Last week, British Airways announced a partnership with British brand Marks & Spencer; whom will be offering customers the option to purchase food at 30,000ft on domestic and short-haul flights from the 11th of January.
This is a rather controversial move which replaces British Airways’ current proposition in the Domestic and Euro Traveller cabins; where customers presently receive complimentary drinks and snacks. However; I actually think this might be a move in the right direction for the airline.
British Airways have rarely been out of the spotlight over the past few years; whether it was when they first introduced paid-for premium meal options in the World Traveller cabin; or to when they switched standard in-flight headphones to ear buds… again, in the airlines’ economy cabin. Airline catering has always been rather hit and miss; and recently you’ll find that BA’s short-haul offering is rather limited. The “complimentary drinks and snacks” on a flight from London Heathrow to Mallorca in Spain might actually translate to a juice and a packet of crisps… or maybe a small salad if you’re lucky which isn’t all that glamorous. But Percy Pigs available to purchase on board? Count me in!
The move to replace this with offering customers the opportunity to purchase premium food items is bold, but it could work very well. BA would be able to offer higher quality food and drinks; specifically M&S quality which is guaranteed as being fresh, sustainable, and ‘unmistakable”. Compared to the current buy-on-board offerings you’ll find on low-cost carriers, this would give British Airways a huge advantage… even if their fares are slightly higher.
The perception of two great British brands working together to deliver a premium experience is very marketable; and a lot of people would enjoy the fact they might be able to enjoy “a simple taste of home” on board as they fly back from Venice after a long weekend of rich Italian food.
I’m not saying the move by BA is perfect; but after allowing a couple of days for the news to settle in – there’s no point venting about it… but rather look forward to the new experience. The sample pricing information we have seen is relatively comparable with the likes of easyJet commanding £4.50 for a bacon baguette; whilst BA will charge £4.75 for a CAFE bacon bun.
Another example would be the chicken with herb and tomato sandwich from easyJet, to the M&S nine-month aged cheddar cheese ploughman’s.
They say images aren’t everything… but in this case I’d say both options don’t actually look bad – but it’s the quality of the products which is the key differentiator between the two.
Many are concerned about BA’s Club Europe cabin; and what will happen with that. The good news is that premium customers will still be offered a full, complimentary menu – which is set to be enhanced and rolled-out from later in the spring.
Another sticking point for many is that payment for the buy-on-board options will only be available by credit/debit card or Avios… which isn’t a bad thing at all. Many other airlines already operate from a cashless system; and it makes sense based on the short-length of the busy flights… and the hassle that is the lengthy cash-handling procedures which cabin crew have to follow.
There are still a few months before we will see M&S make their debut at 30,000ft… but I am sure we will see a few tweaks here and there in the run-up to launch. So what do you think about the changes to BA’s short-haul catering? Are you a fan of the partnership with M&S? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Photos are courtesy of British Airways PLC, Marks and Spencer PLC, and screenshots taken from the easyJet buy-on-board guide Autumn 2016.