British Airways To Charge For Snacks In Longhaul Economy

Filed Under: British Airways

In mid-May I wrote about how British Airways’ new chief executive, Alex Cruz, wanted to start charging for drinks and snacks in short-haul economy. Historically British Airways has always offered drinks and something to eat for free, even on very short flights. This is generally true of the network carriers in Europe, while most low cost carriers in Europe have long charged for food & drinks.

Complimentary snack & drink on British Airways between Manchester and London

Alex Cruz is the former chief executive of Vueling, a Spanish low cost carrier, so I don’t think it’s surprising to anyone to see him implement (or at least test out) some low cost carrier tactics at British Airways.

While British Airways hasn’t yet made any major changes on short-haul flights, they are in the process of making some major changes to longhaul flights.

Several days ago British Airways got a lot of media attention for cutting their second meal service on many of the shorter transatlantic flights (like London to New York), instead replacing the meal with a tiny fun size Mars chocolate bar.

Well, while British Airways may have cut the second meal service and instead replaced it with a tiny candy bar, the good news is that you won’t have to go hungry. British Airways will now sell you unhealthy packaged snacks on longhaul flights.

British-Airways-Lounge-London - 41
British Airways 777 at London Heathrow

Per a British Airways flight attendant on FlyerTalk, British Airways will test out selling snacks on longhaul flights starting August 23:

From 23rd August, Pringles, M&Ms and Malteser Snacks will be available to purchase on all long haul flights, apart from ABV, DME, LAD, IKA and A321 operated flights.

Will not have a price in the magazine and will be a “trial”, a temporary change will be made to the IFR announcement.

I understand the tough position European carriers are in, given that they face competition from all sides, including the Gulf carriers (Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar), low cost carriers on both short-haul and longhaul flights (Norwegian, Ryanair, etc.), and even the full service Asian airlines on their routes east (Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, etc.).

Etihad-Arrivals-Lounge-Abu-Dhabi - 1
Etihad A380, which flies multiple times per day to London Heathrow

So I can appreciate the desire to innovate and change things up as a means to adapting to the market, though I don’t think this will be the key to their success, and if anything, only confuses and dilutes their brand.

What’s still rather bizarre is that British Airways offers complimentary alcohol in longhaul economy. There’s something a bit strange about charging for chips while still offering passengers complimentary alcohol, in my opinion.

Regardless, I suspect service at British Airways will only get worse. European airlines in general are having an identity crisis, and I suspect a former low cost carrier guy running the airline isn’t going to help much in that regard.

What do you make of British Airways charging for snacks in longhaul economy?

  1. I think the biggest problem is that people now want to buy a longhaul ticket for around 300€ and still want to have “good” food and a lot of legroom…
    If they have to pay 700€ for a bit of comfort they won’t buy tickets….

  2. You say it’s bizarre to charge for snacks over alcohol. This is not that bizzare when you think of it from a British angle. If they started charging for alcohol they would get destroyed in the British press, and the bad press would be disaster for bookings from brit based econ flyers, there are just too many alternatives, to stick with BA, who arent often the cheapest.

    They have made shorthaul changes, just read the post on FT regarding band 3 flights.

  3. I am generally okay with buy on board if the quality and selection is good with a reasonable selection of fresh and unique items. Often though airlines will only want to sell crap that makes them the most margins and ultimately I just plan on bringing my own food.

    I think BA is also trying to make their WT+ product look better by offering things that were otherwise available to all economy passengers.

  4. Welcome to Brexit!!!!! I can only imagine the smell of food people will bring on board to not pay for these unhealthy snacks.

  5. Another once-proud airline ruined by bean-counters.

    Really sad to have a country’s flagship airline do something like this. I could be completely off-base but to me, this is the exact opposite of what they should be doing. Why race for the bottom where BA can’t win due to fixed costs? The European airlines used to be the premiere airlines for service.

    I’m a somewhat price-sensitive traveler. Our office usually books us on B6 for domestic, DL if B6’s routing isn’t favorable. The rule has always been to get us off US metal as quickly as possible for better service and better IRROPs handling. We’re not going to spend $500 on a B6 ticket when AA has the same offering at $280, but $425 AA vs. $500 B6? We’re going with B6.

