Lufthansa Details New Economy Buy On Board Service

Filed Under: Austrian, Lufthansa

In November 2020 we learned that Lufthansa Group airlines would introduce buy on board catering in short haul economy. Today Lufthansa has provided some more details about this service, so I wanted to update this post to reflect that.

Buy on board coming to Lufthansa Group airlines

This year (in 2021), Lufthansa, SWISS, and Austrian will eliminate free food and drinks in short and medium haul economy, instead replacing this with a buy on board menu. This won’t apply in business class, and won’t apply in long haul economy.

The airline group will be taking a phased approach towards this being introduced, starting in the spring of 2021. Austrian will eliminate free food & drinks first, followed by SWISS and Lufthansa.

Lufthansa partnering with dean&david, Dallmayr

Lufthansa will be partnering with dean&david for its buy on board menu. The company is based in Munich, and Lufthansa states that it “represents freshness, quality, and a sense of responsibility, for healthy food, high-quality ingredients, and sustainable nutrition as well as environmentally friendly packaging.”

The menu will include items like a salmon avocado bowl, falafel tahini salad, crunchy chicken bowl, sweet chili chicken sandwich, and bircher muesli. On top of that, Lufthansa will be partnering with Munich-based Dallmayr for hot beverages, confectionary, and patisserie specialties.

Menu items will cost 2-12 EUR, and will be available on flights of at least 60 minutes. It’s said that this will be introduced during the summer 2021 timetable, which could be anytime starting in late March.

Lufthansa buy on board salmon avocado bowl

Lufthansa buy on board falafel tahini salad

Lufthansa buy on board crunchy chicken bowl

Lufthansa buy on board bircher muesli

Lufthansa buy on board cake

Will any food & drinks be free anymore?

On Lufthansa and SWISS there will still be a complimentary water bottle for passengers, while on Austrian everything will have to be purchased.

While minor, I’m also curious to see if SWISS stops offering each passenger a free chocolate, which has been a tradition on the airline for years.

Austrian will be the first of the three airlines to introduce buy on board

This has probably been in the works for years

It’s pretty clear the airline group was already headed in this direction, and this would have happened eventually regardless:

SWISS had already conducted a buy on board trial

Doesn’t this increase contact points?

I can’t help but feel like the timing of this seems a bit backwards in terms of coronavirus. Obviously airlines are in a bad financial situation and are looking to cut costs and increase revenue.

But isn’t travel right now also about minimizing contact? If so, isn’t having flight attendants spending more time in the aisle processing payments increasing touch points and interaction?

Processing purchases increases passenger contact

Lufthansa cutting free food & drinks due to “customer feedback”

I love how a Lufthansa Group executive describes this change:

“Our current snack offer in Economy Class does not always meet the expectations of our guests. The new offer was developed on the basis of feedback from our customers. With the high-quality offer available for purchase, our passengers will be able to decide what they want to eat and drink on their journey.”

Look, I get that most companies aren’t going to be particularly honest in press releases when they make negative changes. That’s also why I think there’s no point in quoting executives with announcements like this, because the only honest thing to say is “meh, well we’re losing a ton of money and we think we can get away with this, so tough luck.”

But instead Lufthansa quotes an executive who claims:

  • Lufthansa is eliminating free food & drinks because the free selection hasn’t met the expectation of guests
  • The introduction of buy on board is due to customer feedback

Right. I’d like to talk to the person who said “the Diet Coke is fine, I just don’t like how it’s free.”

Customers have apparently been asking for less

Bottom line

In the coming months, Lufthansa, SWISS, and Austrian, will be eliminating free food & drinks in economy on short and medium haul flights. Lufthansa and SWISS will still offer free water, while Austrian won’t offer anything for free.

Unfortunately I can’t say I’m surprised by this change, as this is something that was under consideration even pre-pandemic. There really is no difference nowadays in Europe between “full” service airlines and ultra low cost carriers.

Are you surprised to see the Lufthansa Group switch to a buy on board model in economy?

  1. So, the lounge at my airport will be permanently closed, drinks aren’t free anymore and the flights are double than LCCs. Not really sure what reason is left to pay the premium.

  2. Medium haul is within Europe , Turkey Israel , ( western ) Russia, Jordan and North Africa

    The majority of people can manage without food for 2-4 hours.

    Just offer water.

