Could British Airways Introducing Dine On Demand Be A Bad Thing?

Filed Under: British Airways

I’ve written in the past about the 11 features that I value most in business class, and one of those is a dine on demand menu. We’re all on different schedules when we’re flying, so it’s nice to be able to eat and sleep when you want to as well.

At the same time, I don’t actually think all airlines should necessarily offer dine on demand. The key here is that airlines have to train their crews to offer service efficiently, whatever form it may come in. There’s no point in doing a dine on demand service if it’s just going to lead to frustration and disappointment for passengers.

It’s no secret that British Airways offers among my least favorite fully flat business class products out there, both in terms of the hard and soft product. Soon they’ll be taking delivery of their first A350, which is supposed to feature a new business class product. Based on everything we’ve been told, the new seat will be an evolution of the existing product, rather than a product that’s actually globally competitive. They don’t plan on retrofitting existing planes with this product, because they don’t view it as being sufficiently different enough.


Well, some interesting details are emerging about the soft product, per Head for Points. The first interesting thing is that British Airways is apparently introducing a new service concept in business class on A350s, which crews will be specially trained for. Crews have to attend a two day service course, and according to Head for Points, only crews who are trained in this concept will be able to work the cabin.

Furthermore, perhaps most surprisingly of all, they’re asking that their worldwide crews work with their mixed fleet crews on the same planes in order to make this work. I can’t imagine this will go over well with employees, given that they have different contracts with vastly different pay, so there’s a lot of contention between them.

But perhaps the most interesting development is that British Airways will apparently introduce a dine on demand concept in business class. This will debut on the A350, though it’s not clear whether this will be expanded to other planes as well. I assume it will be, given that there’s unlikely to be a price premium for the A350. This is similar to how United has introduced the Polaris soft product on all longhaul routes, even if the plane doesn’t feature the Polaris seats.

British-Airways-Business-Class-777 - 47

It’s not often I say this, but I hope British Airways doesn’t introduce dine on demand in business class, at least with their current layout. British Airways has eight seats per row in business class on much of their fleet, and the only way for people in the center and windows to be served is by lowering the partition, which disturbs the person in the aisle seat.

British-Airways-Business-Class-777 - 1

There’s simply nothing graceful about the way British Airways crews perform the meal service, and that’s not even their own fault — they’re set up to fail, with the current layout.

British-Airways-Business-Class-777 - 3

Add in the fact that British Airways has huge business class cabins that are understaffed, and this will just be a mess.

So as much as I love the concept of dine on demand, I don’t see this working on British Airways. Between the size of the cabins, the layout, and the inevitable drama that will arise when worldwide and mixed fleet crews have to work together, there’s just no way this will end well.

What do you make of British Airways adding dine on demand in business class?

  1. So from that photo it looks like the new seats will actually have direct aisle access (as opposed to the current layout where you have to step over someone). Assuming that’s correct, maybe the cabine layout will allow them to step between seats for the service and actually make this work?

  2. There are two things that I think BA could do to heavily improve CW: direct aisle access for all and a better experience at Heathrow.

    It looks like aisle access is coming.
    Better terminal transfers and airside smoking at LHR (it’s not that difficult, terminal 2 at CDG has plenty of them).

    The food is already pretty decent and I haven’t had any service issues on the plane. The prices also tend to be quite competitive.

  3. Yeah I think the current rap on British is not enough opportunity to smoke cigarettes at their hub airport. Huggggeee concern. What percentage of people with enough money to afford a plane ticket even smoke???

  4. Yeah I think the current rap on British is not enough opportunity to smoke cigarettes at their hub airport. Huge concern. What percentage of people with enough money to afford a plane ticket even smoke?

  5. Incredible! They just keep throwing that old worn out seat design on to every new aircraft type, that they put in to service. There is actually no difference if you are on a 1990s 747 or a 2017 A350. And totally agree that dine on demand with this seat design, will be a disaster for the aisle seat occupants.

  6. This paragraph lacked the usual OMAAT clarity of expression:

    “Furthermore, perhaps most surprisingly of all, they’re asking that their worldwide crews work with their mixed fleet crews on the same planes in order to make this work. I can’t imagine this will go over well with employees, given that they have different contracts with vastly different pay, so there’s a lot of contention between them.”

    Translation please.

  7. I will never, ever pay to fly BA Business Class as long as they continue with these crowded, 8 across cabins. With such a lame hard product, the dining on demand is a moot point.

  8. You really only have yourself to blame if you are booking British Airways Club World. Dropping thousands of dollars on a product without doing 30 seconds of research on it first is just foolish.
    I cant think of another first world alliance carrier with a worse reputation. Theyre not going to improve anytime soon because they make a healthy profit selling an awful product for a huge premium.
    As long as people keep blindly booking it (and then complaining afterwards) nothing will change.
    Vote with your feet. Savvy travellers gave up on BA years ago.

  9. to be fair, the new management team is well aware that their Club World product is sub-par, but at the same time a new configuration would drop their yields, which are amongst the best in the industry, so it’s a tough one to square. The last I heard is that Cruz had send the design teams back to their drawing boards re Club seating, so it could well be the above seat concept isn’t the one that goes on the A350. They are also looking at redesigning service routines, which is sorely needed if you just notice how much fiddling in the galley BA crew do vs. Qatar for example. On the A380, BA has 10 crew in Club for 97 seats, so a ratio that’s more than enough to execute decent DoD service, providing they don’t spend hours fiddling in the galley.

