International Airlines Start Adding Fees, Making Cuts Like US Carriers

ANA, British Airways

It was only a matter of time until global carriers started following in their US counterparts’ shoes, right? As airlines around the world continue to bleed, we’re seeing them start to cut back. Today we’ll take a look at Frills CutsBritish Airways and ANA as examples of what’s going on.

I feel bad for BA. These guys had done a really solid job of focusing on the long haul premium business traveler in the last decade, and now it’s that segment that is hurting the most. All those rich bankers are flying less and less, and that has hurt badly. BA is feeling the pain more than most, so now they’ve started to make cuts.

Some of these cuts are surprising. For example, they will no longer serve meals in coach on flights of less than 2 1/2 hours that go after 10a. It’s not the cut that’s surprising but rather the fact that they still served a meal on a flight that short. And it’s not like BA is eliminating food completely – they’ll still hand out “snack bites” or biscuits. If you fly before 10a, you’ll still get breakfast, and premium cabin passengers will still get food.

But there are cuts on long haul flying as well, and that’s where decisions start to get a little more difficult to make. In the back of the bus, you’ll no longer get bottles of water. You’ll just get the dreaded “cuplet” instead. That’s annoying since you can’t put a cuplet in the seatback pocket, but it’s hardly the end of the world. Economy passengers will also now have to pay to bring a second checked bag (starting in October). The first bag will still be free . . . for now.

In the front cabin, the only change that I see so far is that the second meal (breakfast) on long haul flights will be shrunk. Apparently, a full third of those meals go uneaten, so they’re just going to cut back on it. As someone who usually plows through those meals, that is a slight annoyance but nothing more.

On the other side of the world, ANA is doing some of its own cutting in Japan. Newspapers and magazines will no longer be offered in coach and there will be a fee for using the services of reservation agents. They will also start selling food, lounge access, etc to economy class passengers in order to raise revenues.

Are any of these cuts going to make a huge difference? No, but I’m sure the slippery slope argument will be thrown out there by many. For us jaded Americans, these cuts are nothing new. We’re far further along in this evolution, but just because it has worked in the American market doesn’t mean it will work elsewhere. Still, I would expect to see more of this to come.

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16 comments on “International Airlines Start Adding Fees, Making Cuts Like US Carriers

  1. It could work in other parts of the world in areas that have a Ryanair type airline that already does it. To some people in the world they would have at least heard about it so it may not be to much of a shock. But those stiff upper lip Brits who have always been loyal to BA will be in for a shock I bet.

    Serving a breakfast only on short flights never made sense to me as I always thought people would just eat before leaving home for their morning flights. If they don’t, it’s their own fault if they are hungry. It’s the people mid day making short connections that may be hungry and don’t have time to pop into an expensive airport eatery who could use a meal on a flight. But we all know an egg costs less then the chicken it came out of that they would have to serve on a short lunch or dinner flight.

    I can see the point about a lesser breakfast service on a long haul flight. Taking a long flight from the California nonstop to Europe in first class, I would still be full from the huge dinner service when they started to service the huge breakfast selection. I would never see anyone really have another huge meal so soon and can understand the high waste of food those flights must have.

  2. Since American airlines are the worse airlines of the developed world, it’s sad to see foreign airlines following the American carriers down to the bottom.

  3. Good post, but I have to disagree with one sentence: “but just because it has worked in the American market doesn’t mean it will work elsewhere.” I do not believe it has worked in the US at all. Business is still down, airlines are barely making money and customer satisfaction is in the gutter. US airlines are routinely ranked lowest by business travelers (regardless wheather they travel in First or Coach) from anywhere in the world. The fact that BA is going down this path only means a huge business differentiation opportunity for Virgin and/or BMI.

  4. The article is misleading as to ANA’s actual plan. It is not “cutting” free meals in economy class. It will actually offer premium services in economy class, such as business class meals, as a way to generate additional revenue.

  5. You write “We’re far further along in this evolution.” Shouldn’t that be “devolution?”

  6. This is an important trend because it will further embolden the US carriers to cut back on amenities on international flights. These have largely stayed intact in the latest round of “enhancements” over the last year or two (e.g. still get at least 1 free checked bag [2 on all but Delta, right?], free meals) but could be gone as most carriers strive to be only almost-as-good as foreign carriers like these two.

