Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, May 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
ON TOUR: Flights to Europe ” The Choice Has Never Been Greater
The Times last week published its business travel supplement including a piece by ABTN”s editor on short haul travel. Space problems meant inevitably that it had to be cut down. Here is the full piece.
”Where will we be with business flights to Europe in 20 years time? All flying for free, in cramped Airbus 320s or Boeing 737s without a choice of seat, or complimentary catering provided. Don”t you believe it. Whilst as a customer the hard working business executive wants value for money, he also requires some degree of comfort and at least the pretence of service. Go back 30 years and some will recall the British Airways ”Shuttle”, a sort of ”no frills” turn up and get on service, with a guaranteed seat. Bring your own sandwiches! The then British Midland went two-class on its competing trunk route operation. ”The Shuttle” became ”The Super Shuttle”, with breakfast provided and then quietly died.
The travelling public”s views regarding on board refreshments one can perhaps associate with two different forms of business. John Jones is sales director of a home improvement distributor and lives in Welwyn Garden City. He travels to Europe most weeks. "Quite frankly as an independent company we try to look for the most attractive fares and find that both Luton and Stansted offer frequent flights to most of the places I want to go to", he said. His offices are in north London. "Sometimes I feel peckish after an early morning drive to the airport and if I have time I will purchase sandwiches once I have gone through the often daunting security. A better choice can be found and the prices are far cheaper than on board".
Paul Gee represents the banking fraternity working at Canary Wharf. ”My travel often is the BA CitiExpress service to Edinburgh from London City. They serve an excellent hot breakfast on the eight o”clock flight which suits me fine. On the way back I can take a late afternoon service and go into the office. If it is the evening flight I will probably have dinner and a glass of wine on board. Heathrow (same fare), Luton and Stansted are all alternatives but not that convenient and too much of a hassle. You have to balance it all up”. He lives in Primrose hill.
The choice is now more complicated than ever, only the so-called ”budget” or ”no frills” carriers consistent. These ”low cost” airlines offer no free food but are more than happy to sell an on-board product with such fancy names as easyKiosk (from you know who), and FlyBe”s 'Deli in the Sky'. With Ryanair it is basic but easyJet offers the Servisair executive lounges and FlyBe have a seat reservation scheme. If you do have hunger problems, Caviar House will sell you a superbly packaged in-flight meal, a more sumptuous offering than with many generic carriers. Regarding the so-called ”full service” airlines, it is always best to check on the web to see what is on offer on a particular route. With British Airways it can be very complicated. On the domestic services the airline is always one-class but divided into ”mainline” and ”citiexpress” services that offer hot meals. On the trunk routes into Heathrow, the All Day Deli, is served and there are alternatives available too. Free alcohol and soft drinks are available to everyone. On continental flights, it is two-class, Club Europe the premium product. Re-vamped in 2004, customers are now offered options with the full English breakfast the most popular choice. There is a ”continental” available on mid-range European services to destinations such as Frankfurt and Geneva. With longer flights, including Stockholm and Barcelona, customers are given two hot meal choices for dinner and lunch, plus a further salad option for those wanting a healthier meal. Euro Traveller, or economy, is much the same as the domestic one-class operation.
From the beginning of August bmi re-vamped its entire short haul operation offering a business class service only on its Heathrow flights to Belfast, Brussels, Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Clients get a proper cooked breakfast (vegetarian is on offer too), a full bar service and use of the airline”s airport lounges. For those who do not wish to pay top fares there is Premium, offering a fully flexible ticket and Standard/bmi baby, for those committed to a single flight at the cheapest possible prices. Clients can purchase a range of sandwiches and snacks on board.
With Air France the choice is greater. On its mainline routes from Charles de Gaulle to Heathrow and Manchester, AF offers three classes. Espace Europe with a separate cabin at the front of the aircraft, guaranteed free seat between passengers, champagne/juice prior to take off, a full meal on board and other embellishments; Tempo Challenge also has a dedicated cabin, clients can use the AF executive lounge and whilst similar to Espace in many ways, only offering 3 + 3 seating. With Air France Tempo, complimentary food and beverages are served. With sister airline KLM, it is two-class although with its Cityhopper regional operation, there is but a single class offering a hot roll in the morning and alcoholic drinks anytime of the day.
The situation regarding Swiss is a good example of the airlines not knowing what the public wants, or more likely, the public knowing what it wants. At the beginning of the summer season, at the end of March, it dropped refreshments in its economy class. That lasted less than two months and the airline now has various snacks and sandwiches on offer, depending on the time of day, and hot and cold beverages. However, and unique as far as we know, you can book business class one way (and have a hot breakfast for example), and take economy on the return the same evening (a time for sleeping). Swiss new owner Lufthansa also offers a two-class service in Europe, with the middle seat left out in the premium category. Star Alliance partner SAS follows with a similar product but emphasizes its economy breakfast.