My Experience With British Airways’ New DO & CO Catering

A couple of days ago I shared my experience flying British Airways’ 747 business class from Nairobi to London. While I’ve been a critic of British Airways in the past, I felt like I saw a new side of the airline on this flight, as it was my first time experiencing their new catering, bedding, and amenity kits.

What’s interesting is that even though the food on the flight was excellent, it wasn’t actually catered by DO & CO. DO & CO is known for probably being the best airline catering company. British Airways has been offering DO & CO catering on their route between London and New York since last year, which is the route on which they typically first test improvements.

Other longhaul routes don’t yet feature DO & CO catering, though British Airways did announce in September that as of 2020 they’d be awarding their new catering contract to DO & CO.

Of course this is great news, though I think it’s important to acknowledge that at the end of the day the quality of food on a flight comes down to how much the airline is willing to spend on it, rather than just what catering company they use:

  • There are airlines that don’t work with DO & CO that have excellent catering
  • The significance of working with DO & CO is typically that they have higher standards, so presumably airlines choosing to work with them are willing to spend more on catering

Anyway, after flying from Nairobi to London I connected onwards to New York JFK on the 8:30AM flight, and this was the first flight on which I experienced DO & CO catering from British Airways.

Now, in retrospect I’m sad that this was a breakfast and then afternoon tea flight, because obviously a non-lunch/dinner service won’t give me quite the same apples-to-apples comparison I was looking for.

So, how was the food? Very good. For context, here’s the full menu for the flight:

For breakfast I had the smoked salmon with cream cheese and the raspberry and coconut smoothie, both of which were excellent.

For the main course I had the Spanish-style frittata.

Then for afternoon tea I had the traditional ploughman’s, though I don’t think I fully knew what I was getting myself into.

I also had a scone to go along with it.

The food was very good, and I sure am impressed. However, the catering out of Nairobi was excellent as well, so I can’t say I noticed a significant difference. Though I think mainly that’s just a testament to how good the catering was on the previous flight.

Does Nairobi Airport have especially good catering, or is British Airways’ food just this good across the board in business class now?

Comments

  1. @Alpha

    Singapore Airlines, ANA, JAL, Asiana, Air France (although some might disagree), Qatar, EVA, Hainan to name a few.

  2. Has really improved lately across the board. But last month LHR-JFK it was noticeably worse on the return leg.

  3. Ben, I believe they have extended the DO&CO catering to a few other routes besides JFK (as I recall Chicago now gets the same service among others) but I doubt Nairobi is on that list yet.

    They do seem to vary wildly by route, inrecently flew LHR-HKG and had excellent catering (not the new DO&Co but clearly better than it had been even a year ago) but in the return I flew BKK-LHR and had miserable food….

    Some of it is the crews as well. While I generally have quite good experiences with most BA crews the Worldwide crews to HKG and JFK for example are almost always more polished, so maybe that affects perceptions a bit as well.

  4. I’m embarrassed to say that I had my first DO and CO experience last month (Austrian)

    It was wonderful and easily the best meal I’ve ever had on an airplane
    (I’ve never flown international F before)

    Glad to hear that Asiana has good catering since I fly them SYD-ICN-LAX in J then F in February

  5. My DO&CO experience with Turkish from HKG was amazing. The grilled shrimp tasted fresh and great. However, my flight back from IST was dreadful. There were no western nor Chinese options, only Turkish appetizers, mains and desserts.

  6. Just curious how does it work with DO & CO catering at outstations. For instance, I doubt they have a facility in Nairobi. How will they ever introduce it on that flight? Do they fly the food in on the outbound flight from LHR?

  7. I have had DO and CO ex FRA on THAI several times and actually found the Thai dishes to be less than impressive – they don’t seem to get the balance right with spice and sweetness. On several occasions I couldn’t finish the meal as it was too spicy in a bad way (and I enjoy spicy Thai food). The best THAI food I have on a consistent basis is catered for by QF actually.

  8. Do&Co have catered the JFK route for years – it’s always had catering a notch above the rest of the network (albeit there was a significant step change last year!).

