- Over the past few years, British Airways flyers have seen a number of service cuts, ranging from ultra-cramped cabins to fees for tea.
- In news sure to please passengers, the airline recently announced a revamp of its catering service in the economy cabin for long-haul flights.
- The new service began yesterday on a daytime flight from London Heathrow to New York-JFK.
It's been tough lately for British Airways flyers, but things are finally starting to look up.
As the airline has made cuts left and right over the past few years to try and stave off fierce competition in both the short-haul and long-haul markets, loyalists have seen a series of unfavorable changes, as pointed out by Skift. In the latest move, the airline recently unveiled ultra-dense cabins with "pre-reclined seats" on regional flights, more in line with what could be expected from low-cost competition like EasyJet.
Meanwhile, free snacks were eliminated on short-haul flights in favor of purchasable food — which often ran out — and even drinks were curtailed, with fees introduced for things as basic as tea. Leading to a wave of bad press, the airline even charged the full tea price for a cup of hot water — while intrepid flyers thought they could just bring their own teabags, that loophole was closed.
Harming perhaps the biggest differentiator between the legacy airline and the ultra-low cost competition was a recent announcement that the airline's long-serving frequent flyer program would follow a slew of similar programs in moving to a revenue-based model, rather than distance-based; a significant devaluation for budget flyers.
While British Airway's approach to a diminished passenger experience has almost certainly been carried out with Europe's budget-focused carriers in mind, the airline has seen its reputation begin to plummet.
However, in an exciting about-face, the carrier has announced a significant investment in catering in the economy cabin of its international flights.
Starting later this month, economy passengers traveling in the "World Traveller" economy cabin will see an expanded menu, featuring snacks throughout the flight, a four-course main meal, and a full English breakfast on overnight flights. There will be either a substantial snack — like pizza rolls — or a second meal, depending on the length of the flight, and treats like ice cream, chocolate desserts, and chips (or "crisps") will be offered, with candy up for grabs in the galleys.
The main menus will rotate every six months, and drinks will be complimentary.
The new catering represents a "multi-million pound investment," according to a quote provided from Carolina Martinoli, the director of customer experience for British Airways. Future improvements economy flyers can look forward to include fleet-wide Wi-Fi and power ports at every seat, as well as interior renovations of a significant number of long-haul aircraft.
The big question will be whether these passenger experience improvements will be enough to help British Airways compete simultaneously against ultra-low cost carriers offering cheap trans-Atlantic flights — like Norwegian Air Shuttle — as well as major legacy carriers offering similar trans-Atlantic routes, like rivals Delta and United.
Considering the jokes, though — "what's the deal with airplane food" — it seems likely that an improvement won't hurt in the eyes of passengers.
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