How Much Will British Airways Charge For A Cup Of Hot Water?

Filed Under: British Airways

As we first (officially) learned about in late September, British Airways will be switching to a buy onboard model for their short-haul flights. This new policy will apply on all short-haul flights out of London Heathrow and London Gatwick as of January 11, 2017, and on all London City and London Stansted flights by summer 2017.


Up until now British Airways has offered complimentary drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and snacks in economy. British Airways’ current CEO used to be in charge of Spanish low cost carrier Vueling, and it looks like he’s trying to run British Airways in a similar manner.

With the new policy, the only thing that will continue to be complimentary on request is potable water. However, it appears that only cold potable water will be complimentary. If you bring your own tea bag and want hot water, you’ll still be expected to pay the £2.30 that would usually be charged for tea.


Of course this is totally minor and I guess is logical enough, but there’s something about it that I can’t help but find hilarious. Per Business Traveller:

British Airways has confirmed that when the new Buy on Board short-haul service begins in January, “the airline will only provide cups for beverages purchased in flight”.

The statement is in line with instructions to crew which state that only “potable water” will be available on request. All food and drink, including soft drinks and tea and coffee will be chargeable, and passengers will not be able to avoid paying simply by requesting hot water, then using their own coffee granules or tea bags.

If customers do request a tea cup, then this will be charged “at the retail price regardless of whether a tea bag is required”.

So the airline will only provide cups for purchased drinks… except the cups they’re providing for potable water… but only cold potable water.

British Airways’ CEO said that this policy exists not because they’re trying to cut costs, but because they want to offer “choice and quality:”

“We haven’t reached this decision because we were going to take a huge amount of cost out of the business. The decision has been taken because of choice and quality.”

This is only the second most interesting tea “development” at British Airways in recent times. In late November FlyerTalk member orbitmic was informed that he wasn’t allowed to use two tea bags for his tea in BA’s Terminal 3 Galleries First Lounge:

Contrary to my coffee dominated diet, I saw BA brought the f tea selection to the gf lounge (a welcome addition) So thought I’d give it a try. Following on from my partner’s own habits, when having (typically herbal) tea, I often pick two different flavors and mix them.

I was looking when a staff member who was clearingtables and looked at me insistently. I smiled, she did not move. ‘Are you all right sir?’ — ‘yes, thanks I’m just looking at what teas you have trying to decide’.

Since she was not moving, I took one elderflower Darjeeling, one elderflower apple, and the cup of hot water I had just poured. This did not make her happy: ‘sir, just to inform you that it is only one tea bag at a time and for lounge consumption only’.

Bottom line

I don’t actually fault British Airways for charging for hot water, but there’s still something I found funny about the story. It’s sort of like the person who goes to a restaurant and requests water, a bowl of lemons, and sugar packets, so that they don’t have to pay for lemonade.

Still, the whole system seems a bit illogical — you have to pay for a cup, unless you get potable water, but only if it’s cold and not hot.

  1. They’ve become an utterly vile airline that gets nothing but bad press in the UK

    They should be stripped of Heathrow slots to stop them exploiting their dominant position

  2. Alex Cruz risks seriously harming the reputation of BA… he’/ trying to run a major legacy carrier as if it were Vueling – not sure how he thinks this could work.

  3. I’ve always felt it’s been blind jingoism that has kept people returning to BA. They have always been terrible and the last few years have shown just how adept they are at winning the race to the bottom. There is only really one reason anymore to pay the surcharge of a BA flight over any of the low cost carriers on short trips to europe and that is the free checked in bag… however it won’t be long before that disappears (bit without a reduction in price more likely), all in the name of “choice”

    Removing their slots at heathrow sounds like a great solution Adam

  4. So by their own logic if I bring my own hot cup and tea bag (or coffee granules) from home I should be entitled to free water? What about if I want them to pour hot water into my mug or thermos?

  5. Uhhhh I think it’s interesting that they refer to the complimentary cold water as “potable water”. Does this mean water taken from the airplane’s tanks rather than bottled water?

  6. I remember when British Airways used to represent upscale travel. Like when Roger Moore was 007 and the Bond movie(s) would always show him landing/leaving London aboard a British Airways airliner. Nowadays, I think even the Queen’s Welsh Corgis would turn their tails towards BA.

    You know their brand has turned south when the BRITISH flagship carrier charges for a cup of hot TEA.

  7. I wonder if they would charge for hot water then to heat a baby’s bottle? It’s incredibly common to request hot water to simply re-heat a bottle.

  8. “You know their brand has turned south when the BRITISH flagship carrier charges for a cup of hot TEA.”

    Spot on, @Luke Vader.

  9. I ran out of my way to fly ba thinking they are great. The flight was so disappointing that I prefer united airlines. They didn’t just piss me off, they also pissed off my wife who doesn’t care about anything. It’s sad how low they are trying to go, it’s like they are trying to piss you off just to say f you. Stop flying them!

    I had to go to bbb to get my damaged luggage replaced

  10. Hello from a long-time TWA flight attendant. (Yes, some of you remember that). Potable water is the water stored in the aircraft water tanks. It provides galley water for coffee makers, etc and the water to the lav’s. Years ago, TWA acquired two ex-TAP 747’s which were rushed into service ASAP. Mechanics at JFK said that whatever you do, don’t drink the potable water. When asked why, they responded that the water tanks were full of slugs. That’s the water which makes your coffee and hot tea. Enjoy!

  11. Still one notch above the joyless economy flights within Europe on Swiss or Brussels airlines. No free potable water unless you suggest you absolutely need a cup of free potable water for taking medicine. Best to hold your medicine in your hand to underscore your needs.

