Due to a major staffing shortage that is impeding the carrier’s attempt to recover, British Airways does not plan to restore its full pre-pandemic dining service on long-haul flights until the end of the summer season.
The airline had hoped to bring back its 2019-era dining service for its Club World Business Class cabin this Spring, but efforts to bolster BA’s workforce have stalled, and the plan could now be delayed by up to six months.
British Airways, like many other airlines, nearly shut down its dining service at the outset of the pandemic but has gradually resumed normal operations as public health experts learned more about how COVID-19 spreads and restrictions were loosened across society.
But, like other of its competitors, what started out as an infection-control tool quickly became a cost-cutting strategy. British Airways’ Club World cabin still only offers a single-tray service, with each course delivered at the same time.
The single-tray service was designed to reduce time spent interacting with passengers and crew, but it also allowed airlines to reduce portion sizes. Another significant cost-benefit was that the simpler service necessitated fewer cabin crew members.
Resuming pre-pandemic food service will necessitate adding extra cabin crew to flights, but BA disclosed in an internal video that the shortage would likely endure the entire summer. From late March through late October, the IATA summer schedule is in effect.
Despite the fact that there is no evidence that British Airways is understaffing flights, the carrier will not be able to restore normal food service until it is able to mann aircraft with more cabin crew than the legal minimum.
The airline is currently recruiting new crew members, with over 2,500 new hires expected to take to the skies in the coming weeks.
However, the entire aviation business is experiencing a security vetting bottleneck, which is dramatically reducing the rate at which new employees can begin working. When there weren’t enough baggage handlers to remove bags from arriving planes, the issue caused an operational collapse at BA.
The airline said it will limit the size of its shortfall Club Europe cabin throughout the summer to free up as many cabin workers as possible. Depending on demand, Club Europe can be dynamically resized by moving a curtain further down the cabin.
A larger Business Class cabin, on the other hand, necessitates additional cabin workers, which BA cannot guarantee.
The airline continues to provide cabin crew overtime on their days off, as well as the option to ‘buy back’ annual leave. In order to attract new crew, BA is offering a £500 referral fee to employees who persuade friends or relatives to join the airline.