As airlines increasingly adopt a buy-on-board model for food and refreshments, it’s becoming a rarity to tuck into complimentary food on short-haul flights. What started as an extra revenue stream for low-cost carriers is becoming the norm for full-service carriers. We explore which European airlines still offer travelers free food in short-haul economy.
Airlines move away from free food offerings
With airlines keen to cut down on costs wherever feasible, complimentary food on short-haul flights is becoming a thing of the past. Lufthansa recently announced its new buy-on-board menu for short-haul flights, doing away with complimentary food and refreshments. The new model, coming by Spring 2021, will also be adopted by SWISS and Austrian Airlines.
British Airways made a similar move four years ago when it teamed up with Marks and Spencers for its in-flight menu. However, most airlines have been forced into changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. British Airways discontinued its M&S menu and began serving pre-packaged, cold food instead to keep contact at a minimum.
Today the airline unveiled its partnership with celebrity chef Tom Kerridge – its new Speedbird Cafe menu will be available on a buy-before-you-fly basis to minimize contact and waste. Travelers will still be served a free snack and drink during the pandemic, but this will likely be temporary.
Although many carriers are giving out free drinks and snacks during the pandemic, this will change once airlines can lift restrictions and start offering their in-flight menus again. With most airlines in dire straits financially, complimentary meals in short-haul economy are likely to become even more of a rarity.
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Some full-service airlines still serve up complimentary food
While many ‘full’ service airlines have made the move towards in-flight food purchases, some European airlines have stuck with their complementary offerings. In most cases, this consists of a bottle of water and a snack, but it’s better than nothing.
Before the COVID pandemic, a small number of European airlines served up something more substantial in short-haul economy, such as sandwiches or hot meals, including KLM and Air France. In Air France’s case, travelers in economy are served a free snack on flights of 2 hours 50 minutes or less. Depending on the time of day, this could be a cold sandwich, a croissant, or a selection of savory and sweet biscuits.
With airlines increasingly abandoning free food and drinks, complimentary hot meals and fresh sandwiches are unlikely to make a comeback in short-haul economy. This was already the trend before the pandemic, which will now compel airlines to be even more frugal in their expenses. Instead, travelers should get used to buy-on-board or buy-before-you-fly models. If you’re lucky, you may be able to enjoy a small snack and drink without charge.
Do you know of any other European airlines serving free food and drink in short-haul economy? Let us know in the comments.