British Airways’ New Economy “Speedbird Cafe”

Filed Under: British Airways

In 2017 British Airways started charging for all food and drinks in short haul economy. British Airways became the first major, “full service” European airline to have such a policy, and it’s something that other airlines have adopted since.

During the pandemic British Airways temporarily introduced free bottled water and a small snack in short haul economy, in order to minimize contact between passengers and crew. Well, the airline is now permanently adjusting its short haul economy service.

British Airways will offer free water & snack in economy

Going forward, customers traveling in British Airways Euro Traveller (short haul economy) will receive complimentary refreshments, consisting of a bottle of water and a snack, such as a breakfast bar or crisps.

While the airline has been doing this for the past several months after eliminating the buy on board service in economy due to coronavirus, this change is now “permanent.” I put that in quotes because nothing in the airline industry is actually forever. However, the point is that this isn’t just a temporary pandemic policy.

British Airways is restoring free snacks & water in economy

British Airways introduces new Speedbird Cafe menu

In addition to a complimentary bottle of water and snack, Euro Traveller passengers will continue to be able to purchase food and drinks… but only in advance.

With British Airways’ new Speedbird Cafe concept, customers can order a variety of food and drinks at least 12 hours before departure. Orders will need to be placed through, which is British Airways inflight retail website.

British Airways has dropped its partnership with M&S, and will now partner with Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge for the new menu.

Tom Kerridge, who is partnering with British Airways

British Airways claims that the new menu consists of gourmet food with a special focus on British provenance. Menu items include the following, and all are priced between £4.10 and £4.50:

  • Warm steak & ale pie
  • Ham hock & smoked cheddar sandwich
  • Spiced cauliflower tortilla wrap (vegan)
  • Chicken, bacon ,and celery Brioche
  • Brie Ploughman’s sandwich (vegetarian)

An example of British Airways’ new Speedbird Cafe sandwich

In addition to the fresh items, passengers can still purchase drinks and packaged snacks, ranging from soda to wine to nuts to candy bars.

Here’s a video featuring Kerridge about how he designed the menu:

The pre-ordering aspect is problematic

As the airline describes it, requiring customers to pre-order meals ensures that they receive their first choice, and also reduces onboard waste. However, it sounds like we should eventually expect food and drinks to be available for purchase onboard again. The airline states that Speedbird Cafe will “launch as a pre-order proposition,” which suggests that maybe that won’t be the case permanently.

I can appreciate wanting people to pre-order initially, to minimize contact between passengers and crews in order to process payments. However, post-coronavirus this would be an issue, in my opinion. Most people don’t want to decide 12+ hours before departure if they want a cup of coffee or not.

British Airways’ new Speedbird Cafe menu

Bottom line

British Airways will continue to offer complimentary bottled water and light snacks in Euro Traveller short haul economy. On top of that, the airline will continue to sell other drinks and more substantial food, but only if you order at least 12 hours in advance.

British Airways has introduced a new partnership with Tom Kerridge for the fresh items onboard. The meals look good enough and are reasonably priced, but there’s also typically quite a difference between how these menu items appear in press pictures, and how they look in real life.

What do you make of British Airways’ new Euro Traveller service concept? 

  1. This assumes BA improve their provisioning and actually deliver / load what’s ordered and paid for… Unlike their practice for special meals on both long and short haul for years…
    As with most BA marketing, I’ll believe it when it’s actually delivered reliably to the majority of customers.
    Having said that, at least they’re no longer trying to charge for water onboard! but I think still #BestAvoided

  2. So I need to predict 12 hours in advance if I might want a soda? Just to reduce waste? I understand for food, but feels like they’re losing revenue on drink sales.

  3. Totally agree with Fil – much better compared to what the LH Group has decided in moving forward.
    At least BA are reverting back to something basic and simple for these short flights. To me this is a true hybrid of full service and LCC.


  4. I welcome paying for the food, where the food is then better than the original freebies. Pre-ordering I find ok on longer flights where I know I’ll want a meal, whereas on the short hauls I might not know in advance.

