British Airways improves short-haul catering ordering, pre-pandemic priority boarding returns next week

Jul 14, 2021

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In January, British Airways unveiled its new short-haul onboard catering service. Called Speedbird Cafe, the new menu was available for pre-order only, meaning that if you didn’t order your food or drink more than 12 hours before departure, you were getting nothing during your flight.

Now, however, BA is changing it up.

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As of 19 July, British Airways will begin allowing passengers on select flights to order their Speedbird Cafe food or drink choices on board to be delivered to their seat. The new service will be available onboard a new inflight digital ordering platform available via shop.ba.com for free using the Wi-Fi.

When the order-on-board service launches next week, it will initially only be available on select routes before eventually rolling out across the rest of BA’s short-haul network on flights from Heathrow. However, it will not be available on short routes from Heathrow to Manchester (MAN), Jersey (JER), Paris (CDG and ORY), Amsterdam (AMS), Brussels (BRU), Dublin (DUB), Newcastle (NCL) and Newquay (NQY).

(Photo courtesy of British Airways)

When it launches, the order-on-board section of the Speedbird Cafe menu will coexist with the option to pre-order. Notably, the whole Speedbird Cafe menu won’t be available to buy on board. Instead, if you want a selection of the full range of Tom Kerridge options, you will still need to pre-order through the Speedbird Cafe.

“We know that customers like being able to purchase their food in advance of travel and guarantee their first choice, however we also understand the importance of an extra cup of tea or a gin and tonic, in the moment,” British Airways director of brand and customer experience Tom Stevens said in a statement. “We think that this new digital ordering proposition, coupled with our prepurchase option is a winning combination, catering for everyone’s needs.”

TPG senior writer Ben Smithson tried out the pre-order Speedbird Cafe menu on a flight to Greece earlier this year and found the mandatory pre-order option to be a burden. As in, travellers don’t always know what they want to eat or drink on a flight that’s set to depart tomorrow.

Related: Trying out British Airways’ Tom Kerridge Speedbird Café pre-order menu

While many of the food options he tasted were great, he thought the Speedbird Cafe really was lacking in the ability to order something whilst already in flight. Wednesday’s news that BA is introducing that capability will be a welcome change for short-haul flyers.

Keep in mind, however, that if you’re interested in the full Tom Kerridge menu of meal options, which generally include more hearty options, you will still need to pre-order at least 12 hours before departure. On inbound flights to Gatwick and Heathrow, passengers must pre-order their menu options at least 24 hours prior to departure.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Also on Wednesday, British Airways has announced that it’s opening more of its lounges across its domestic U.K. network. As of 19 July, BA will reopen the doors to its lounges in Edinburgh (EDI), Glasgow (GLA) and Aberdeen (ABZ).

Additionally as of that same date, BA is altering some of its pandemic-related changes to the flying experience for passengers. As of next Monday, BA will be reintroducing priority boarding for customers travelling in premium cabins and for those with priority boarding status.

During the pandemic, the airline instituted an alternate boarding policy, which saw aircraft boarded from rear to front in order to maximise social distancing standards. During the time, passengers who had priority boarding due to status, class of service or other elements were not permitted to do so.

However, we’re now beginning to see the airline revert to some of its pre-pandemic policies, which is great — especially for those who value boarding aircraft first.

Featured photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy.

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