/ Travel & Leisure

Do you expect a ‘free’ in-flight meal?

In-flight meal

The lowly in-flight meal rarely springs to mind when reminiscing about holiday highlights. But, will we look back at the dry bread rolls, plastic meats and the stickiest of sticky rice with fonder memories?

For some time now, airline passengers have seen services that were traditionally included in the price of their ticket slowly become benefits available only at an additional cost.

Well now, according to reports, passengers could soon expect to also pay food, that most vital of luxuries, when flying with long-haul with British Airways.

Food for thought

Coming just three months after British Airways scrapped short-haul onboard meals in favour of chargeable Marks & Spencer food, the airline’s Chairman, Alex Cruz, has hinted they could roll out the same policy for their long-haul routes.

Though any change is someway off, the announcement got me thinking about my last holiday. Having found an amazing deal in the BA summer sale, we were lucky enough to fly with the airline to the Thai island of Koh Samui.

Catching an interconnecting flight at Singapore on the way out and Bangkok on the journey back, the longest we were in the air for was 16 hours. This is surely where BA’s plans could experience turbulence as and when they are unveiled to customers.

We ‘enjoyed’ two on-board meals while airborne. Looking at the price of the ‘M&S on board’ menu range, my partner and I would’ve had to dip into our holiday spending money quite considerably to prevent us going hungry during the flight.

Do you eat in-flight food?

Sometimes - depends what's being served (39%, 358 Votes)

Yes - I enjoy it (31%, 283 Votes)

No - I don't like it (16%, 144 Votes)

Yes - but I don't like it (15%, 136 Votes)

Total Voters: 921

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The illusion of choice

Like me, the frugal among you be well-versed in filling your bags with snacks pre-flight, but unless you’re prepared to lug multiple carrier bags onto the plane and picnic with your wilted salad in the aisles, you’re likely to go hungry for quite some time on a flight lasting any longer than four hours.

Should we be expected to choose between forking out for an M&S sarnie or risk breaking carry-on regulations by raiding the departure lounge food stalls? Can airlines really take away our long-established right to enjoy congealed scrambled eggs and a lukewarm fish curry?


Please don’t describe the meals as “free“. You have to pay for the flight in order to receive the meal, so it’s not free. If an airline describes its meals as free, it would be an unfair commercial practice under Schedule 1 Paragraph 20 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Recently British Airways tried to tell me that its meals were free in an effort to get out of compensating me for poor service in business class. “Included” is not the same as “free”.


Thanks for pointing that out NFH. Conversation now amended. I guess the question now is whether or not the price of BA’s short-haul flights have dropped since they introduced the ‘M&S on board’ menu. We’re going to be looking into this very soon.


The prices might not have increased as much is another outcome. Are they offering a meal deal for two (main, side, pud and a bottle) for £10 plus a service charge?


As we seem to expect cheaper and cheaper flights we must surely see the “frills” diminish. I see no reason not to then charge for in-flight food, just as you would if travelling by train. A choice at different prices seems reasonable, although on longer flights I would hope for more than just sandwiches. At least BA seem to be offering food from a decent quality supplier. Their ready meals are good and presumably could be cooked on board. I imagine recipes would be modified as I believe taste diminishes in flight and seasoning, herbs, spices for example are increased to balance this.

My experience of airline food was that it filled a hole but is not what you would relish on an evening out.


There’s certainly something to be said for airline food getting you in the mood for some yummy, exotic cuisine once you arrive at your destination 🙂


If so required, it’s hardly rocket science to eat at an airport while doing all that waiting for departure and then to also carry your own food on board.


That’s all very well, but if you’re a piggy (like me) who relishes the idea of ‘free’ food, your appetite may never be satisfied…


You get what you pay for. I don’t fly economy class.


I don’t either – I don’t fly at all.