BA boss 'unsurprised' by backlash to paying for food onboard

‘The actual take up versus our assumption was significantly higher. It took us a while to actually sort out,’ said Alex Cruz


Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 01 May 2019 11:56 BST
British Airways will start serving a special Brewdog beer onboard from today
British Airways will start serving a special Brewdog beer onboard from today (British Airways)

As British Airways launches a “centenary” onboard menu, the airline’s boss has said he expected an angry reaction to his decision to charge some passengers for food and drink.

In January 2017, BA ended its decades-long practice of providing complimentary catering for short-haul economy travellers.

Instead, passengers can choose from a menu of Marks & Spencer snacks.

One retired Concorde pilot, John Hutchinson, described the policy as “a complete disaster for British Airways”.

Alex Cruz, the executive chairman and CEO of British Airways, said the reaction “didn’t surprise me at all”.

At the Skift Forum Europe event in London, he said: “If you have a perception that you are getting something for free, however bad quality or no-choice it is, if you’re taking something away there’s a reaction.”

For the first six or seven months, Mr Cruz said, the complaints had been about the concept of charging. After that, passengers complained that they could not get the sandwich they wanted.

Mr Cruz acknowledged there had been teething problems; on some longer European flights, particularly returning to the UK, passengers complained that little choice was available or that supplies had run out.

He said: “We made an assumption of the take-up of passengers onboard. The actual take up versus our assumption was significantly higher. It took us a while to actually sort out.

“We could make assumptions with regards to [say] the second Geneva flight on Tuesdays, but it made a huge difference if it was ski season or not, because people get up from the resorts very early in the day and they wanted to eat something more on the airplane.

“Now we have that data, we’re actually delivering a much better fit to the actual demand for the product.”

Two years on, he said: “Customer satisfaction levels are higher than before the change.

“There are very, very, very, very few seats left in Europe that provide you with something for free.

“Changing to this model was a no-brainer. It was difficult at the beginning as a consequence of this change, but we’re very pleased where we are.”

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

British Airways has introduced a bespoke Scottish-made beer to celebrate 100 years since the airline’s ancestors began flying.

The Aberdeenshire craft brewery, BrewDog, has create a “transatlantic IPA” called Speedbird 100, after the airline’s call sign. The recipe aims to adapt to the reduction in taste and smell sensitivity at high altitudes.

BA says the brewing process began aboard a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. BrewDog’s founders, Martin Dickie and James Watt, started the process while cruising 500mph over the north of Scotland.

“With the help of British Airways cabin crew, the expert brewers mixed water, hops and barley in the onboard beverage makers to start the mashing part of the brewing process.”

Cans of the beer are available on all BA flights from 1 May. Members of the British Airways Executive Club members can get a 10 per cent discount at BrewDog bars.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in