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Is Flying BYOB (Buy Your Own Breakfast) Really That Bad?

Moscow, Russia - May 14, 2013: Flight attendants serve passengers of UT-578 airlines UTair.

Some people could sell ice to an eskimo. I am not one of those people.

I hate selling things. If ever, in my first high school fast food job, I was asked to upsell orders, I never did. Or, if I did try, I would mumble the offer so quickly as to dissuade the customer from actually taking me up on it. Then and now, I really take “no” like a champ when it comes to sales. So imagine my disdain when airlines took to selling items onboard other than liquor, and that fortunately (and sometimes unfortunately) has a tendency to sell itself. Nowadays, at least domestically and even on some long-haul international flights, crews must parade up and down the aisle hawking everything from food to souvenirs. And that is before many of them continue on to duty free sales and credit card offers. Some flight attendants love it, as many airlines incentivize sales with a small commission. But people like me who did not really want to be a salesperson found themselves having to be just that. It’s not a terrible gig, except for the fact that many passengers resent it.

British Airways caused an uproar when they announced last year they would no longer be offering free meals but instead would begin selling food from Marks & Spencer as well as soft drinks and liquor on flights within Europe, which they claim is in response to customer feedback requesting better food options and more variety. Flyers initially found flights to be under-catered, not catered at all with food or crews were unable to accept payment with miles via the Avios app, which is advertised as an accepted form of payment. Under-catering can certainly make one’s life miserable, as I know from experience. When buy-on-board (BOB) meals can’t be pre-ordered, airlines would rather cater too little rather than too much. Wasted food is wasted money. While I whole-heartedly agree with reducing waste, it’s very tough when you have hungry passengers who’ve been led to believe they could rely on at least their second choice of meal being available. It is not uncommon for that to not be the case.

And this past week, a Hawaiian Airlines passenger from Las Vegas to Honolulu asked his crew for a blanket, which cost $12. He claimed that the blanket be given to him for free, because the cabin was too cold for his liking. Instead, the conflict escalated to the point that the flight diverted to Los Angeles and the man was removed. I would love to know the details on both sides of the story, because it seems extreme to divert a flight over the incident as it’s been reported. But since we don’t have those details, I’ll touch on a situation we all regularly face in this industry where amenities not always included in the price of the ticket: passengers who insist on getting things for free.

For instance, a frequent situation we find ourselves in is when tall passengers, who’ve bought an economy seat, after boarding demand to be moved without paying to exit row or other premium seats because they’re tall, often insisting that crews do it all the time for them. Or some will want to move for free to premium seats simply because they are empty and they want to move there. There’s also this trick people like trying to pull off: A couple will buy one premium and one coach seat, and then insist on being seated together…and obviously, two coach seats won’t do.

While you might be able to coax us out of a cocktail, many items are often inventoried and tracked, and very few airlines allow their flight crews to give away products and meals. And to move someone to a premium seat who clearly hasn’t paid angers those that have…and in the age of onboard wifi and platforms like Twitter and Facebook complaints to our employers can happen in real time, and will be traced back to the crew. While I sympathize with some unhappy travelers (I really think no airline should ever charge for non-alcoholic beverages, for instance), I can’t and won’t be bullied into breaking the rules. But if people don’t like having to purchase items inflight, don’t give the crew trouble. It won’t get anyone anywhere. Take it directly to the airline so that changes might be made.

When people choose airlines, they rarely choose for quality anymore. For 80% of travelers, cost, not comfort or amenities, is the deciding factor. Airlines are keenly aware of this, and the low-cost model is the clear winner. Air travel is a lot more affordable than it has been in years prior, partly thanks to cost-cutting. Having our cake and eating it too isn’t possible; we either must pay higher fares or pay lower ones and expect less. Airlines truly are offering what the public is buying – low fares with the ability to opt into more. It doesn’t make flying glamorous, but then again, it hasn’t been that way in economy class in a long time.

Next month, I will take my son to Europe on a low fare carrier, and I saved $90 per flight for the two of us by opting not to have meals onboard. While I wish food and drink were included, I also prefer to save that money for something else I bought his ticket overseas for about what I would spend on a night out with dinner in New York City. I will bring our food and perhaps purchase a drink or two. While flying this way isn’t as much fun, I couldn’t afford to do it (paying full price for a ticket, that is) otherwise. So, sayonara, mystery meat. We’ve got places to go.

[Photo: iStock]

Comments are Closed.
pdsales March 14, 2017

"And this past week, a Hawaiian Airlines passenger from Las Vegas to Honolulu asked his crew for a blanket, which cost $12. He claimed that the blanket be given to him for free, because the cabin was too cold for his liking." So, if you are cold, blankets should be free. But if you are not cold, blankets should be $12. So the only time you pay for a blanket is when you have no need for one?

diver858 March 14, 2017

I find the whole concept of bring food onboard a horrible concept. 1. For those of us who don't check a bag (by choice, not cost), having to juggle an additional carry-on item is a hassle 2. Unless you buy a dry sandwich or simple snack, most airport-prepared meals get messy, sitting with trash for an hour or more is a hassle 3. After body odor, nothing is more irritating than a cabin filled with undesirable food aroma.