BA brings back free snacks and water to appease customers

Reform part of a series designed to atone for UK airline's poor customer-service record during the pandemic

British Airways' reputation has suffered in recent years. Photo: Nicolas Economou
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The return of free food and drink to British Airways flights is one of a series of reforms announced by the UK airline in a bid to lure back passengers and address its customer-service failings during the pandemic.

The removal of complimentary snacks from economy class on BA short-haul flights six years ago was a policy of the airline's then-chief executive, Alex Cruz, as he sought to trim £400 million ($536.7m) from the its overheads and give customers a greater range of premium products.

The policy was temporarily reversed when Covid-19 struck and Mr Cruz's successor, Sean Doyle, has now made the reversal permanent, albeit without a return to the full range of free sandwiches and hot and cold drinks that was once available.

“You’ve also told us you appreciate the complimentary water and snacks we’ve been offering on short-haul flights in our Euro Traveller cabin, so we’ll be continuing with these too,” he wrote in an open letter to customers.

In recent years, BA's premium reputation has suffered from its attempts to compete with budget competitors, with many customers decrying the airline's falling standards.

BA's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has seemed to exacerbate the discontent, with passengers left enraged at the time it has taken for refunds on Covid-cancelled flights to be processed and at how hard it has been to check if services are running.

“I’m not seeking to make excuses for things that should have gone better. What I am doing is making a personal commitment to you that we will build a better British Airways,” wrote former Aer Lingus boss Mr Doyle.

“My number one priority is to address the customer call centre issues many of you have experienced and may still be experiencing.”

Lost luggage has also been a problem for BA and so it is launching a new bag tracking app for customers.

In addition, it will hope to avoid any more data breaches after being fined £20 million by the Information Commissioner's Office in 2020 and last year paying an undisclosed fee to settle one of the largest class actions on personal data ever undertaken in the UK.

BA's parent company IAG, which also owns Iberia Airlines, has lost more than 60 per cent of its value on the London Stock Exchange during the pandemic. The restoration of BA's reputation could go some way to clawing back these losses.

“For me, 2022 is the year we’re finally able to rebuild and re-energise our airline,” wrote Mr Doyle.

British Airways through the years - in pictures

Updated: January 31, 2022, 3:45 PM
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