British Airways splits with M&S on inflight food

Simon Calder
·2-min read
Feeling hungry? Passengers at BA’s home, Heathrowt Terminal 5 (British Airways )
Feeling hungry? Passengers at BA’s home, Heathrowt Terminal 5 (British Airways )

British Airways has confirmed that it is ending its contract with Marks & Spencer to provide inflight food on short-haul flights in economy class.

A spokesperson for BA said: “We proudly launched our buy-on-board catering in 2017 with high street favourite, M&S.

“After a successful journey, we are headed off on a new flight path. We look forward to announcing our exciting new buy-on-board proposition with a great British brand that customers have told us they love.”

An M&S spokesperson said,: “We are proud to have been a supplier to BA’s short-haul food service since 2017.

"Our partnership was always due to end this year and we have agreed not to renew. M&S Food continues to focus on developing its wider franchise partnerships.”

According to The Sun, the two main contenders for the new contract are Waitrose and Greggs. The Independent has asked both companies to comment.

When The Independent broke the story in 2016 that British Airways was following low-cost airlines in charging for economy-class food on domestic and European flights, Waitrose was originally rumoured to be the leading candidate for the contract. Ultimately, though, the deal went to M&S.

The “buy on board” arrangement was brought in by BA’s former chief executive, Alex Cruz, in January 2017.

Until then, BA had always insisted that free inflight catering is an essential part of its product, promising customers: “Whenever and wherever you are travelling, we offer a complimentary snack or meal and bar service.”

Some passengers complained that the airline was turning into easyJet, which has charged for meals and drinks since its inception in 1995.

But Mr Cruz said: “I firmly believe what we are delivering breaks the mould and sets a new standard in short-haul catering.”

Passengers were invited to taste “favourites from the M&S Foodhall,” such as a £1 packet of crisps and a £4.95 “buffalo mozzarella and tomato focaccia”.

Sean Doyle replaced Mr Cruz as British Airways chief executive two weeks ago.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the “buy on board” option has been withdrawn by British Airways to minimise contact with crew.

Instead, all economy passengers are handed a plastic bag containing a 25ml bottle of water, a biscuit and a packet of crisps.

One unimpressed passenger told The Independent: “It's completely bonkers. They're handing out bottles of water and packets of crisps, so every passenger promptly removes their face covering mid-flight to drink the water and eat the crisps.

“Touching the face mask is supposed to reduce its effectiveness, unless its anti-bacterial properties are magically restored by the pungent aftermath of consuming a bag of salt and vinegar crisps.”

British Airways continues to provide complimentary food and drink in long-haul economy and all premium classes.

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Marks & Spencer’s full food range is now available online