  12. No free tea for the Brits?
    An airline run by twits!
    But cold water is free
    But drinkable? Maybe?
    The Queen’s corgis won’t fly
    So neither will I
    And we leave BA dueling with Vueling
    For the bottom

    (sorry couldn’t resist)

  13. BA is clearly a failing airline. I wouldn’t be surprised if a major bailout became necessary in the near-future.

    They deserve every bit of ill-will directed towards them. From outrageous fuel surcharges to the mistreatment of their employees to $3 hot water.

    A pox on the houses of BA executives.

  14. I do not see how this is much different from United banning people bring their own licquor onto flights and then mixing it with a soda from the cart get a free vodka and tonic, or whatever

    The Brits would totally take teabags on a plane otherwise

  15. At the risk of starting a war – wasn’t the price of tea responsible for the creation of a new country?

    Shame on you BA!

  16. Unless facing the prospect of sleeping on a freezing bench in Victoria Station in December (as I had to do in 1968 ! ), I will never fly BA– because of their “FUEL” surcharge. When I search international flights on American, I ALWAYS UN-click the BA flight option. Don’t want to go anywhere near them…

  17. WTP RT from Heathrow to JFK and back just sucked. A muffin in a wrapper was the morning collation back to Heathrow. Seat wasn’t great, IFE was just ok. Really not a great way to travel.

  18. @joe~ I expect clean water is extra!
    I am guessing that since you are paying handsomely for the ‘product’, you would be perfectly entitled to send it back if it was not hot enough, yes?

  19. Very sad and annoying where European carriers are heading in regards to service.
    Very surprised that Lucky not faulting BA for charging more than 2 pounds for some hot waters, but I guess that’s how you become when you’ve been exposed to ultra low service standard in the USA.
    The time has come to support the airlines which try to make a difference even it comes at a slightly higher price.

  20. @David

    Its just that tea
    Isnt free,
    not only for the Brits,
    But any nationality
    So beware while flying BA,
    As they about you
    They dont give sweet FA

  21. @ William
    “BA is clearly a failing airline. I wouldn’t be surprised if a major bailout became necessary in the near-future.”

    Except that BA is currently making *huge* profits and, unlike most US legacy carriers, has not even had subsidy through a bankruptcy bail-out. What you’re witnessing here is greedy capitalism at its worst: the same motivation that caused their very poorly-paid FAs to ballot for strike action.

    Why do people keep flying BA as service levels are eroded? In short haul it’s a mystery to me, but on long-haul it’s the power of LHR: a huge market, offering a vast network of non-stop direct flights.

    On the lucrative Trans-Atlantic routes, the “competition” is from US airlines that offer even worse standards (I’m talking about Economy here) – for example, BA long haul has always offered in Economy as much free alcohol as you want, whereas US carriers charge for everything.

    Pretty much everyone who flies is *not* an aviation enthusiast, and the vast majority of those people prefer direct flights. Therefore BA has limited competition.

    Far from BA needing a bailout, my guess is they’ll continue to hoover up other airlines (a la Iberia, Aer Lingus, etc). Despite standards being eroded in all cabins of the planes.

  22. BA are just a “junk” airline these days. I would put them on a par with your average low cost airline. I always do everything I can to avoid LHR anyhow or flying LH out of the UK so I don’t really need them for anything. But on occasion they are useful out of London City but still a really crap service so I usually try to consciously find other options. BA are a last resort only.

  23. Watch passenger numbers collapse! On long haul they’ll also charge for snacks. Premium fares and no frills service! CEO will be fired and then the tough job or repairing their collapsed reputation

  24. My brother-in-law is a BA Cabin Service Director with more than 25 years seniority. He laments that all his time aloft is spent apologizing.

  25. BA are only as good as they need to be. They offer non-stops to over 20 US cities and the US competition is even worse. Plus some US airlines fly crappy old 757’s and 767’s whereas BA is flying 787’s, 777’s and A380 to many cities.

  26. Take a thermo flask and fill it with hot water before your flight. T5 should have those hot water dispensers they have at HKG.

    I understand paying for a decent M&S sandwich but charging for hot water takes the biscuit. And the reason given that it’s not for cost cutting…please. Don’t embarrass yourself by telling porkies.

  27. OK here’s an English perspective.

    – short haul flight
    – £2.30 for a crappy water tank drink
    – have a coffee in Caffe Nero or whatever
    – cope without a hot drink for a bit

  28. @Bev
    Both of you are absolutely correct. People can have their coffee, tea or drink prior to the flight or take it on the plane. Bring your own bottled water or thermos on the plane to keep hydrated. You are perfectly able to exist without a hot drink for one or two hours.

  29. British Airways is a terrible airline. It has been for several reasons. I flew from JNB-LHR in business, had several issues, broken seats, no special meal boarded, no entertainment on a 11+ hour flight. Impossible to book a preferred seat unless I checked in Botswana where I had no internet in the woods, 24 hours prior to the flight. Then my luggage was checked into LHR although I was flying to BUD. Then my entire artwork pieces were broken. My Gucci sunglasses got stolen at the ticket counter by the agent. No apology or any compensation offered. My lost and damaged luggage to LAX on a different flight. I never heard back from BA. It is another trailer trash airline, worse than any US airline and worse than any low cost carrier. I avoid them as much as I can. High taxes and fuel surcharges also. Just avoid flying BA! Nobody ever got back to me from their customer relations. A terrible company. I should have taken them to court, however that is too much hassle and they basically stole my property and got away with it.

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