    Conversely , BA offer a complimentary snack bag presently.

    Although not everyone pays cheap fares , if the basic fare excluding tax from say Frankfurt – tel aviv return was €75 bring your own food.

    The cost airlines would allow for a complimentary economy medium haul “meal” would be around €2

  3. At Lufthansa Group it’s always the customers asking for reductions in service in exchange for a higher price. I think it’s the only airline group where customers are asking for that.

  4. @Icarus: Where are the 75 EUR fares FRA to TLV? Closest I’m seeing is more than double that.

    Also, sounds like Austrian is not offering water.

    Would love to see you working at a hotel. “Sir, the shower may not be working, but you’re only staying for a night. You should be able to go 15 hours without a shower.” :p

  5. Isn’t there some irony in offering ‘sustainable options and packaging’ and then offering all customers a water bottle? Couldn’t they use canned water or water in non-plastic packaging instead?

    LH economy within Europe is already a pretty miserable experience. Annoying downgrade, but it’s not like LH was a great experience to begin with.

  6. I thought Swiss had already stopped free food and drink in economy? I stopped flying them because of it and will now do the same with Lufthansa.
    European legacy airlines need to improve their service levels not reduce them. Otherwise they will go the way of FlyBE and the rest. A sandwich and a can of German beer surely isn’t costing them much.

  7. @Ben: BA did not pioneer BOB. Both Iberia and SAS introduced this several years before BA.

    @Michael: Lol – it’s not only Lufthansa who claim customer feedback as a way to implement “enhancements”. Look at the BA forum on FlyerTalk for instance. The new excuse now is COVID-19, while the real reason is cost savings (which does make sense when the airline industry is losing billions). SAS even bans passengers bringing anything more than light snacks onboard. Imagine a five hour flight to the Canary Islands with nothing more than crisps or chocolate, especially if you’re travelling with children.

  8. Cabin crew will soon start selling lottery tickets and promote the latest co-branded credit cards over the PA three times during a flight. Oh, wait. That’s what you get in the US. Silly me.

  9. “There really is no difference nowadays in Europe between “full” service airlines and ultra low cost carriers.”

    Ahmmm The price, maby?

    And then take in to account, that it is “easier” to get a refund from a low cost carrier then Swiss these days, or any day I reckon.
    But still you get a free bottle of water.

    Well, times has definitely changed and I think we will see some more of these so called enhancements across the board, in European aviation.

    As many business travellers in Europe only fly economy, for good reason! And make up their status on segments or long haul flights.
    I’m sure If they could, we might even see some kind of point system, for elites to enter lounges in Europe?
    So that the airlines could exclude low revenue passengers.
    I have no ide how they would do it though.

  10. Besides the strikingly obvious marketing pitch of “based on customer feedback”, I take another issue with the press release: The focus on the food quality is essentially a red herring.

    Everybody knows that (apart from a few longish and/or highly competitive routes) the food in LHG’s short-haul eco is nothing to write home about. So you’re not taking away much and can somewhat credibly promise higher-quality meals and snacks for purchase.

    HOWEVER: If you ever worked in the hospitality industry in Europe, you’ll know that all the profit comes from the beverages as opposed to the food.
    I think this is what BoB is targeting. On a flight from Germany to Mallorca, you could get two beers for free. Now it gonna be like EUR 8 or EUR 10.

    That’s the real loss. Plus the hassle. On a quick flight such as ZRH-FRA, are they even gonna be able to get to the last row given the time the processing of payment takes? And if they do, you got like two minutes to finish your drink?

  11. Honestly I have always stuck with Lufthansa for intra-European flights because they still offer a nice product. They are the only one, who still serve a warm meal from Germany to Lisbon.

    Now I am just going to fly whatever the cheapest. Easyjet is actually not bad and I can buy an extra legroom seat. Their priority product is recently priced. With this move, it will just push more people to fly LCC.

  12. This is just hilarious… I worked for Brussels Airlines for a number of years and remember those meetings in Frankfurt and Zurich where I was told over and over that buy-on-board was something they would never even consider as it would kill their brands all together.
    I find it very unfortunate to see free catering go, but at least now customers will be able to compare the LCC and the “traditional” carriers 1-on-1……. and reinforce the customer value proposition of Ryanair.

  13. @Ben your analogy is ridiculous.

