BA to ditch meals on short-haul flights

30 July 2009

Holidaymakers shouldn't expect a good feed if they're flying short-haul with British Airways (BA) from Monday, with the ailing airline set to scrap meal services in a bid to cut costs.

In a move that will save £22 million a year, BA has announced plans to ditch all meals, except breakfast, on short-haul flights. Passengers on flights after 10am of less than two and half hours will now only be served drinks and snacks, such as pretzels or a biscuit – instead of a sandwich or small meal.

"It’s a sad day when a major scheduled carrier removes its one differentiating factor over no-frills airlines," says Bob Atkinson, travel expert at

"But with BA desperately needing to cut costs where it can, it was an inevitable move."

Long-haul passengers in economy will have their free bottles of water replaced with cups, while those in business class will have their second meal, usually served before landing, reduced. The range of free alcoholic drinks on short-haul flights will also be reviewed as part of the changes.

Regular short-haul travellers will have noticed BA gradually cutting back over recent years, from a hot meal with a knife and fork, to a deli bag with sandwich and fruit. Now, in an attempt to weather the recession, which last year saw BA suffer losses of £400 million, the airline is mirroring the bring-your-own service used by budget airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet.

Passengers are able to take food onboard, but today BA’s website is still advertising complimentary food and drink on flights. "This is misleading, as a biscuit hardly constitutes food," says Atkinson. "BA needs to communicate to avoid customers expecting a sandwich, and being disappointed and hungry when one isn’t served.

"As the airline focuses on cutting costs and generating more revenue, I predict that a pay-on-board menu will be introduced on BA flights before long."

The cut backs on complimentary food, however, remove BA’s main difference over the no-frills airlines, leading many to question whether the service warrants its higher prices.

Unions warn the changes could further weaken BA by driving customers onto other airlines.

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