  6. Between cutting meals, a first class seat that is basically a more stylish reverse herringbone business class seat, and now charging for snacks in economy…this airline’s glory days are really long gone, aren’t they?

  7. British Air has been known for “bad seat, good food/drink”, regardless of cabin. If they keep reducing the food/drink, what advantage does it have left?

  8. Who cares? Completely irrelevant to my decision to buy or not buy a ticket.

    I’m actually a fan of them cutting the second meal on those short TATLs. Never ate it – it was just waste.

  9. More BA bashing – they must keep you in business! I think most Brits would much rather forgo food rather than free booze. I think the free booze is the main reason people still choose BA over LCCs in Europe. As far as flights to the US are concerned I’ll still take BA service over AA any day but then again I’m biased. I’m probably not the only one….

  10. we need to remember that Alex Cruz made Vueling quite a big airline. he managed to transform Vueling in the biggest airline in Barcelona, in a very short period of time. So he has an experience very few people have. Now, he wants to transform BA in what the market will be in a few years time: Price and time will the only thing the majority of people will care. People would rather pay 450£ non stop to Bangkok, than 450£ via DXB/DOH/AUH. I’m already sick and tired of that stop in the middle of the night (and I’m a person that buys the chepest option, usually).
    Nowadays, the majority of people buy according to price, airports and whether it’s non stop or stopping somewhere. If the MEA where 100£ more expensive than BA, only few would book them. It’s all about price, not the service. I wish BA goes BoB on short haul, so they stop this awful food service. Ok, drinks are welcome, but to be honest, I’m happy to pay extra for it. As long as the fares are cheaper natürlich. But the latest statistics are telling as that the airfares are getting cheaper and cheaper and cheaper.
    Happy flying!

  11. So how does one determine in advance what meals/snacks will be provided for free on a LHR to US flight in September (so I at least know to buy food at the airport)?

  12. This underscores the fundamental issue in this world where there are LCCs, ULCCs, and legacy airlines.

    I was recently pricing a ticket for a domestic flight and AA’s fare was 120% higher than F9’s. Once upon a time, I might have still considered AA because I’d want the miles, the status, the drink, the extra 1″ or 2, the carry-on.

    Not anymore.

    If the legacy carriers are going to provide an experience identical to ULCCs without offering ULCCs fares, they’re going to be in for a rude awakening in a few years.

    Reminds me of GM. From 1920-1965, they offered a truly superior product. Then, from 1970-2005, they didn’t. For most of those 30 years they still managed to sell product based on old reputation, habit and custom. But, eventually, people figured out that they mostly didn’t have product worth buying.

    This is going to happen to the legacy carriers unless they wake up.

  13. Have yo ever flown JFK-SEA ? a long flight, on certain flights depending on the time of day, all you get is a small biscuit and coffee/soft drink, with no option to even purchase a sandwich or crisps.

  14. I am BA crew and this is total rubbish. Nothing like this has been announced and with less than a week to go I would have thought we would have been told don’t you

  15. OK so what that means is Delta American and United will soon be eliminating their snack too because let’s face it they don’t give anything more than the competition gives for example they allow two bags to flights to Brazil only because Brazilian carriers allow two bags to Brazil so I imagine will see Delca doing the same cut back within a few months and then United and American will follow

  16. After my last terrible flight/bad service with British Airways, I have been hesitant flying with them again. Charging for snacks on a longhaul flight? I’d have to have zero other options before booking BA.

  17. I fly ba a lot. My gf works for them. Cruz is running this airline at a faster rate than billy was already doing. He wants to get rid of the one free ticket they get every year. He is a fool and a power hungry man. Ba may not have the most advance premium service as they once had, their first cabin was the first to have the full lie flat seats and meals and other perks were good. They being said, yes in the past 5 years they have fallen behind other carriers in premium areas, which is a shame because the older cabin crew ranks for the most part are exceptional….the mixed fleet crews are well exactly as they are named, mixed. They come young, stay short, leave young. Their pay sucks and they are over worked. No surprise ba service has gone down hill in many people’s minds. I hope things written out because I do believe in ba, I enjoy going through Heathrow, Britain deserves better, and I’m an American, so I know how bad airlines can be since all of ours have more issues than ba.