  7. David SF – About the long haul breakfast – I see that too, but I think there may be a segment of the population (me) who would skip the dinner in order to try to get on London time and just want a nice breakfast instead. But I’m sure they’re looking at the numbers and cutting back probably does make sense.

    malbarda – The numbers show that it has worked in the US – without ancillary revenues most airlines would be in far more serious trouble than they’re in right now. But I understand what you’re saying from a passenger perspective. I don’t think what BA is doing on the long haul is going to make a noticeable difference so far. But if they do keep making deeper cuts, then there might be trouble.

    Hugh Jardonn – Touche

    Andrew – Yes, in the past I think it’s probably been alliance partners that have kept some of the frills intact on long haul legs, but if they start caving then the American carriers surely will as well.

  8. I was a bit saddened to see BA start to make cuts as I felt that their in-flight service was definitely their differentiator. On the other hand, customers seem not inclined to pay the premium for the service so I understand that they are having to make difficult decisions. I disagree completely with those that say breakfast isn’t important. I know when I used to do day trips to Italy from London, I really appreciated the breakfast service so early in the morning. I really hope they don’t go down the route for charging for checked baggage. I recently flew United in the US and paid over $400 for a ticket and resented paying $15 to check a bag.

  9. As someone who has flown between the US and Europe/South America over a 100 times in First and Business, and several hundread of times in the domestic US market in both First, Premium and Coach class. Here are my thoughts on this!

    The multi course breakfasts are way over the top. On both American and European carriers. There is a subtle and more tactful way, for these carries to gage the possible eating habits of their flyers when they book. If only 2 out of 10 F Class passengers indulge themselves off the coast of Ireland and Wales.. Then maybe just stock 2-4 full breakfast for a full cabin and find a way to dish out extras.

    From NYC, I prefer a full dinner upon departure. Would love to have a full breakfast, but I usually do not stir til the engine start to rumble 30 mins out from Heathrow, so its just a quick breakfast for me. From LA. I have time to wake for the full So maybe BA should consider cutting out full breakfast on certain shorter overseas flights only! ..maybe under 8 hours?

    American carriers are crap overall anyway. So not much to comment on there. Although AA and UA try in First Class

    As for coach passengers. And Im a fellow Brit. So I know they are gonna be rather upset over losing bottle water. Since I live in America now, I say, suck it up! Its a bottle of water. Bring your own. When Im forced to fly coach. I do not rely on any airline for my eating comforts. I pack my own large bottle of water, along with food from the airport. That way i can eat when I want, and settle down to read or watch movies.

    If airlines really thought it through. By all accounts NH has, according to a fellow poster above. Selling premium food in coach is a great great idea. Upon booking, you’d have an option to pay for your premium meals/foods on long haul flights. Whats the cost? Like $20-25. I’d pay that in coach. Then knock of $5 for the price of the orig coach mean or throw something in for free to make people feel like they’re getting something for value ya know.

    Could be a HUGE money maker, and keep people very happy! An extra $20 x 300 passengers. Not bad. The extra food will not weight that much more, since the airline is now cancelling out the original meal

    I remember when I use to fly the BA shuttle between London and Manchester all the time. They’d serve a small lunch (very tasty) on a 190 mile flight aboard a 757. I would also take Sabena (yes, yesteryears ago) between LHR- BRU in Business Class, and they would serve a full 3 course breakfast on a 45 min flight!

    Sometimes its just overkill, to justify the price tag.

    I think certain cuts are needed. Overnight flights are for sleeping. The airline should specify its a scaled down service in Business, unless someone requests a full meal. On longer flights…and daytime hauls.. it should be full service!!!

  10. One can only imagine the great ads being put together by Virgin. Starving passengers eating the lie flat seats on a BA flight. While VS pax over indulge in a sea of food…brought to them by a stream of chirping birds!!! haha!

    Ambulances waiting for starved BA passengers, or BA biz class pulls up to a fast food joint upon arrival.. As VS J class, walk off to their limo’s well fed

    You know its coming!!

  11. Jordan – It’s all very well talking about bringing bottled water, except that on most (all?) flights you can’t. It’ll be taken away from you at security. The best you can do is to buy a branded bottle airside – at grossly inflated prices.

    Then again, I suppose you could bring an empty bottle through security and fill it up in the bathrooms, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that was considered ‘suspicious behaviour’

  12. @ robert:
    Regarding the water bottle debate ….
    I’ve had water bottles taken off me just before getting on the plane. These are expensive bottles that I have bought air-side. This usually happens at AMS / CDG / DUS / FRA / MUC where they often have a second set of security scanners right at the departure gate. One day I will learn the lesson.

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