British Airways boss Alex Cruz says he wasn’t surprised at backlash for charging passengers for food

‘If you’re taking something for free away there’s a reaction’: British Airways boss says he wasn’t surprised at backlash for charging passengers for food on short-haul flights

  • In 2017, BA scrapped free drinks and snacks in economy on short-haul flights 
  • Instead the airline began selling passengers products from Marks & Spencer
  • Two years on, BA CEO Alex Cruz says customer satisfaction is higher than before

The boss of British Airways has admitted he wasn’t surprised by the backlash when the airline began charging passengers for food on short-haul flights.

In January 2017, the British flag carrier scrapped handing out free drinks and snacks in economy and instead began selling products from Marks & Spencer – leaving some passengers unhappy. 

But now BA CEO Alex Cruz has said that scrapping free food and drinks was always going to prompt a reaction and that two years on, passenger satisfaction is higher than it was before.  

The CEO of British Airways has admitted he wasn’t surprised by the backlash when the airline replaced free food and snacks with paid-for products from Marks & Spencer

CEO Alex Cruz has said that two years on from the move from free to paid-for snacks, passenger satisfaction is higher than it was before

CEO Alex Cruz has said that two years on from the move from free to paid-for snacks, passenger satisfaction is higher than it was before

Speaking at the Skift Forum Europe event in London, the Independent reported Mr Cruz as saying the passengers’ reaction to paying for food ‘didn’t surprise me at all.’

He went on: ‘If you have a perception that you are getting something for free, however bad quality or no-choice it is, if you’re taking something away there’s a reaction.’

The CEO added that there had been teething problems in the early days of offering M&S products, with passengers complaining that there was little choice or that supplies had run out.

But he said that this had been rectified and that on reflection, the change was a ‘no-brainer’, because hardly any other European airlines offer free food or drinks.

He added: ‘It was difficult at the beginning as a consequence of this change, but we’re very pleased where we are.’

Before January 2017, BA passengers in economy on short-haul and domestic flights were offered a light snack, such as a bacon roll, and a soft drink.

The change to paid-for food came at a time when BA’s parent company IAG was trying to cut costs due to increasing competition in the European short-haul market.

The airline said the switch to selling M&S food was driven by customer dissatisfaction with its short-haul economy catering.  

Speaking when the move was announced, a senior executive at an established low-cost airline said: ‘I think BA’s move is an acceptance that the old legacy airline model just does not work.

Business class customers on short-haul BA flights are still offered a full, complimentary menu

Business class customers on short-haul BA flights are still offered a full, complimentary menu

‘It is simply no longer popular with passengers because you are giving them something they do not necessarily want and which they take for granted and no longer appreciate anyway.’ 

But some passengers argued that they preferred using BA rather than a low-cost airline as they did not want to pay extra for snacks.

The M&S food selection on board is updated four times a year.

Business class customers on short-haul flights are still offered a full, complimentary menu.

Complimentary food and drinks are also still offered to all passengers on long-haul flights. 


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