British Airways will soon start a major trial of a new pre-order service that will let customers in all cabins on long-haul flights guarantee their first meal choice before they board the plane.
The trial will initially be restricted to just four routes from London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, New York JFK and San Diego. The service will be available in both directions in the next few weeks.
British Airways says it is keen to allow passengers to “personalise their culinary experience in all cabins” and that the ability to pre-order a meal will give the airline the “opportunity to showcase our original menus and make sure that customer favourites are ready”.
The pre-order trial is in addition to the longstanding option passengers have had to order a special meal to account for dietary or religious restrictions such as vegan, gluten-free or Kosher meals.
Controversially, however, British Airways is also going to ask passengers who use the new pre-order service to indicate whether they would like to completely ‘opt out’ of the meal service.
This is a great way to reduce food waste, but once all the pre-ordered meals are accounted for, it could mean significantly fewer choices for passengers who haven’t pre-ordered in time.
British Airways previously offered a pre-order meal service in its Club World (Business Class) and World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) cabins, but this system was shut down at the start of the pandemic when onboard catering services were severely curtailed.
It took more than two years for BA to restore its full Club World meal service due to staff shortages, but the option to pre-order a meal has still been missing… until now.
It’s not known, however, whether the service will only allow passengers to order from the standard selection of dishes or from a wider choice like the Singapore Airlines ‘Book the Cook’ service.
This is the first time that passengers in World Traveller (Economy) have had the option to pre-order a standard meal in order to guarantee their first choice, although British Airways did use to sell upgraded meals. Again, it’s not yet been revealed whether this option will also be making a return.
Just over a year ago, BA admitted that it was reevaluating the configuration of its flagship Airbus A350 aircraft because it is allegedly so challenging for cabin crew to work on.
The biggest issue is the size and design of the aircraft galleys, especially the aft galley, which has been designed for an ultra-dense cabin configuration.
BA’s former Director of Brand and Customer Experience Tom Stevens said some planes in the airline’s fleet “were not designed to be crew friendly or service centric,” but warned that no easy fix was coming and that “tweaks” would only be possible when it comes time to complete cabin upgrades.
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.