    Unlike a hotel where a bathroom / shower is included, food is not part of the contract when you buy an air ticket . Airlines are under no obligation to provide it.

    If elite status customers can eat in the lounge , if they are sitting in economy they can manage without a second meal / snack for 2-3 hours.

    Remember , this is short flights and not long haul.

  14. @ Icarus — What analogy are you talking about? Where did I say they are under obligation to provide food and drinks, or that it’s part of the contract?

  15. @lucky
    It’s not you he’s talking about, it’s another Ben in the comments who posted this:

    “Where are the 75 EUR fares FRA to TLV? Closest I’m seeing is more than double that.

    Also, sounds like Austrian is not offering water.

    Would love to see you working at a hotel. “Sir, the shower may not be working, but you’re only staying for a night. You should be able to go 15 hours without a shower.” :p”

  16. @ Hotel Sierra Kilo — My apologies (and also to Icarus), I need to get better about reading what’s written on OMAAT. :p

  17. …before, everybody was complaining that paying the extra for LH intra-europe business class is not worth it. Well, there you go!

  18. For drinks its bullshit, but for the food… yea I can understand that they just don’t bother with handing out the tiny wrap and if you are realy hungry you can buy some.

  19. “Contact points” aren’t really seen as a huge deal in Europe, at least not in the way they are in the US. Most authorities advise is that the virus is spread mostly person-to-person, not via contamined surfaces.

    Personally, I prefer BOB for food. I will much rather select and buy something I want (size-wise and type-wise) than having a free bag of peanuts. From my perspective, I’m not really losing anything, while I’m gaining an option to purchase stuff on board.

    Drinks are another matter, those should remain free, maybe except beer/wine.

  20. You know why there is no difference between full service airlines, and ultra low cost? Because of the customer. They cant care less what’s given onboard, as long as the seats is Rick bottom in price. Nobody is gonna chose a higher ticket price on an airlines just because a free snacks, and a drink. So airlines are just given what is been demanded.

  21. Hygiene Procedures – completely LACKING !!!
    Procedure: Flight Attendant handing out food/drink to Pax 1 – then receiving cash/credit card/etc. (FULL of bacteria/various viruses!) – then handing it back to Pax 1; then reaching into food/drinks trolley to serve Pax 2; it could NOT be a more UN-hygienic process! – It seems the Lufthansa Group cost cutters have completely FAILED to take HYGIENE aspects into consideration! (on a recent SWISS long haul flight the crew handled it correctly: Wearing gloves when handing out the drinks/food and strictly NOT touching/receiving anything from passengers; then AFTER service for ALL the pax was completed, collecting things.

  22. The airline and its subsidiaries, Eurowings, Swiss, Austrian and Brussels Airlines, are cutting their schedules, fleet and staff, with air travel not expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels before 2025.

  23. So now it’s fair to say that US Legacy carriers offer a more attractive product in both Y and J on North American flights. Granted, the FAs are rude and the passengers a bit less civilized, but you get better seats in J and at least free soft drinks in Y.

  24. The Swiss trial was successful, and they’re currently doing buy on board exclusively out of Geneva (called Swiss Saveurs). Living in Geneva I’ve used this many times and you still get a small bottle of water and chocolate in economy. In business class you can choose anything off the buy on board menu. I imagine this is what will be used for the wider group.

  25. LH is fast becoming, the famous Skytrax 5* airline with a sustainable wrapped Bob…..Passenger approved of course!
    Lol 😉

    Think about that 5* airline with Bob….

  26. Only when skimming through for the second time, I stumbled upon this little remark:

    Right. I’d like to talk to the person who said “the Diet Coke is fine, I just don’t like how it’s free.”


  27. I’d say LCCs are better than full service carriers because it’s all based on what you pay, not status.

    A paid seat in the exit row is considerably cheaper on U2 than BA, I’ve found. Probably because they need to save some freebies for the status folks, so stick the kettles with larger charges.

    All told I really have zero reason not to fly EasyJet over BA, Lufthansa, etc. as an occasional flyer in Europe. The miles are piddling, and if you couldn’t care less about status… just let me pay for what I want.