  9. Hahaha, @Ben. Your comment made my day. Carpaccio basically stands for anything thinly sliced, you wouldn’t get any type of meat with your granola, unless you wanted it explicitly 😉

  10. I fly DFW-LHR a lot and JFK-LHR a few times a year. I’d say that catering has improved on both routes; however, comparing dinner to dinner the quality and presentation of the LHR-JFK flight is usually better. But yes – it’s not Austrian Airlines but definitely a step above most other business class across the Atlantic. BA definitely gets (now) that investing in customer experience is a recipe to attract more customers and higher spending ones, too. I can’t wait for the new hard product rollout.

    P.S.
    – I fly AA often as well on the DFW-LHR route. Catering had improved a lot these past 2 years. However, in the past 6 months I have noticed a deterioration of both quality of the meal and service. Oh and White Company definitely > Casper…

  11. I do find it interesting that Austrian uses DO & CO instead of LSG that their owner Lufhansa owns.

    I think that it is possible that they use Do & CO on the Nairobi too. I highly doubt that it’s just a coincidence. BA charges a premium for their LHR-NBO route so no surprise that they’d want to make their premium customers happy.

  12. We flew AF LePremier SFO to VCE last month and it was great much superior to BA/DL internationally.

  13. As @Harry Hv points out it is not normal to go from breakfast to afternoon tea without lunch being in between. Odd. However the ploughmans is definitely a lunch item; very British, so Ben’s unfamiliarity is understandable. Was he imagining working up an appetite pulling a plough in some Turneresque English field?

  14. Aw, c’mon. You flew BA and didn’t have the traditional English breakfast? With the ploughman’s and scone, you’d have done the Full English hat trick.

  15. @Henry hv and @glenn t you will find that Lucky was probably on the first or second JFK departure of the day which are around 8.30am and 9.30am (although this week the timings are skewed by an hour due to the UK being on daylight saving time and the US still being on summer time.

    In any event those first two flights of the day serve breakfast given the early hour people would have arrived at the airport. They then serve a light meal just before arrival which is normally around Noon in JFK. Granted Afternoon Tea at Noon doesn’t quite work but it seems to be the best option.

    @lucky glad you had the ploughmans. A great UK meal!!!

  16. I think all this talking about how good Do&Co is is nonsense. How good catering is depends on how much the airline is willing to spend.

    Cathay uses Do&Co out of JFK and their food is still extremely lacklustre.

  17. The new-style catering – whether Do&Co or the existing caterer – is decent enough. The food itself is ok (which represents a big improvement for BA), while the presentation is significantly better: the new glassware, for example, is very much nicer.

    I did an odd trip to South America last week, out from LGW (where old catering rules), and back to LHR. The contrast was striking: overall, the new soft product is a huge improvement for BA.

    Though I’m a bit confused by Lucky’s assessment. For years, his mantra has been “business class is all about the seat”. Yet here he seems seduced by nicer flatware and plusher bedding. I don’t mind the CW seat (I go for the last window seat in a cabin, so I have direct aisle access and maximum privacy). But I’m much more interested in the new CW seat arriving with the first BA A350.

    Incidentally, a ploughman’s lunch is more an English concept than “British” or UK (you could equally describe it as “European”, since England is in Europe, and technically that would be right – just not very helpful). Hard cheeses are one of England’s few world-class contributions to gastronomy.

  18. Calling that a Ploughman’s is a stretch, calling it a “traditional Ploughman’s” is just plain wrong! An Austrian’s idea of a traditional English lunch perhaps…

  19. I agree with Mark and others . A ploughmans lunch is crusty bread and English cheese and sometimes pickled onions. . The ploughmans served looks very nice in the photo but I would not call it a ploughmans and I am English.

  20. Hi Lucky,

    Thanks for the article – a good read as ever. I can comment on the specifics but it is probably worth looking at the IAG Capital Markets Day materials when you have time. It looks like IAG/BA have finally realised that cost cutting and cost management have gone too far. I hope this is a long term improvement that applies to all routes. Looking forward to the new seat next year too!

  21. Ben took BA’s earliest LHR-JFK flight, departing at 8:30 am. It features breakfast as the main meal with afternoon tea as the pre-arrival meal. The remaining flights have lunch/dinner as the main meal, including the next flight of the day, which departs at 9:30 am. If Ben wanted to experience the lunch service, he would only have had to wait an additional hour.

  22. That’s about as traditional a Ploughman’s as I am a traditional semi-detached house with a well kept front lawn.

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