If you flew with British Airways from Edinburgh to London Heathrow today, Tuesday 10 Jan 2017, you’ll have enjoyed the traditional BA domestic brekkie for the last time.
A small plastic tray with a tin plate of bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, mushrooms and tomato. An orange juice cuplet. Bread roll, butter and jam. And a cup for a free coffee or tea.
From 11 Jan there’ll be no more free food. No more free hot, cold and alcoholic drinks.
If you want something to eat or drink you’ll have to “buy on board” or BOB as frequent flyers like to say.
After almost 20 years BA has at last admitted defeat in its battle against the low cost airlines. It’s boast for many years of being a “full service” airline, justifying wallet emptying prices, even in Economy, is over.
BA short haul is now playing the same game as Easy Jet and RyanAir.
It’s been a slow progression. An enhancement by a thousand cuts.
Big breakfasts and 3-course dinners
Back in 1993, before a Greek entrepreneur decided to lease a couple of old Boeing 737s and paint his phone number on the sides in giant orange letters, BA and British Midland ruled the UK Domestic skies and the European short haul market.
And their prices were eye watering.
If you’ve been travelling on business for as long as me, you’ll remember the domestic service in the early 1990s. Breakfasts spilled over the edges of a large plastic tray. In addition to all the hot stuff, they gave you cornflakes and milk, yogurt and hot bread.
In the evenings they’d treat you to a bar run before dinner, a three-course hot meal with a second drink from the bar and then a tea, coffee and liquor run.
All in an hour. Each plane had 7 crew to deliver such service.
The low cost airlines revolution
Then Stelios changed everything in 1995 by putting on his orange boiler suit and launching Easy Jet.
No free meals or drinks. No allocated seats. Cabin crew decked out in casual bright orange sweatshirts.
Most importantly Easy Jet’s prices were a fraction of BA and BMI duopoly excesses.
Holiday makers relished the sudden opportunity to fly cheaply to new destinations. Corporate accountants rubbed their hands with glee and told their travelling staff, “No more BA full fares”.
It was a revolution.
BA fights back by cutting back
But slowly BA had to chip away at the service so they could compete more with the low cost airlines.
Out went the multiple bar runs and three-course meals (because they had to dump 3 crew members on each flight). The meal trays became smaller. Salads replaced hot meals. Then sandwiches replaced salads.
Eventually, as the new millennium dawned and Easy Jet and RyanAir had divided up Europe between them, the sum total of BA’s full-service offering was a free drink and a tiny packet or crisps or “birdseed”, or the rather delicious “lemon melt” biscuits.
Some people stuck with BA and I was one of them – at first. My company was happy to continue to pay the monster fares. “We want our people to arrive for their presentations with a full tummy so they can perform at their best.”
The argument wears a little thin when you are paying £500 full fare against £50 for a cup of coffee and a few crisps.
BOB is good?
In truth, BOB is a good move for BA customers. After a long day travelling an individually wrapped crisp is never going to sate anyone’s hunger. On Easy Jet or RyanAir, if you want, you could buy a much better food offering than BA’s full service. Now BA has abandoned any pretence and gone BOB everyone’s happy.
On European routes, if you still want free food and drink you can pay for business class on BA.
They are rumoured to be about to launch Club Europe on UK Domestic routes so they might still be able to fleece those companies prepared to pay the giant prices (but in fairness a domestic business class product will be aimed at passengers connecting to long haul Club or FIRST).
No doubt the BA hot domestic brekkie will reappear for Club passengers.
But I suspect there’ll only be a few rows of Club at the front of the plane.
The rest of us will be down the back with BOB, or flying on an orange plane instead.
And the winner is
You see here’s the thing.
1995 Easy Jet felt a little amateurish. Those garish sweatshirts. The frantic stampede from the cattle pens to grab a decent seat. Noisy old Boeing 737s.
2017 Easy Jet fly spanking new Airbuses. Crew wear smart suits (with orange trim of course). You get an allocated seat.
And most important, their flights are on time. I’ve flown EZY 35 times in the last year and only had two late flights.
BA on the other hand always seem to be late. And their previous great customer service has worsened as quick as their onboard meals have shrunk in size. As Easy Jet sought to improve customer experience, BA have been happy to let it go.
I defected from BA to EZY based on their on time performance, rock bottom fares and buy on board choice.
BA clung onto the “full service airline” tag for too long. They thought they were conning their customers with marketing spin but we realised the truth and moved on.
BOB on BA won’t be enough to entice me back onto the national flag carrier.
The future’s bright.
The future’s orange.