File photo: The new policy comes into effect on 11 January, on almost all flights under five hours to and from Heathrow and Gatwick.


London - British Airways is dropping its long-standing promise of “a complimentary snack or meal and bar service” for all passengers.

As The Independent revealed in May, economy travellers on short-haul flights will instead be offered the chance to buy snacks and drinks.

The new policy comes into effect on January 11, 2017, on almost all flights under five hours to and from Heathrow and Gatwick. Marks & Spencer has been chosen to supply the food, which is priced slightly above High Street prices: a Ploughman’s sandwich that costs £2.25 (about R40) on the ground is one-third more expensive on BA, at £3. A cup of tea will cost £2.30, and a gin and tonic £6.

Alex Cruz, who became BA’s chairperson and chief executive earlier this year, said: “Today’s project is in reaction to customer response around choice and quality. We have been requested by thousands and thousands of passengers who want to have choice, and not just be given something of potentially questionable quality.”

Passengers with existing bookings, who will no longer be entitled to food and drink, are being told it marks an “upgrade” in catering. But with a bottle of water to be sold for £1.80, and a quarter-bottle of wine for £4.50, they may disagree with that description.

Chris Caldwell tweeted: “Interesting use of the term ‘upgrade’ by @British_Airways when applied to its new flight service.” Buyers can pay with bank cards, or use Avios frequent flyer points at a rate of 125 points to £1.

The move brings BA’s policy into line with its main short-haul competitor, easyJet. Since its inception, easyJet has always charged for food and drink on board.

BA Club Europe passengers will continue to be give free food and drink, as will all long-haul travellers on flights of more than five hours.