Rumour: BA to partner with M&S for buy-on-board catering

A number of leading airline-industry websites and the UK media have recently reported that British Airways are to announce a partnership with the upmarket supermarket M&S; whom would provide select food and drink offerings on short-haul flights… promoted as a buy-on-board offering. Unsurprisingly, this has enraged many flyers.

BA’s short-haul product has always been popular with travellers for the sole reason there are no hidden extras. Passengers buying a standard Euro Traveller (Economy) fare could look forward to benefits which included a checked bag, and complimentary food and drink offerings… although this was at a premium price compared to the low-cost carriers operating on the same routes.

If you cast your mind back to March 2013, BA realised they needed to think of something to entice the “low-cost generation” to fly on their aircraft… hence the introduction of the Hand Baggage Only fare – which is actually popular. This revelation continues the trend that the legacy carrier are trying to appeal to the wider market; and such a move would allow for them to slash their fares even further, enabling BA to try and regain some of the marketshare they have lost to carriers such as Ryanair, easyJet, Norwegian, and even Aer Lingus and Iberia- whom are also part of IAG. All these airlines do currently offer a buy-on-board catering proposition, but this would be a first for BA.

The aviation market is complicated at the best of times; but as Gatwick is seen as more of a “leisure hub” than Heathrow; could be expect to see more passengers warming to the buy-on-board proposition at the West Sussex Airport?

Photo courtesy of Marks & Spencer PLC

Photo courtesy of Marks & Spencer PLC

Why M&S?

Marks and Spencer are a British institution. Since opening for the first time in 1884, the retailer has become a fundamental part of the British high street. It’s supermarket division, M&S Food; prides itself on delivering only the best quality produce at a reasonable price. From traditional sandwiches to seasonal wraps, salads and dips, to popcorn, crisps, and treats from the bakery… M&S products are always a popular option. Two iconic British brands working together sounds like a great option to me.

There were a few reports saying that BA may have teamed up with Waitrose (there is actually a small store inside BA’s Head Office near Heathrow); but I actually don’t mind M&S at all. Besides, Waitrose currently provide products to the intercontinental rail operator Eurostar – whom are classed as a competitor… especially on those cross-channel routes. Recently M&S were an official parter to The Patrons Lunch; a celebration of HM The Queen’s patronage to hundreds of charities on the occasion of her 90th Birthday… where they served up more than 10,000 afternoon tea’s to visitors along The Mall in London.




What about the customer?

In terms of the customer experience, I know this news is not going to go down well with BA’s loyal frequent flyers; whom regard the airline as a Premium Service Carrier whom are stooping to a new low. But short-haul catering on BA is hit and miss… sometimes you might find yourself with a Bacon Roll (on an early morning flight), but then just a granola bar and small packet of pretzels on another. This could actually be something which will guarantee that “unmistakable M&S quality” but at a cost.

Aviation forums have been rife with speculation for quite a few months now, but there still has been no official word from BA or M&S. But could we expect for Britain’s flagship carrier to feature M&S’ Signature Bacon Bap, Lochmuir Smoked Salmon Sandwiches and the delectable Percy Pigs in the skies sometime soon? It may come as soon as January, although exact details on what will be offered, how much it will cost, and who will have to pay are probably still being worked out.

One thing to note is that none the other carriers I mentioned above do not feature a business-class cabin on their short-haul routes. What would happen to the Club Europe proposition? Would they receive a specially prepared M&S meal for free? Time will tell.

So what do you think about the rumours? Is this a good or bad move from British Airways and M&S?

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