Lufthansa has been forced to admit that it will replace complimentary short-haul catering with a new buy-on-board service after news of the change leaked late on Monday evening. The airline group, one of the last in Europe still to offer free food and drink for Economy class passengers on shorter routes, said the change would be introduced by Spring 2021.
The buy-on-board service will be implemented across the Lufthansa Group’s ‘full-service’ carriers including Austrian Airlines and SWISS. While a date for the new service hasn’t yet been set in stone, Austrian Airlines will lead the way by charging for food and drink at some point next Spring.
The buy-on-board service will then be implemented at SWISS, before being introduced at Lufthansa. Full details, Lufthansa said on Tuesday, would not be announced for several months.
As airlines across Europe fight to stay afloat amidst record losses prompted by the Corona crisis, it was almost inevitable that the level of service customers have become accustomed to would be a casualty of much-needed cost-cutting.
Free food and drink on short-haul flights has long been a target of penny-pinching airline execs as full-service carriers battle with low-cost rivals that have long charged for food and drink. In recent years, Lufthansa has resorted to offering half a sandwich and drink, and for a period last year, strikes at its catering division led to the airline offering just a chocolate bar on many short-haul flights.
“Our current snack offer in Economy Class does not always meet the expectations of our guests,” admitted Christina Foerster, a member of the Lufthansa executive board.
With passengers making purchasing decisions based primarily on price, giving away more for free wasn’t an option. “The new offer was developed on the basis of feedback from our customers,” Foerster continued. “With the high-quality offer available for purchase, our passengers will be able to decide what they want to eat and drink on their journey.”
With the announcement rushed through, Lufthansa hasn’t been able to give full details of what will be on offer but says regional references will be on display. “The focus will be on fresh products and a selection of snacks,” the airline said in a statement while reiterating that complimentary snacks will no longer be available.
The move comes four years after British Airways ditched its mediocre selection of complimentary snacks on short-haul flights with buy-on-board goodies from Marks & Spencer. The much-criticised decision came about as a result of market research that highlighted “dissatisfaction” with the cheap snacks that were being given away for free.
BA’s then chief executive, Alex Cruz said at the time that the airline was “breaking the mould” by partnering with a “premium” food supplier. British Airways has recently confirmed that it will ditch Marks & Spencer for an alternative partner, with some suggesting upmarket supermarket Waitrose will soon be supplying sandwiches for the Heathrow-based airline.
Lufthansa will continue to offer offering complimentary catering for Business Class passengers but there could be cuts there as well. Sources claim Lufthansa will soon only offer boxed snacks rather than serving meals on porcelain. Lufthansa did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this claim.
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.