a row of seats with monitors on them

One small sip for man, one giant leap for BA…

In recent years British Airways eliminated complimentary food & beverage service on short haul economy flights. The move drew the ire of all customers accustomed to a traditional full service airline experience and created unique branding problems for an airline competing against “low cost” – especially amongst frequent British Airways customers. But in Europe: cost is key. When the changes took effect, we can’t say we missed the airline food a single bit, but the comforting cup of tea or coffee was sorely missed, especially on increasingly frequent, cold wintry mornings. Recent trials seem to suggest frequent flyers may soon again receive long awaited perks on short haul flights. Cup of tea, anyone?

a large airport terminal with luggage carts and peopleSilver And Gold

British Airways is trialling free tea, coffee or water for Silver and Gold Executive Club members on short haul flights, offering frequent flyers an experience a bit more like the old days. It’s certainly an appreciated step in the right direction. Initial trials are taking place aboard flights between London and Geneva. The concept is simple: reward frequent flyers with something that everyone else must pay for – an instant sign of gratitude. That reviving mid flight cup of coffee or tea? If you’re Executive Club Silver or Gold – it may soon again be free. Geneva is first, but assuming trials run successfully, we could expect a wide rollout in the months to come.

a tray of food on a tableIn Line With

This move would be a significant first first step in putting British Airways loyalty proposition in line with US partner American Airlines and European counterpart Finnair. To be fair to British Airways, American Airlines flyers are not granted lounge access on domestic itineraries – so there is trade off to be found. American Airlines Executive Platinum members  however receive complimentary snack boxes and drink privileges when flying economy within the US, especially on cross country flights. Fortuitously, British Airways Gold members show up on American cabin crew iPads as Executive Platinum, so if you happen to be flying American in the US as a British Airways Gold member, you may experience these perks for yourself!

a black leather strap on a cardRecognizing Loyalty

Striking the right balance is between price, service and loyalty is a tricky dance move. Non frequent flyers buy airline tickets almost purely based on price. Passengers with frequent flyer status may sway their decision if price is within reason. British Airways may be close to striking the right tone, offering more competitive pricing to all customers while rewarding brand loyalty with the return of small freebies on board. A cup of tea can go a long way, especially with a British crowd.

Are you happy about this potential future loyalty benefit?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Happy..No…but thankful that BA is considering something to improve customer satisfactory. But really..having tea or coffee..is a privilege now…gone are the days in which these items are standards.

  2. They really should allow elites any beverage. What if you don’t want a hot beverage or caffeine. They should also offer water at a minimum.

    Don’t think you can compare getting a snack box and an alcohol beverage similar benefits for AA and BA.

    1. I agree. Water may even be a choice. And Agree also, they need to get to AA’s level – even if only for Gold.

  3. “Non frequent flyers buy airline tickets almost purely based on price.”

    I would disagree with this point. If anything, the BA shift to be a budget airline has made this happen.

    Previously, you would know that Ryanair was cheaper because it offered far less than BA, Air France etc. Those willing to pay the premium for the full service carriers could do so.

    Now, forced into choosing between budget airlines, it is beyond me why anyone would choose BA when it is often twice the price and half the quality of Norwegian, for example.

    It’s not as if BA were really struggling financially before they became a budget airline?

    1. Statistically speaking, my point is entirely accurate. price is the single greatest determining factor for 90% of travelers. Corp customers have more leeway but for personal travel there’s no question within empirical evidence that people book on price. More and more tools are being rolled out to show customers the “right” ticket, but historically it’s indisputable.

      1. Would genuinely be interested to see the evidence.

        And a comparison with c.10 yrs ago, i.e. before BA became a budget airline.

        Now that there is no real choice in terms of premium v budget, I agree it does now come down to price.

  4. Well… The real enhancement would be to do like AA. Free standard drinks for everybody, and a snack with premium drink for Gold card holders… Finnair also does that… And how they need to “trial” this only on the Geneva route ? Should not be a big change to make on all European routes…

    1. I can’t disagree with a single point raised. I do think AA get this exactly right and hope BA continue their march toward that goal.

  5. It’s something but it’s still pretty pathetic. At least offer a drink from the bar and make things like they used to be for frequent flyers, then we might start to feel valued again.

  6. This is too little, too late.
    The appalling and insulting “meals” British Airways gave us that were being increasingly downgraded the past few years…. seriously, can a small snack-size chocolate bar be taken seriously as “breakfast” on an 11-hour flight? That’s what British Airways did. They downgraded the food offering so much, they could truthfully say “our customers wanted us to take it away”. IMV this was sneaky and below the standards of decency. If British Airways needed to make an economic decision not to give free food, why did they not state this openly.

    So this is too little, too late. Even if I would benefit from the free water, tea and coffee on British Airways again now, I’ll be handing it back. Just like the chocolate bar.

  7. Being a cynic, I’d expect any reintroduction of a comp beverage to be announced along with something negative – such as the rumouted devaluation of Avios. It will be the usual fake “we have listened to our customers”.

  8. It’ll take a lot more than a cuppa to get me to set foot on BA metal again. Too little and despite what you say significantly less than Finnair / American offer on equivalent flights. Just underlines the high price / low service business model one more time.

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