  10. @John British Airways has two separate types of employee contract stemming from a contract dispute that they had a few years ago now. The mixed fleet crews have less benefits, less pay, etc and generally work shorter haul flights iirc. There is a good degree of tension between the two groups and they currently do not work the same flights. If they did, worldwide crew contract employees would receive a lot more for doing exactly the same work.

  11. BA CW can be fine but you have to manage the experience. The key is having silver status with them because then you can book seats. Then try and fly a 747 and get a seat in the bubble.

    If it’s a A380 choose the upper deck because it is 7-across not 8-across.

    The criticisms are well known, of course. But BA packs them in, at least on the North American routes. If people are willing to fill their CW classes as-is, then why would BA cut their revenues. They don’t need to try that hard, given the importance of London.

    And First of often not that much more expensive if you’re that picky.

  12. Having just flown BA CW 777 (SEA-LHR) after 20 consecutive Qatar J flights over 8 months I felt like a patient lying on a stretcher in a corridor – no privacy or storage. The food/drink service across me to the window pax was extremely annoying so agree that DoD would only deteriorate an already tainted product. Slightly OT, given than there were only 2 shrimps in the shrimp starter I’d suggest they focus on improving the food itself first. The entire BA experience stinks of cutbacks.

  13. Recently flew BA CW PHL-LHR and vowed never again. The seat is the most God-awful contraption ever allowed on an airplane. Narrow, 8-abreast seating combined with the options of either sitting in the aisle or sitting backwards is so uncompetitive I don’t even know where to begin. When I look out the window I want to be able to see where I’m going; not where I’ve been! Even the old NW World Business Class angle-flat seat with the silly “baby buggy” clamshell was an improvement on this half-assed design.

    No new plane, meal concept, or low price will ever get me on another CW flight again.

  14. “Direct aisle access for every seat” is actually a huge change, so I’m surprised Lucky doesn’t even mention it.

    I’m not a huge BA fan, but the hating needs to be in proportion. A commenter complains that every BA plane, no matter how old, has the same product. I see that as a *massive* advantage; I’m flying for business, I don’t want to spend hours trying to work out what equipment might turn up for my, say, KLM flight because that will determine whether I get a flat bed or an angled seat. I want product consistency right across the brand.

    So, points to BA for product consistency; the next question for me is “is the product right?”. Here I agree with most posters that BA’s product isn’t right. The cut-backs have eaten too far into the product: food quality has declined, and the range in the help-yourself galley has been slashed – so now, if your dinner was inedible (or you made a dumb choice) you can’t make up for it by grazing the galley.

    BA’s massive, factory-sized lounges at LHR are also particularly poor in contrast to, say, Virgin’s (but one is a boutique operation while the other has a fleet ten times larger. So I guess you’d expect some differences).

    Is BA my first choice? No. Pretty much never. But it does have some strengths (how many US cities does it now fly to direct?), and it’s foolish to ignore them all. Though, like Lucky, I’m struggling to see how they’d make DoD work.

  15. BA does not have product cinsistency and has been putting some piftifully old planes on some routes. The Club World product is unacceptable with tatty, creaky trays, grubby seating and flat beds with gaps. Flat champagne on one flight. Warm and completely dead in glass. Galley with bucket on the floor with champagne on ice (no water) explaining why it was warm. Snack provision inconsistent between routes. The crew hate the CW layout as much as passengers. BA CW I avoid when possible. Sometimes, routing through extra countries as it is so bad. CW gives the impression that BA simply dies nit care.

  16. You are aware that the new business class for he a350 has direct aisle access without climbing over other passengers as each seat is in a shell, and that the crew are not to serve through the middle divider for these seats?

  17. It is difficult to get excited about a product that is not going to be retro-fitted to the fleet and therefore only affect a small proportion of potential DoD experiences. However, I do give credit to BA for not having angled flat beds lurking within their fleet and the window seats on Qatar 2-2-2 configured 777s are far more confined than any on BA.

  18. In the 90’s the BA Club was the best J class in the sky – provided you travelled as a couple and were able to score the upper deck (62).

    Sorry to hear that the product has deteriorated but I did like the old seat/beds and luckily never had to fly on the main deck.

    What killed me with BA was the YQ surcharges through LHR and the extra fees. Adding $1000’s of dollars to a points redemption ticket.

    Sorry to see you go – BA – but you have created your own fate!

  19. Jesus Christ! Can BA do anything right? Customers ask for a new seat and new service, which they are introducing and yet people still complain?! You guys are something else.

  20. AD, BA maybe has “old planes” compared with ME3 or Singapore.

    But fly trans-Atlantic on a US airline and you’re probably on an old 767 or even a 757. While BA offers A380’s, 777’s and 787’s on most routes.

    And would you really rather route through another airport rather than fly non-stop? The whole point of a premium class is to arrive relaxed, and nothing makes me less relaxed than having to make a tight connection in Chicago or Paris, rather than a non-stop flight

  21. THANK YOU. I thought I was the only one that thought BA’s business class was the weirdest, messiest, most confusing business class product i have ever seen. I hope they change.

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