  28. There is no longer any difference to Easyjet … other than Easyjet is more reliable (i.e. ontime performance) …

  29. Such changes are a great way of cost cutting, people initially are complaining, then they get used to it. Savings remain + you can upsell “premium” f&b. Same thing with luggage and contract lounge access.
    And covid is a bullshit excuse – they would have done it anyways. Look at LOT – they have recently enlarged their offer of free snacks&drinks in Y onboard intra-EU flights. Crews were protesting (contact points, social distancing, blah blah blah…), but they got replaced by those that were not reluctant to fly and provide improved service.

  30. @Ralph

    Your use of so many CAPITALS in your post remind me of the tweets of some American politician whose name I can’t remember…

  31. Have the Lufthansa European business class seats been retrofitted on A320 and A321 aircraft? Used to be the same as economy seat with center seat open.

  32. Nooo I loved lufthansa’s free snacks… I hope they’ll change it again after the pandemic

  33. You have to be an idiot to fly 5starhansa. What a joke of an airline.

    Same legroom and now same buy-on-board crap food as Ryan Air or easyjet. But hey, they might give you 38 miles or some similar joke for a flight booking. So there’s that!

  34. Funny how just above this article, I got an ad for IndiGo’s, you guessed it, buy-on-board, or rather, pre-ordered meal service… the difference is that IndiGo is an LCC, and always has been.

  35. This is a shameful degradation of service. I usually won’t fly with the Hun for reasons of historical antipathy. But when I do the food (and beer) is a key part of my consideration. When they start to charge, KLM will become more attractive to me.

  36. @Icarus, thank you for defining “medium haul”. I was wondering about that.

    I think all airlines, regardless of their structure, should offer complimentary water.

  37. I can kind of see how Lufthansa could steer some people get this kind of feedback by asking the right questions:

    First, pick a flight used by business travelers for a day trip—an intra-Germany flight or a hop across the border—many will be flying economy due to company travel policy, but would do this several times a month.

    Ask them: “Are you satisfied with the pre-packaged sandwich you were given?”
    Invariably, many people will say no. The sandwiches are average and often non-vegetarian, so a lot of people pass, especially on short flights.

    Follow-up question: “Would you take advantage of BoB if we offered better food?”
    Again, a sizable portion of people may say ‘yes’, especially if the question doesn’t imply the elimination of free snacks.

    And there you have it: ‘the public’ has spoken 🙂

    Anyway, there’s really no point not flying LCCs point-to-point. I find the food selection to often be better, and at least it’s predictable – especially since Swiss would sometimes just give out ice cream (and nothing else) on a 2.5-hour flight.

  38. I don’t see why SWISS continue to bother pretending as though they are the ‘premium’ airline of Europe. Their short haul service and hard product were already on par with everyone else, and now they’ve eliminated food, and their long-haul business class fell flat on its face. 200 euros for a seat reservation? Their amenities in long haul business have always been laughable, from the cheap flimsy amenity kits to the paper thin pillows and blankets. Their food has always been outshone by their sister airline Austrian. What’s left? A semi-decent hub airport and some brand hype. An empty shell.

  39. I think the hilarious irony here is that ALL the Europeans’ full-service counterparts in the US domestic market now offer more ‘service’ in the back of the plane than they do. My how the roles have reversed…

  40. “Touch points” haven’t been a thing in Europe at least since May. Virtually all authorities around the EU agree that spread via contamined surfaces is rare to the point where it’s negligible.

    Regarding the customer feedback, I imagine it can be true with food – I will also much rather have a good choice of edible food for a price, than a free muffin I probably don’t want anyway. Drinks are a different matter as the selection was good even when it was free and it’s unlikely it will get significantly better.

  41. By the way, does anyone understand the reason for constant, seemingly purposeful, differences of service between on LH/LX/OS?

    I understand why they retain different brandings but I would assume they will aim to provide unified consistent experience across the Lufty Group. Yet every single aspect of the service seems to have some kind exception on one of the airlines.

  42. If there is any carriers in Europe that have not gone to BOB, here would be a great ad for them to run:

    Customer asks for something such as a coke.
    FA: That will be five dollars
    Customer: I used to get that free
    FA: According to our marketing department our customers wanted the opportunity to pay for items on board instead of getting them for free.
    Customer: Blank stare

    Fly with us and we wont give you some marketing BS, just good service.

  43. The more Lufthansa, Swiss, and Austrian try to emulate EasyJet and Ryanair the fewer reasons I have to fly Lufthansa, Swiss, and Austrian.

    What a way to kill a business. Good work guys!

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