  18. I am crew for BA and have not yet heard about this charging for snacks? I and all my colleagues are embarrassed by the amount of cutbacks the company have made in Economy. Ie: no pretzels, no cheese and biscuits on the tray , bottle water replaced with cuplets and the disappearance of the mid-flight snacks.
    I have alwaysthought they should charge for mid-flight snacks as when free some people take handfuls and others get none!!! However yes charge but please bring a sensible second meal service back on board!!!!! We are a flag carrier and a full service airline. Not a low cost carrier!!!!

  19. It’s too bad BA (or ALL carriers) can’t go back to the service levels of the late 80’s – mid 90’s. That’s when being a “national” flag carrier really meant something…ah, those were the glory days of flying.

    Where’s “Skybus” when you need ’em? Oh that’s right…they liquidated in the USA. That’s all flying’s turned out to be – a glorified bus trip ! WallyWorld here we come 🙂

  20. Although AC came out of VY, he hardly had a first class education at AA. So what do you expect when it comes to customer service and product when AA are still living in the 1990s product wise and wartime when it comes to crew?

  21. I’m retired BA staff based in the USA…(born in UK)…having worked for 35 years for the airline I can say first hand how the industry as a whole has changed over the years during my employment.
    Where BA is concerned I have to agree with Hockeyguy regarding cabin crew issues. Mixed fleet is indeed mixed…’more bubbles babe’? to a club passenger when serving champagne isn’t exactly what BA customers expect. Mixed fleet wouldn’t be in existence were it not for the ridiculous cabin crew strike several years ago.
    Re: food service I personally don’t think penny pinching and charging for unhealthy sugary and salty snacks is the way to go. If you’re going to charge for snacks there are plenty of healthy options.
    In response to BA bashers….I think it’s a British pastime….trying to be objective here, I’ve obviously flown BA many many times and have experienced amazing service and some lacking, but never experienced really awful service….there are always two sides to a story !
    Obviously i’m proud to have worked for BA as long as I did and I really hope the airline once again can be a leader in the field rather than a follower.

  22. I am pretty amused by the buzz around this – Virgin Atlantic have had this for years

    I think it’s great to have the option to get a pack of M&Ms to munch on during a movie if I hadn’t bought one to bring on with me, I’d say the vast majority of BA passengers never knew of the “tuck box” in the first place and this doesn’t replace the second meal that has been cut, as the in flight retail has closed by then.

  23. @ JH: Back to the 80s and early 90s, really? Here is what I remember from that time:

    – Seats far worse in all classes, including economy (no head rests, weak support for back)
    – Terrible(!) food, in economy more or less unedible
    – No IFE to speak of
    – Smoke-filled cabins
    – Noisy planes, unpleasant pressurization on descent
    – Very long lines and wait at check-in counters (no self-check in)
    – Long wait at the luggage belt
    – Expensive fares, complicated booking

    Not everything has gotten worse :-). The only thing that was really better in those days was the seat pitch, IMHO.

  24. This is not buy on board snacks in place of meals – it is an enhancement to duty free – Virgin already sell these snacks on board their flights – if you want to eat chocolate or Pringles during the flight the options are to bring your own or buy on board from the duty free trolley

  25. Oh well. At least they’ll still have free snacks and second meals in long haul First and Business class, right?

  26. @Veronica Goodhead my experience with mixed fleet has been good, but you have a point it seems that on mixed fleet flight i have more headaches the day after 😉 – but they always treat me as my father “Welcome Mr. Petersen” i am not “that old” only with mixed fleet i can convince them to call me on first name.

    But the biggest bust in BA is that they dont serve clothed cream and scones, i brought my better half on a business trip just for that – yes i know its not the end of the world, but she was really looking forward to it, if i hat known she could have gone on a later flight further in the back and just bought some Danish scone knock offs at home;)

  27. I fear Alex Cruz in order to be judged on profit alone will bring BA down the the level of his other company Vueling. Time to use different airline.

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