British Airways’ long-standing reputation as the gold standard of air travel has taken a battering in recent months as loyal customers have accused it of penny-pinching.
But the airline’s frugality at 35,000ft has now reached new heights after one traveller claimed they were charged extra for a stronger cup of tea.
The disgruntled flyer complained they were told they had to pay double as the drinks are sold by the tea bag.
British Airways’ long-standing reputation as the gold standard of air travel has taken a battering in recent months as loyal customers have accused it of penny-pinching
The unnamed passenger, from Lancaster, wrote to The Spectator: ‘Flying to Oslo with BA on expensive tickets, my son and I asked for strong [italics] cups of tea. We were told we had to pay double as they sold it by the tea bag. Was I right to be shocked?’
British Airways did not dispute the incident, instead saying that the teabag is already attached to the disposable cups that it sells travellers on its short-haul services.
An airline source said customers could make their cup of tea stronger by adding less milk.
Last year BA announced it would stop serving complimentary drinks and meals on short-haul flights, in order to compete with low-cost rivals.
Along with snacks from Marks and Spencer, it serves a range of teas by Twinings for £2.30 per cup.
This represents a considerable mark-up on the retail price. A packet of 100 Twinings English Breakfast teabags typically sells in shops for £4.99, or 4.9p per bag.
Asked to comment on whether it charges double for two teabags in a strong cup of tea, BA responded in a statement.
‘As a British airline we understand how important the perfect cup of tea is,’ it said.
But the airline’s frugality at 35,000ft has now reached new heights after one traveller claimed they were charged extra for a stronger cup of tea
‘Twinings has developed a signature blend for British Airways, so that our customers can enjoy their perfect cup of tea made to a strength that suits their taste.’
BA added that it offers complimentary hot water and does not charge for refills.
A spokesman for the airline said: ‘British Airways provides choice and value for all customers.
‘Our customers tell us they want low fares. Being more efficient, through measures such as changing our catering product for short-haul economy customers, enables us to offer more low fares.
‘Since we introduced buy-on-board catering, more customers have flown with us. We don’t always get everything right but we listen to customers so that we can meet changing preferences.’
Last year it emerged that BA staff tried to ban a passenger from using more than one teabag in a guest lounge at Heathrow airport.
A traveller complained after a waitress intervened when he tried to blend two fruit teabags in one cup.
Writing on a blog, the customer described how he took an elderflower Darjeeling and an elderflower apple teabag, put them into a cup and added boiling water.
He said the waitress told him: ‘Sir, just to inform you that it is only one tea bag at a time and for lounge consumption only.’
The airline apologised, admitting that it recognised Britons had ‘strong feelings’ about how they like their ‘perfect cuppa’.
It stressed at the time that no official prohibition on teabag usage was in force.
The disgruntled flyer complained they were told they had to pay double as the drinks are sold by the tea bag
BA has been widely accused of becoming more like a budget airline under chief executive Alex Cruz, despite typically charging higher fares than its rivals.
The company, whose marketing slogan is ‘To fly. To Serve’, has faced criticism from customers over its cost-cutting measures.
These include forcing families to pay extra to guarantee being able to sit with each other on flights, planning to cut leg room on some flights and slashing perks for business class. There have also been complaints of BA regularly running out of food on board.
Earlier this month an IT failure at the airline caused chaos for families trying to get away on holiday.
The technical issue affecting check-in systems sparked huge queues and delays at Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports.
In May, a global computer crash grounded BA flights from Heathrow and Gatwick airports – sparking chaos for 200,000 holidaymakers.
A BA whistleblower later said a dodgy computer system was to blame for the delays.