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Lufthansa Will Bring Back Free Tea and Coffee in Short-Haul Economy in Bid to Improve Customer Satisfaction Scores

Lufthansa Will Bring Back Free Tea and Coffee in Short-Haul Economy in Bid to Improve Customer Satisfaction Scores

a woman serving drinks on an airplane

The German flag carrier Lufthansa has announced plans to reintroduce free tea and coffee in short-haul Economy as part of a trial to improve customer satisfaction scores, the airline’s chief executive Jens Ritter has confirmed.

Lufthansa first announced plans to ditch complimentary food and drink in short-haul economy in November 2020 as the carrier sought to slash costs in the wake of the pandemic and continuing travel restrictions.

The low-cost buy-on-board concept was introduced the following year, with short-haul passengers travelling in Economy expected to pay for all food and drink, except for a free bottle of water and a small ‘chocolate surprise’ that was meant to differentiate the airline from its budget rivals.

According to Lufthansa, its old complimentary service, which often consisted of a small sandwich and free drinks, cost the airline around €0.80 per passenger.

Moving to a buy-on-board model, however, costs a mere €0.33 per customer – a cost saving of 47 cents (US $0.51) per passenger.

The savings, however, are just half of the equation. On average, Lufthansa makes an average of €8.65 per passenger from purchases from the onboard food and drink menu. In 2022, Lufthansa netted around €4.9 million from onboard sales in its short-haul economy cabin.

At present, hot drinks such as tea and coffee cost between €3 and €3.50, but Ritter says he is keen to improve lagging customer satisfaction scores and will make hot beverages, along with other ‘select’ drinks free of charge for a trial period this summer.

If Lufthansa witnesses a significant improvement in customer satisfaction without hitting its bottom line, then expect to see free hot beverages in short-haul Economy retained as a permanent feature.

Even small gestures can have a big impact on customer satisfaction, although it’s interesting how customer perceptions about one touchpoint can be significantly impacted by other factors.

More than ever, passengers really appreciate on-time performance and airlines that excel in this area are seeing customers rate every part of their journey better than if their journey is disrupted.

Lufthansa may well see improved customer satisfaction scores by bringing back free hot drinks in short-haul Economy but the experiment could go awry if the airline faces significant operational challenges during the summer as it has done over the last few years.

Other airlines have previously reported how customers’ perceptions of unrelated touchpoints improve when, for example, the aircraft is equipped with Wi-Fi, or there is onboard entertainment, so one experiment can’t always be considered in isolation.

British Airways suspended its buy-on-board service during the pandemic, but while the onboard snack cart has been brought back, the airline still offers a free bottle of water and snack across its short-haul network.

Last year, the airline also experimented with offering free tea and coffee on select short-haul routes, but the concept was never rolled out further.

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