British Airways has become the latest big airline to drastically reduce its in-flight service in order to limit the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The announcement by the Heathrow-based airline followed the United Kingdom going into lockdown with citizens only allowed to leave their homes for essential grocery supplies for a period of at least three weeks.
The airline has contacted its remaining customers to inform them that food and beverage service will be seriously curtailed on all future flights and for the foreseeable future. Passengers have been told to bring their own food as the choice and quantity of what’s available will be much reduced.
The decision follows a similar move by Air Canada to severely limit meal service on its flights. For short-haul flights, Air Canada will no longer provide any meal service for Economy Class passengers and bottled water will be the only drink ption available.
For Business Class passengers and for all customers on long-haul flights, only pre-packaged foods will be available and again, water will be the only beverage available. The decision by Air Canada came days after the airline initially refused to alter its in-flight service despite demands from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
CUPE accused Air Canada of ignoring the health and safety of its members and said flight attendants were “shocked and disappointed” at the airline’s reluctance to protect them.
The measures don’t go so far at British Airways but are still a major change. On all flights, the airline has made the following changes to limit contact between flight attendants and passengers and reduce the risk of infection:
- No alcohol will be available
- Glassware and crockery will be replaced with disposable plastic alternatives
- Menus are no longer to be distributed
- In-flight duty free has been removed
- Hot towel service will continue to be suspended
- Newspapers and magazines removed
- Special meals will no longer be catered
Other drinks, such as juice and hot beverages will continue to be served.
On short-haul flights, British Airways has decided to suspend a buy onboard service and will instead offer hot beverages and a pre-packaged snack to all passengers. Meanwhile, on long-haul flights, the following changes will be made:
- No more mid-flight ice creams
- Ice and lemon removed
- No fresh food snacks for Business Class passengers
A number of airlines have also removed crockery and glassware, while others have refused beverage top-ups in the same glass. Many flight attendant unions have urged employers to do even more to help protect crew and limit interactions so as to limit as much as possible the spread of COVID-19.
“At British Airways we take our commitment to your safety, comfort and well-being very seriously, which is why we wanted to tell you about some of the changes we have made to our onboard service to ensure we deliver on that promise,” read an email sent to passengers explaining the changes.
“We have been working closely with food and health experts to agree a temporary service for your flight which will include a selection of hot and soft drinks as well as some light refreshments. We will be carefully and hygienically preparing and packaging each meal before your flight.”
“You are very welcome to eat any food you might have brought with you that does not require heating or chilling and we will continue to assist parents who need to heat milk for their children,” the email continued.
“If you are preparing for your flight and would like to bring food onboard it’s important for you to be aware that many restaurants and shops at the airport may be closed, so we suggest you purchase any food before you reach the airport.”
The British government has urged its citizens to return home at the earliest opportunity because the availability of commercial flights is becoming more and more scarce. Etihad Airways has always stopped non-UAE citizens from boarding its flights and Emirates will ground all passenger flights at midnight on Wednesday night.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.