British Airways doesn’t plan to restore its full pre-pandemic dining service on long-haul flights until the end of the summer season due to a major staffing shortage which is hampering the carrier’s attempted recovery.
The airline had originally hoped to bring back its 2019-era dining service for its Club World Business Class cabin this Spring but the plan could now be delayed by as much as six months as efforts to bolster BA’s workforce flounder.
Like many airlines, British Airways almost eliminated its dining service at the start of the pandemic but has gradually resumed normal service as public health officials learnt more about how COVID-19 is spread and restrictions were eased throughout society.
But just like some of its rivals, what was once designed as an infection control measure quickly morphed into a cost-control measure. In its Club World cabin, British Airways still only offers a single-tray service with every course served all at once.
The single-tray service was originally meant to reduce interaction time between passengers and crew but had the added benefit of allowing airlines to slash portion sizes. The other main cost-benefit was that the simplified service required less cabin crew.
Resuming a pre-pandemic meal service will require BA to staff flights with more cabin crew but in an internal video, the airline revealed its staffing shortfall was likely to last for the whole summer. The IATA summer schedule runs from late March to late October.
Although there is no suggestion that British Airways is understaffing flights, the airline cannot resume its normal meal service until it’s able to staff flights with more cabin crew over and above the legal minimum.
The airline is actively recruiting new crew with more than 2,500 new hire crew set to take to the skies within weeks.
But the entire aviation industry is facing a bottleneck in the security vetting process which is significantly slowing down the pace at which new staff can start working. The issue has already resulted in an operational meltdown at BA when there weren’t enough baggage handlers to unload luggage from arriving aircraft.
To free up as many cabin crew as possible, the airline says it also plans to limit the size of its shortfall Club Europe cabin throughout the summer. Club Europe can normally be dynamically resized by sliding a curtain further down the cabin depending on demand.
A larger Business Class cabin, however, requires additional cabin crew which BA can’t guarantee that it will have available.
The airline continues to offer overtime for cabin crew to work on their days off and is now offering to ‘buy back’ annual leave. In an effort to attract new crew, a referral bonus of £500 is being offered to staffers who convince their friends or family to join BA.
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.