No such thing as a free lunch on British Airways

The recession is biting the travel industry hard and as our sister online publication Off Radar recently reported "No such thing as a free lunch on the Oasis of the Seas". Now its the turn of British Airways who as of this coming Monday will eliminate all free meals sandwiches and drinks on short haul flights.

Not even a simple bottle of water will be served for free on flights less than 2.5 hours long! This is a sad reflection of the airline industry today in the west, as one of the mighty carriers that once prided itself in quality service succumbs to the age of low service. 

No longer can BA distinguish itself as a much better overall service experience than rivals EasyJet, as the meal was really the last tangible in-flight deliverable left. It would be true to say that BA's Monopoly on Terminal 5 gives it a better airport experience at Heathrow T5 at least, but the line is wafer thin between the service levels of many Budget carriers and BA right now. 

The general service and over-penny pinching of Ryanair still places it a level below BA and then EasyJet, however FlyBe and other low cost outfits provide a reasonable comparative service at an affordable price.

It appears to me that BA's decision to axe its Budget wing GO some years ago now was a disastrous decision in hindsight for the middle to long term fortunes of BA.

As the lines of differentiation and product merge, at Perpetual Traveller we also learn that BA will replace bottles of water on longer flights with small "Cuplets" and hot towels will only be the reserve for First Class passengers. 

BA were keen to stress that passengers on all flights will receive a small drink and bag of savoury snacks instead. Sounds like Alitalia to me and look what happened to them!

The degrading of the service was brought about by Mark Hassel, BA's new head of customer experience, no doubt under pressure to slash costs due to the operating losses BA have recently incurred. 

It all sounds like a U Turn to us at Perpetual Traveller, as CEO Willie Walsh vowed just 2 weeks ago to "focus on customers". Sounds like he meant to focus on what BA can take away from customers! Union chiefs are reported to have stated concerns that the move could backfire and drive thousands of loyal customers away to competitors.

Let's see if other major carriers crack and opt for the degrading of their services too under the current climate! The age of comfortable quality service air travel in Europe is following America and sinking fast. Let's hope Asia and the middle east holds out to keep luxury air travel alive.