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Era of free meals on short-haul flights to end: BA chief

British Airways' chief executive Alex Cruz has defended its decision to end free meals on its short-haul flights and predicted that all airlines would eventually follow its example.

Speaking at the UK Aviation Club in London on 6 December, Cruz said the IAG-owned carrier's introduction of a buy-on-board service for economy-class passengers on its domestic and short-haul services at the beginning of the year was "absolutely the right" decision to take.

He describes the free food and drink services still available on board rivals' short-haul flights as a "fad" and says he is "absolutely convinced" that the two remaining large European carriers that still offer it will end the practice in the coming months.

"Every carrier in the world will be offering food to buy in the very short flights as we do," he predicts.

After a "difficult start" to buy-on-board amid a "logistics issue", the Oneworld carrier has now fixed the problems and offers the "food you want when you are flying at a reasonable price" with "significantly higher" choice, Cruz asserts.

Demand for the product has "completely surprised us", he adds.

Speaking more generally, Cruz says that meeting changing customer expectations and responding to digital disruptors is now "occupying a great deal of our time and, by the way, increasingly, our budget".

He says consumers are becoming "more and more demanding" as regards services levels and know "more and more about us", which means BA must react "quickly, accurately, consistently and in line with their expectations" to keep them from turning to competitors.

BA, he acknowledges, must remain vigilant as apps "inch into our operating models" and the "large online players" make "inroads" through developments in artificial intelligence, machine language and analytics.

The airline is working hard on its response and will have more to say on the subject in 2018, he adds

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