It’s tempting to assume that in-flight catering is yet another opportunity for the no-frills and charter airlines to make a quick buck. A cup of tea in the air can cost up to £2.50; a bottle of water up to £1.80 – twice as much as either costs on the ground.
The airlines claim they make little profit on in-flight food as it’s expensive to provide. Even if that’s the case, it’s not just about cost; the quality is frequently pretty awful, too. Granted, you don’t have to buy, but if you’re travelling with hungry children, there may be no choice but to purchase unappetising, plastic-wrapped rolls, unhealthy snack packs and mini-sized cans of fizzy drink.
That’s if there’s any left. Airlines have no obligation to provide food and drink, and they generally understock, so you’re at the mercy of the trolley and the passengers ahead of you. If you’re allocated a seat at the back of the plane, as I was on a flight from Edinburgh recently, chances are there will be slim pickings by the time the cabin crew reach you. Crisps and chocolate bars were the best they had on my flight.
The result of overpriced and disappointing catering is that many passengers, even those with children, have switched to making their own arrangements. As one reader puts it: “I always make up a picnic from what I can buy at the airport.” Sound advice if you resent paying through the nose for a dried-up sandwich and a tasteless coffee.
How airline drinks and snacks compare
Tea/coffee £2, sandwiches from £4, bottled water £1.80
Free breakfast or snacks and drinks, depending on time and length of flight
Tea/coffee £2.50, sandwiches from £3.60, bottled water £1.50
Tea/coffee £2.20, sandwiches from £3.95, bottled water £1.70
Tea/coffee £2, sandwiches from £3.50, bottled water £1.60
Tea/coffee £2.50, sandwiches from £2.50, bottled water £2.50 (sterling price can change as menu is priced in euros)
Tea/coffee £2, no sandwiches (snack pack at £3.75), bottled water £1.60
Tea £2.20, coffee £2.30, no sandwiches (snack pack £3.50), bottled water £1.60