BOB means BA short haul admits defeat in 20 year battle with low cost airlines

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.

Low cost airlines
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.

The smaller BA brekkie circa 2011 – still with China cup which they replaced with plastic soon after

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.

Quirky Z Hotel: Urban luxury with free cheese and wine

“And you’ll find free cheese and wine in the Z Cafe from 5 pm until 8 pm,” said the smiling receptionist as she led me to my room.

Reminding me of a Parisienne Courtyard, they’d stacked the Z Cafe full of free tuck, and most welcome after a day of meetings, debates and speaking.

They were offering more than just cheese and wine. It was a smorgasbord of continental treats. Humus, olives, and other tasty nibbles. 

After dumping my stuff in my room I relaxed with a full-bodied glass of Malbec, read a couple of chapters of my book, and soaked up the atmosphere. Looking around I saw other solo travellers, and couples either sat in secluded booths or at the long wooden table, laughing and enjoying the free fare.

Quirky Z Hotel: Urban luxury with free cheese and wine

Photo from

Z Hotels are new to me. This one formed from a series of converted townhouses in Gloucester Place, London is brand new. Spotlessly clean. Cozy and inviting. Such a change from the functional dullness of Travelodge and its soulless mediocrity.

For a similar price Z Hotel offers quirky urban luxury. Wooden floors in the rooms inject character. Large queens sized bouncy beds with thick quilts and crisp white sheets invite you to snuggle in and watch a Sky Movie on the gigantic televisions.

The rooms are small, but the fresh design leaves you with a feeling of space. Perhaps the way they separate the bathroom, with its large walk-in shower, from the sleeping area with a frosted glass partition adds to the sensation of scale.

Only 10 minutes walk from Marble Arch or Marylebone Station it provides you with a good central place for a business or leisure visit.

The chatty waitress insisted I have another glass of wine before they closed the free bar. Later I retired to bed for a comfortable night’s sleep.

With free wifi, and the free cheese and wine, the Z Hotel Gloucester Place offers the promised urban luxury at a good price. My only niggle was there was no bedside light. Your choice was either the bright main room lights or darkness. I found putting the bathroom light on, illuminating the bedroom through the frosted glass was a better alternative.

I didn’t eat breakfast in the hotel, but as I wandered through the Z Cafe courtyard the following morning I saw a plentiful spread of cold meats, cereals, pastries and bacon rolls.Tempting as it was to linger and enjoy food and coffee in such a welcoming place, more meetings beckoned and I set out into the cold London morning air thinking the Z Hotel has found a place high up on my preferred hotel list.

With sites across London and in Liverpool and Glasgow I’m sure I’ll be back for more of the delicious Malbec soon.

What do you think?

Have you stayed in a Z Hotel? What did you think? Are the rooms too small? Did you enjoy the Z Cafe? Leave a comment and let me know.

3 Ways to Improve Hotels – Indigo London Paddington

What’s your favourite hotel to stay in when you travel on business?

I have a simple rule. The hotel must at least be up to the standard of my home.

The mattress in my home bedroom is not made of stone. I do not buy rough toilet tissue and my towels are not made of bleached iron wool. So I don’t want these features when I’m travelling.

But it’s not a hard bed and lack of fluffy towels that upsets me most though. My three main gripes with hotels throughout the world, but mainly in the UK, are as follows:

  • Extra charges for WiFi
  • Cold, congealed breakfast buffets
  • Outrageous charges for mini-bars

What about you?

In addition I am also put off by sprawling mega-hotels with endless check-in and check-out queues, which teem with masses of humanity fighting for space in the bar or the restaurant.

3 Ways to Improve Hotels

So I am happy to have found a hotel chain, Indigo, which hits the spot in almost every way and succeeds in these 3 Ways to Improve Hotels. Indigo Paddington, for example,  is a flawless diamond hidden down a street about 2 minutes walk from Paddington station. This makes it a perfect base for business and pleasure trips. It only has 60 or so rooms so it feels intimate and cosy.

3 ways to improve hotels

The rooms are quite small but they are brimming with lovely colourful fabrics, pictures and decorations. The bed is liberally covered in throws and cushions and is delightfully comfortable. In the bathroom is one of those showers with a head the size of a plate so you feel as if you are standing in the rain. If this is too much for you just use the second-hand held shower head.

All rooms have free WiFi and soft drinks from the mini-bar are complimentary.

At breakfast you order from a menu and they prepare your plate fresh and a waiter brings it to your table. This alone would set Indigo above many hotels in London. And they are appearing in other UK cities.

Indigo is pricey so if you can book ahead you might get a better deal.

Now It’s Your Turn:

I thought I’d add some travel experiences to add variety to my blog posts. Hope you enjoyed this first travel tip.

So tell me. What are your hotel grumbles? Have you found a hotel or chain that provides a great service at a good price. Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.