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British Airways Won’t Restore Pre-Pandemic Dining On Long-Haul Flights Until November

British Airways Won’t Restore Pre-Pandemic Dining On Long-Haul Flights Until November

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.

View Comments (3)
  • The food on BA is terrible right now. I’ve flown two long haul flights with them in the past four months and the food was piping hot but inedible. Salad on all flights consisted of canned chickpeas with French dressing poured over the top. The chicken entree was white meat chicken covered in Campbell’s tomato soup (I’m not kidding, on one trip it was supposedly barbecued chicken but not identifiable as such) accompanied by broccoli mixed with instant mashed potatoes and carrots. Alternative was a vegetable biryani which ran out before they got to me. No roll. Dessert was a chocolate mousse from a grocery store, the best part of the meal. Nice cup of tea. Breakfast on all flights was a Kellogg’s Nutrigrain bar. I’ve started bringing my own food. Not sure who is doing the cooking, but they have no idea how to cook, take it from me.

  • There are a number of factors hampering cabin crew recruitment but Brexit is having an impact. I am cabin crew, and hear that many applications come from people in Italy, Spain etc. who have to be rejected because they’re not allowed to work here anymore and BA does not sponsor work visas. I believe that is endemic in the hospitality industry. When I joined in 2010 (from Emirates) background checks were done in house and were done quite quickly. I know by 2015-17 era that job had long since been outsourced to Proceus and one other. Proceus were said to be slightly more efficient but the other company took the better part of 6 months. A colleague showed me his paperwork and how inefficient they had been. Given BA has appalling IT systems, old, out moded, inefficient and the working culture is built around check boxes and “recruiters” (many of whom are seconded cabin crew with no real HR training) the process is hampered from the start. Joe Public has been treated to those IT failures several times recently but doesn’t see the whole sad story.
    Everyone likes to blame outsourcing, but all outsourcing companies offer a list of services and it is plain that BA went for Option 1: The Cheapest.
    Regarding food: Club World service was a three phase dining, although if the starter offered now were slightly better in size and offering, a one tray service would still be alright. The desert that is offered now differs from the pre-covid era only in choice.
    The catering is by Do&Co, and although I still feel that the previous supplier was as good so long as the crew paid attention to how and how long things cook for etc. I would add that a one tray service should remain even when our other crises are over because BA insists we hand run every element of the service which is ridiculous: our CW cabins are often huge and the majority if not all of the seating arrangement is on one side of the galley which means the customers in the first rows have crew passing by plus passengers wanting the loo CONSTANTLY. It is very intrusive. Those near the back suffer more too because of crew trying to get to them are delayed by the earlier rows wanting more drinks. But when we make suggestions to the delivery people we are constantly told that “the customer loves” what we do.
    The portion size has always been pathetic. The main course would be alright if the company worked like we did at Emirates and I believe many others do: that certain positions were almost always worked by experienced people. Many times the main course is bad because the galley operator is inexperienced or working in aplace she doesn’t want to be. BA is all about being cheap and all of those crows have come home to roost now.

  • Seeing photos on Twitter of what passengers are being served in Club and First… having flown Qatar Airways on a number occasions it doesn’t look very premium.

    If I’m treating myself to business, I think for now I’ll avoid BA to avoid disappointment – especially as they’re reducing their schedule and cancelling flights at very short notice.

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