Free coffee to make Lufthansa passengers happier again

Status: 27.05.2024 15:52

During the pandemic, even premium airlines have made significant savings on service. The fact that Lufthansa even cut free coffee on certain routes in 2021 caused discontent. Now the airline is reactivating its offer – on a trial basis.

This summer, some Lufthansa aircraft will once again be offering free drinks in economy class. Around three years after the previously free drinks service was abolished, free drinks will now be served again on a trial basis on selected short and medium-haul routes, the company confirmed.

A few years ago, Lufthansa passengers in economy class on short-haul flights from Munich to Frankfurt could drink a coffee, a Coke and a glass of wine for free – provided they managed to eat all of that on the short flight. They also got a free snack.

More choice – more costs

In the summer of 2021, however, the German airline eliminated all free drinks and snacks – except for a small bottle of water and a piece of chocolate – in economy class. Hot drinks on board currently cost between three and 3.50 euros, and the tomato juice that is popular on flights costs 3.20 euros.

The official reason given at the time was that the snack offering in economy class did not meet “guests’ expectations”. Instead of unpopular sandwiches or chocolate bars, higher-quality products were now to be offered – for purchase.

Customer satisfaction increase again

So now it’s time to go back to the old ways? Airline boss Jens Ritter announced the test run in several interviews, which he hopes will lead to greater customer satisfaction. There will be selected drinks such as tea or coffee, it was said. The reaction of customers will be recorded as part of the ongoing customer satisfaction analyses.

In recent years, many airlines have reduced their offerings and gradually eliminated free items from their meals as part of cost-cutting measures, including Lufthansa subsidiaries SWISS and Austrian Airlines.

Slipped in airline rating

Lufthansa’s turnaround may also be due to poor customer satisfaction. In recent years, Lufthansa passengers have repeatedly voiced criticism online that a premium airline no longer even offers free drinks, apart from a small bottle of water. Many services that were once part of the ticket price now have to be paid for: whether food, seat reservations or checked baggage.

Lufthansa has slipped to 21st place in the airline ranking of the rating agency Skytrax in 2023, after 15th place in 2022. Different criteria are evaluated, including service. Studies indicate that on-board catering has a strong influence on how passengers perceive the flight, especially when it comes to experiences with premium airlines. On the other hand, with budget airlines, passengers are more likely to expect to pay for food and drinks.

Revenues are booming again

After the Corona crisis, revenues are now booming again and have eased cost pressure somewhat. Last year, the group achieved the third-highest profit in its history thanks to the return of travel enthusiasm and higher ticket prices.

Flight tickets became more expensive again, partly because the airlines’ seat offerings could hardly keep up with the increased demand. Last year, the airlines of the Lufthansa Group carried around 123 million passengers, around a fifth more than in 2022.

Free tea and coffee on British Airways

Lufthansa is not alone in reintroducing free drinks. British Airways did the same last year. After years of cuts, free coffee and tea as well as a small snack have been available on short-haul flights since last year.

In the past, other airlines have also increased their free snack offerings when things improved after difficult economic times in which service extras were cut. American Airlines, for example, announced the reintroduction of free snacks in 2016 after 15 years of tough austerity policies, even though the former US airline Continental had calculated in 2011 that it would save an estimated $2.5 million by eliminating free snacks.

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