Choice onboard

Choice – conspicuous by its absence

January 17, 2017

British Airways’ new Marks & Spencer onboard offering, now available in Economy on short haul flights, got off to a less than memorable start last week

I experienced the paid-for service on the first day it was introduced (January 11th) flying between Gatwick and Innsbruck. As soon as the ‘fasten seat belt signs’ were turned off on the one hour, 10-minute flight, the four-person flight crew rolled out their dual trolleys – featuring a range of snacks, sandwiches, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages items from M&S’ Food on the Move Selection – with two teams starting from both ends of the plane. I was sitting in 29C, towards the back of the middle third of the plane – but neither trolley reached me.

Much to the chagrin of the staff, there were obvious problems with the hand-held computer device and doling out items such as hand-cooked crisps, spiced chicken and quinoa salad was painfully slow.

Part of the problem, I was told, was some passengers wanted to pay with their Avios air miles – an industry first – as well as by contactless cards, but there were teething problems processing both. It seemed a case of great innovation, poor execution.

The return flight three days later was even more problematic. After take-off we were told that the computers linked to the service were not working and could not be corrected.

We were offered complimentary soft drinks, hot and coffee but the lip-smacking range of food, which also included Greek-style natural yogurt with summer berry compote and granola, an M&S Café bacon roll with pork from British farmers, and a tomato and mozzarella focaccia, would not be available.

A British Airways spokesperson confirmed that there had been some ‘teething problems on a tiny number of flights’ but was generally pleased how the initial roll-out went. “The introduction of M&S On Board is an incredibly complex change to our operation, so we’re pleased with how it has gone,” he added.

It will be left to future flyers on BA’s short haul routes to experience the “greater choice and quality onboard” the airline touted at the announcement of Food on the Move in November, because on my two flights, choice was conspicuous by its absence. I travelled to Austria and back without once sampling the much-touted ‘vegetarian, gluten free and healthy fresh options’ or enjoying the ‘full bar service’ supplied by Tourvest.

But I didn’t arrive home hungry. Fortunately, Gatwick’s South Terminal has a well-stocked food outlet near the train station – a Marks and Spencer.

Makes you think doesn’t it.