The Gulf Between Airlines In Europe Is Now Huge

Before this wonderful COVID-19 broke out, the airlines in Europe were more or less the same.

I mean, not exactly the same, but in general, to the outsider, there was a definite theme.

In economy, you’d get a wafer thin seat. Right down to the exact same model of seat. Most airlines in Europe have gone for the Recaro. From EasyJet, to British Airways to TAP Portugal. The specific model of seat is the same.

Recaro seating on board TAP Portugal
The same Recaro seat as seen on board Air France

If the airline offers a business class cabin, things are a little better seating wise. Both British Airways and Iberia offer the Collins Aerospace Pinnacle seat at the front of the plane. TAP offer something more substantial too. Where as the Lufthansa group of airlines (Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings) offer the same throughout their fleet.

Service wise, again, most airlines in Europe offered a similar concept. In business class, you’d get lounge access, priority boarding and a meal on board at the very least. Further back on the plane, you’d be able to purchase food and drink. I know there are a number of airlines in Europe who do offer free catering , but I’m going for a more general overview here.

So, to sum up, prior to April 2020, airlines in Europe offered:

Business Class
  • Priority Check in
  • Fast track security
  • Lounge access
  • Priority boarding
  • Free onboard catering
British Airways Club Europe catering, January 2020
Economy Class And Low Cost Carriers
  • Board last
  • Food to purchase on board

These days, things are a little different. And depending on which airline you’re flying with, you’ll end up with very different experiences to previously.

Depending on which class you’re in, you either gain or lose out too.

I’ll cover the airlines I have flown with post lockdown in more detail, and sum up what I’ve found out from others at the end.

British Airways

When British Airways first started flying in any great numbers again, you got nothing. Regardless of which class you were in. No lounge. No food or drinks on board. Quite literally nothing.

Thankfully, this didn’t last too long. By the time I took my first post lockdown flight at the end of July, the service had improved. The lounges at Heathrow at least had reopened. Although fast track security at Heathrow and priority boarding are still very much missing. And you do get some service on board. Initially I thought it was a generally good service. Although now I’m not so sure.

In Club Europe, you’re provided with a box, containing a pre packed sandwich. The bar service, including alcohol is available, although everything is disposable. So you’ll be drinking champagne from a plastic cup.

In Euro Traveller, you gain. Since 2017, British Airways have operated a buy on board policy. If you want anything to eat, you’ll be paying for it. These days however, everyone is provided with a packet of crisps, some biscuits and a bottle of water. Tea and coffee is also available on request.

And you’ll be among the first to board too.

Club Europe: Lose
No fast track security at Heathrow, no lounge at out stations, no priority boarding, no hot meal on board, disposable cups.

Euro Traveller: Gain
Among the first to board and free catering.

Airlines in Europe are different these days
British Airways Club Europe catering, July 2020

Iberia

Oh dear!

I headed into my Iberia flights in July with low expectations, and still came away disappointed!

On both flights I took, the official line from the crew was that any normal service was “impossible”.

I’m led to believe that fast track security in Madrid is open, but as I was only transferring there, I can’t say for sure. What I can be sure of is the two lounges are most definitely closed.

Much like their IAG partner, when it comes to boarding, it’s very much rear to front. So as yet, you’ve got precisely nothing for your business class fare.

As mentioned above, things don’t improve once you’re onboard. If you’re in business class, gone is the meal. In its place comes a choice of drink.

Those further back lose out too. Again, like British Airways, Iberia operated a buy on board system previously. Although unlike British Airways, Iberia haven’t replaced it with anything.

Business Class: Lose
No lounge, no priority boarding, no food onboard. Nothing really!

Economy Class: Lose
Even less than business class, and Iberia haven’t been overly generous there.

Some airlines in Europe are better than others
Iberia Business Class catering, July 2020

Lufthansa

Business Class: Neutral
Everything is more or less the same as pre-covid. In Frankfurt at least, there are a few less lounges open, but there is at least a couple to use. Unlike the IAG group, priority boarding is still in place.

Economy Class: Lose
Previously when flying Lufthansa, (mostly between London-Frankfurt/Munich) they would provide half a sandwich and a choice of drink. These days, you’re provided with a bottle of water…. and thats it. So the service there is definately less than before.

Lufthansa Business Class catering, August 2020

Swiss

Business Class: Neutral
Much the same as Lufthansa above, which doesn’t come as a surprise. Both airlines are part of the same group.

Economy Class: Lose
The same as above. Somewhat. Swiss always had a rather complicated service system anyway. If your flight involves Zurich, you will get something to eat. If you’re flying to/from Geneva, then you might get something to eat. Or you might just get a bottle of water. It depends on what type of fare you’re on. So you might lose out in econom, or you might get the standard service.

One thing that remains is the Swiss chocolates, handed out on board. Apart from on my last flight where I got a little forgotten about.

Swiss Business Class catering, August 2020

The Others

Turkish Airlines have something similar to British Airways. No hot meals, but a box with a selection of snacks.

It would appear that what you get varies greatly with the route:

Air France has also resumed a full service on board their European flights. At least from what I’ve been able to find. Fellow SkyTeam partner Alitalia states the following on their website however:

Due to the current Covid-19 emergency, our in-flight service will be carried out in ways to reduce contact and guarantee safe passage and stationing of the flight crew throughout the cabin. Food and drink will be supplied in single sealed portions, adhering to the highest hygiene standards.

On long-haul flights, medical-dietary meals (gluten-free, diabetic) and religious meals (kosher, Muslim) remain available.

On medium-haul flights, special meals are temporarily unavailable.

So in conclusion, prior to Covid, most airlines in Europe offered a mostly similar service. These days however, you could either get a normal service, a better service or a far worse service when flying!

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