BA’s move to scrap inflight meals ‘a health blessing’

Guest Contributor

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Andrew Shelton, managing director of Cheapflights, has weighed into the debate surrounding British Airways’ move to scrap inflight meals on short-haul flights.

“Whilst we can understand consumer frustration as BA joins no frills carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet in charging for inflight meals on its short-haul routes, in reality the move could be a blessing in disguise for passengers,” he said.

“Our recommendation has always been to ‘buy before you fly’ due to the high salt and sugar used to flavour inflight food. Health-conscious holidaymakers could use the news as a further incentive to keep up their good eating habits mid-air as well as on the ground. We’ve worked with a nutritionist to analyse the food offerings available at the top airport outlets, including M&S, Café Nero, Eat, LEON and Pret and provide our top recommendations for BYO in-flight dining”.


HEALTHIEST OPTION Goats Cheese & Grilled Red Pepper Panini Hot Smoked Salmon and Potato Original Superfood Salad Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Lentil Salad Roast Salmon & Avocado Superbowl
LEAST HEALTHY Brie and Bacon Panini Thai Rare Beef Noodle Chicken Burger Chicken, Honey & Mustard Pasta Salad Teriyaki Salmon Sushi Salad


Research commissioned by highlights an alarming lack of knowledge among British fliers about the food they consume when airborne, indicating that nearly 50% are oblivious to the nutritional content of what they eat and less than a fifth seek an alternative.

Cheapflights conducted research among ten of the UK’s biggest airlines, working with independent nutritionist, Karen Alexander of Nutritious Roots posing as a customer seeking information about the nutritional content of inflight food. All ten airlines declined to respond to the request. Further enquiries to the third party suppliers those airlines use for the provision of their inflight food and beverage offerings met with a similar response.

Commenting, Alexander said: “It’s common knowledge that to compensate for the fact that food tastes blander at 35,000 feet, airlines add more flavouring, such as sugar, to enhance the taste for their passengers. However, their refusal to share what those quantities are should be a cause of concern. It’s also worrying to see that passengers themselves happily accept being kept in the dark – when demanding nutritional information on our foodstuffs in other areas of our life, such as the goods we buy at the supermarket, is now commonplace.

“The main message from this research is be informed and if in doubt, buy before you fly. Picking up pre-packed food in the terminal before boarding at least ensures you can self-regulate your intake of some of the riskier ingredients.”

Speaking of the confusion created by a lack of labeling, Alexander explained: “Whilst the diabetic or gluten-free option may seem the healthiest choice offered by airlines, planning ahead and taking your own healthy snacks on board – and opting for foods with higher protein to keep blood sugar levels balanced – is the best way to ensure you arrive with energy levels intact.

“Easyjet now has some better menu options, such as The Food Doctor Couscous and Lentil Wholesome Hotpot. But if you’re flying with Ryanair you should definitely eat before you board or take your own food as their offering is extremely unhealthy.”

For those unable to source their own food before boarding, the Cheapflights guide advises passengers to seek out menu options that are as unprocessed as possible. In particular, travellers are advised to choose fruit over crisps, opt for whole cuts of meat rather than sausages and to avoid sauces, which can contain higher amounts of salt and sugar to boost the flavour.

Shelton said: “When it comes to drinks, travellers should ideally completely avoid sugary or zero calorie fizzy drinks, which can also lead to bloating.  With caffeine and alcohol contributing to dehydration, drinking water throughout the flight and choosing foods with a high water content – such as cucumber or organic fruit – can really help to maintain skin moisture levels. The bottom line is: the sugar high created by inflight food just isn’t worth the potential health crash that follows.”

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