You’re shopping for a ticket from London to New York and opt to pay an extra $500 for a Premium Economy seat on British Airways, which promises among other things “delicious meals” (with an “s”). Your flight time is about seven hours and after takeoff you receive a decent breakfast and it is even served on china with cloth napkins. Five hours later you are hungry again but that’s okay, BA will serve a nice snack prior to landing, right? FAs appear with baskets…of candy bars. Okay, that’s an odd appetizer, but fine. Now where is the meal? You wait but nothing appears. You ask an FA when the food is coming. She points to your chocolate bar and says, “That was the meal.” Welcome to the new world of British Airways.
British Airways has brought in Alex Cruz, the founder of the low-cost carrier Vueling, to cut expenses and boost profit. Clearly, Cruz has started with meal service.
First Class loses its amuse bouche and business class loses ice cream, which may be bigger stories if British Airways is trying to woo premium passengers to pay premium fares, but there is just something shocking about calling a candy bar a pre-arrival meal. Talk about scraping the barrel.
What a contrast between even the oft-maligned United Airlines, which serves a hot sandwich prior to arrival that is so tasty I ask it for it even if I fly in business or first class!
Economy Class pre-arrival meal requested in first class on a Hamburg to Newark flight in May
My message is simple: Mr. Cruz, you cannot cut your way to growth. You’ve received a lot of negative press this week over your cutbacks and your defense of this action, “We regularly review our catering to ensure we are investing where it matters most to our customers,” is simply tone deaf. When you provide Norwegian Air service levels at legacy prices, people are not going to pay the extra to fly BA.
Mr. Cruz ushered in new uniforms as one of his final projects at Vueling — they look nice:
But I see that as the same sort of tone deafness. The object of a low-cost carrier is to cut costs and offer the cheapest tickets possible. Nice uniforms are unnecessary. Just keep costs low.
British Airways is not Vueling — I know BA is being squeezed by Norwegian, WOW, Icelandair from one direction and the Gulf Carriers from the other, but it will continue to lose market share and profits as cost-conscious customers deflect to cheaper alternatives and those wanting full-service will choose carriers that actually offer full-service.
I wish Cruz all the best in his efforts to turn BA around, but don’t think degrading the soft product is the way to do it.