago.
    The 747 was a bit dated, but the entertainment system worked well, wine choices were good
    Sorry, my experience was good, perhaps the good cabin crew on that flight.

  55. PE is very popular with corporates in the UK. Allows them to send mid tier staff in something other than economy avoiding possible duty of care issues. That said PE fates can easily reach 2k so more than a cereal bar definitely needed.

  56. If BA was aiming for the bottom of the barrel with their PE product, they have definitely exceeded their expectations.

  57. Lots of people crapping on Premium Economy when it’s great for infrequent flyers like me traveling a long way who have no chance of getting into business/first via money or points.

    I just flew Air New Zealand from LAX to AKL and Premium Economy (do the cool kids call it Y+?) made the experience so much better. A choice of (pretty good) food, lots more space, and good comfort. It wasn’t perfect (no space to store the pillow and other stuff they give you, legrest not great for tall people) but it was a definite improvement over 12 hours in Economy.

    Of course if I’d gotten the breakfast in this article it’d be a different story…

  58. Yeah, I’m mystified by the hate for P/E. If you don’t like it, don’t take it – but why try to remove choice from the rest of us? As others have written, sometimes all I want is extra legroom and a bit of extra shoulder room. I don’t always want to pay for all the bells and whistles of J, just to get a bit of extra space. P/E is great for those times.

    I’d be interested to see the ingredients list for that bar. Everyone is calling it a “cereal bar”, which sounds good and healthy, but most of them are stuffed full of sugar. They are, effectively, sugar and sawdust bars. Which sounds less appetising but is usually more accurate.

    BA’s J catering reached a nadir a few months back but is now (mostly) significantly better than it was. The roll-out should have covered all the long-haul routes shortly. I think similar rolling improvements are underway for the other classes, so it’s unfortunate (and miserable) to get the remaining crappy catering.

    The test is what BA do to recover; it looks to me like they realise their products in all cabins have fallen way far behind. Can they bring them back to at least the median standard? Lucky seemed impressed (compared to very low expectations) on his most recent J flight. I also like the new J bedding and food service.

    My next big measure will be the new J seat on the first A350.

  59. Ladies and gentleman,
    It’s time to start tweeting BA “Cereal-Bar Gate”:.. I’ve already sent mine with a pic with the muesli bar and a second pic without it asking “would this be the economy breakfast served?”

  60. Breakfast bars contain a very high sugar content so hardly a healthy option to serve, particularly in a PE cabin.
    Being UK based, I don’t use PE anyway because of extortionate Air Passenger Duty.
    Thirty years ago, I would not have looked beyond BA for a long haul flight but now I wouldn’t give them a second glance.

  61. My British friends told me BA=bloody awful long ago. I couldn’t agree more based on my and others’ experiences. I avoid BA whenever possible.

  62. @Charles
    Steady on, old chap. That “grubby British chav with crooked teeth” is probably some sweet little child’s mother, or grandmother.

  63. You PE bashers must be very short people. I’m 1.93 meters and buy PE to avoid knee surgery. I can’t sleep on the short lie flat business products.
    BA is awful but LO, AA, LY, LU, AC have a very good PE product.

  64. Thanks for the warning. I will be sure to bring snacks when I fly premium economy on the Pittsburgh innagural. I am used to Turkish economy were I am well feed, so this very disappointing. Especially with two hour waits for border control this is a problem.

  65. And yet – they have great load factors, their revenues are increasing year on year and their profits are in the billions.

    Everyone has a choice. If you don’t like what an airline offers you choose an alternative. There is a competitor on almost every international route BA operates.

    For whatever reasons, BA has customers that choose to fly them.

  66. I fly BA PE all the time for the 13 hour plus flight between Singapore and London. I’m tall (6’3) and can sleep fine in the seat whereas no chance in economy. J is of course better and sometimes I upgrade if there is an offer on, but the price difference is too much when you are flying regularly. The food used to be the same main meal as J with the same breakfast as economy (hot full English, absolutely fine). Now with the J food upgrades I am not sure but from comments above it seems the food is being upgraded in PE soon. If you have the money to fly J long haul all the time then yeah of course that’s great. If you don’t then PE is a nice fit giving space to stretch out and sleep with a decent hard product. I’ve flown Singapore Airlines PE same route and yeah of course service is better (SQ are great on that front) but the hard product is no better and the price is significantly more.

  67. Wow, I am amazed at the number of people here (author included) who view PE as a scam in general.

    I actually think BA has one of the better PE products, at least on the refurbished planes. Their PE seats for example offer the same width and several inches MORE pitch that the awful new AA domestic first class on the 737 max. So, I do personally see a lot of value in a modest price increase to have better food and service and essentially domestic US first class seats, on a long haul flight.

    BA has always offered a business class dinner and economy breakfast on PE tickets, so a granola bar is a bit sad, but not that unusual on a short TATL service.

    It’s also worth noting that on BA, PE/WTP is the sweet spot for tier point earning. If you fly TATL from London frequently, you can often find PE tickets for sub £1000, and they earn 180 tier points for a round trip vs 280 in paid club world, or sub-40 points for discount economy. Also, since the cabin is smaller BAEC Golds who book PE get bumped up to club over half the time easily on busy long haul routes.

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