British Airways Decides Afternoon Tea Doesn’t Require Tea

Tea without tea? British Airways has garnered press and consumer attention at home and abroad after introducing “Afternoon Tea” to its short-haul menu. The problem is, the new meal choice doesn’t actually come with a cup of tea.

British Airways History
Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

“A very British afternoon tea,” writes British Airways on its menu description, suggesting passengers should “pair it” with a hot cup of tea or even champagne. The inflight magazine description says:

“An indulgent sultana scone served with traditional clotted cream and delicious strawberry preserve – pair it with a hot cup of Tea Pigs Everyday Brew for an authentic cream tea experience.”

A cup of tea costs £2.50

What British Airways didn’t make clear was that a cup of tea would cost an extra £2.50 on top of the scone, jam, and cream.

The Independent reports that some argue the description is “misleading”, stating that afternoon tea should come with tea. Others cite the Trades Description Act, as the dictionary definition of afternoon tea includes a cup of tea and food. A statement from British Airways says:

“Whether it’s a traditional cup of tea, our new espresso martini or a bottle of champagne, we offer a wide range of beverages to allow customers to choose which option they pair our popular afternoon tea with.”

The Sun also reports that passengers were “stunned” and “surprised” to discover a cup of tea was not included. Others were more supportive in the discussion, saying:

“I suspect the use of the term ‘tea’ in this context relates to a meal rather than the beverage.”

The story has appeared in news reports around the world.

One travel guru suggests there may be a way to get a free cup of tea from BA

Separately, GodSaveThePoints travel reporter Gilbert Ott suggests there is a way to get a “kind of” free cup of tea via British Airways. As BA sells Tea Pigs Tea, the tea bags are separate to the cups. This means BA has cups. Ott writes:

“If you bring your own tea bag, which is completely fine to go through security by the way, you can effectively enjoy “free” tea on board once again. The only cost is whatever you paid for the bag back at home, which we can’t figure being too much. You just need to ask for some warm water and a cup.”

BA aren’t obliged to respond positively, of course, but with “manners” a passenger may be on their way to a cup of tea, says Ott.

British Airways
British Airways is mid way through receiving aircraft from the A320neo family. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

And recently, British Airways gave passengers complimentary champagne at Heathrow to celebrate the arrival of the latest royal baby, and the arrival of the 14th British Airways A320neo to its fleet.

In-flight meals and menu options often receive scrutiny from passengers and press. For carriers, serving good, hot food efficiently at altitude is a challenge. Simple Flying reported in April that some economy class meals could even be getting smaller to reduce the weight of an aircraft and hence fuel consumption. Though airlines are also innovating, like BA, offering new meals and menu options to keep vital passengers satisfied. Japan Airlines, for example, began offering Michelin star meals on select Business and First Class flights from Spring 2019.