    Plus the drinks I’m not sure make sense.. Would that be red or white sir with the sandwich.. Ohh you didn’t order a drink, so here’s a water.

  5. It was a disgrace that they cut complimentary food and drink to start with, good to see a partial U-turn.

  6. Pre-ordering has been the holy grail for the airlines for many years – it allows them to board only what is necessary with minimal/no waste. And it allows them to board higher quality items since they are actually being paid for them resulting in lower complaints.

    For business travelers, also a huge boon. Anyone that has rushed to the airport after a long day of meetings, no time to grab something in the airport only to have the last snack item sold to the dude in front of you will welcome this opportunity.

  7. Agree good to see some complimentary offering returnig, but not really impressed with the Kerridge pre-order offering. Not sure if just me, but none of it is terribly exciting or enticing? Also that pie is the smallest steak and ale pie I’ve ever seen! I don’t think even Kerridge believes what he’s saying in that video, a lot of fluff for mediocre food.

  8. Also fwiw, pre-ordering can be really efficient, AirAsia have been doing this for years and the meals are very high quality from what I understand – my sister still says it was the best meal she’s had ever when her and her hubby got bored of KL and decided to leg it to Vietnam for that portion of their honeymoon instead. Having said this lets not underestimate BA’s ability to royally F things up… :/

  9. This is my favorite compromise: The base fare of an LCC, with free tea plus an option to pay for something decent. I don’t need to shove junk in my face on a one-hour flight. If I need a real meal then I’ll know it the day before I travel, and I can order something good and pretend I’m in EuroBiz. Happy!

  10. Why any professional chef would put their name on airline food is beyond me. Regardless of how grand their intentions, what ends up being folded, stapled, and mutilated before being served to passengers is a far cry from the original item as envisioned by the chef.

    It isn’t rocket science. Offer simple, recognizable food and don’t attempt to market it as something it isn’t, or can’t be.

  11. A fellow business traveller colleague and I have been arguing about this for years re BA and LH Europe short haul. He holds that not providing a snack and hot drink ‘free’ is cheapskate, I hold that, rather than being served some thin filled snack if, I want it or not, I’d rather have my choice and pay for it. Or not.

    The M&S offer went pear shaped because it was too complex. Initially the airline failed to board enough food and half the cabin went without. Once they got stocking right, there’d be a huge rush at the start of the flight to get hot food pre-orders taken, then trolley service began. Even then, your preferred item may well have sold out before the trolley reached your seat and the time taken to process card only payments often meant the trolley hadn’t travelled the full length of a full cabin before it was time to batten down for landing.

    The free snack model works best because distribution is fast, and all passengers have time to eat. Adding pre order allows dedicated crew to then distribute the prepaid nosh to those prepared to pay. Kerridge is a great chef and though something will be lost between his development kitchen and BA’s flight kitchen, I’ll reserve judgement till I’ve tried a few items when travel resumes.

    The big question is if BA can deliver this new service without fouling it up initially, as they did with M&S.

  12. What people need to realise is that the BoB and this new pre ordering of extra food and drink is that it’s not a BA company.

    ‘BA Highlife’ isn’t actually owned or operated by BA. It’s a brand of Tourvest.

    And they will be the one taking the orders and doing the delivery to the planes.

    It was Tourvest that took the risk with BoB hence why they stocked little fresh food because they didn’t want to bear the cost of any wastage at the end of the day for items they couldn’t use again.

  13. This definitely a move in the right direction for BA to be able to distinguish itself from its LCC competitors.

    Two issues jump to mind…

    1: IRROPs – what happens when someone misses their connection and they’re put on, say, the next shuttle to Edinburgh. Quite sure they won’t be running around transferring that person’s pie over. As they won’t be selling anything on board the pie will go on the original flight and then presumably be binned? What about that person’s refund? Will they even get a refund?

    2: You probably won’t be able to get a second G&T or an impromptu bag of Haribo. AirAsia delivers the pre-ordered first, then runs the cart down with a smaller selection and the drinks. Some version of this would be most sensible.

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