Cake-Gate… do we expect too much?

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  • JDTraveller

    Having been reading the recent thread on Qatar, I was wondering do we expect too much from airlines? I am as guilty as most on this forum I am sure, asking for that cheeky upgrade at the gate, adding special birthdays into bookings in the hope of a nice extra, but do we as frequent flyers expect too much?

    One could look at it like your birthday meal, if you tell a restaurant that it’s your birthday, you will likely get a free pudding, or at least a candle in it and all the staff will gather around and sing Happy Birthday. It costs the restaurant nothing and makes you have a good impression of the restaurant. But the logistics of this on a plane are just not feasible.

    The other argument is why should the airline do anything at all? Everyday there will be millions of people flying around the world on their birthday, wedding anniversary, first flight… the list is endless. We obviously like to think as FF we are special and should be rewarded.

    Airlines do try and surprise and delight wherever possible in very small but noticeable ways. Perhaps we should just be satisfied that we get what we pay for, and on the odd occasion that something extraordinary happens, remind ourselves that we are lucky to have these things.

    So do we expect to much? Or are as FF are we entitled?


    Nothing is really free in the world.
    A surprise by some vendor on someone special day is always welcome but people shall not expect those as right.

    Most vendors take care of their high spending customers. I get freebies like hampers and cake from my banks, credit card company, airline where I have high FF status, it feels good but it is very very small percentage of my spend.
    From many other establishments where I frequent I don’t get anything (although I don’t tell them that it is my birthday etc.) but I don’t mind as my spend in those places is negligible.

    Expecting high favour from airlines after buying a economy class ticket is not only frivolous, it is downright stupidity.

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    I think expectations vary to such a huge degree now that the OP’s question is difficult to answer.

    Do some customers expect too much – absolutely.

    But on any given longhaul flight I can have the customer sat in row 53 of World Traveller delighted that their meal is included and the customer in row 54 disappointed that we do not serve champagne in economy. I guess a lot of our perceived value of a product is down to how much we’ve paid for it. And also what has to be factored in is how much the airlines marketing and advertising translates to the real experience.

    If I was paying £550 for a return economy fare from say London to New York (of which £350 odd is taxes) and the flight was timely my expectations would be met. If I was paying £5000 for First Class I would probably expect more.

    In terms of the birthday cake – if it is not a service that the airline offers than so be it. My expectations would not be that this would be provided so I wouldn’t be disappointed. As the OP mentions the logistics of getting something loaded onto an aircraft that isn’t in the normal supply chain is a huge amount of work. If I have someone onboard and it’s their birthday/anniversary etc etc I would be more than happy to get a left over cake/dessert from First Class and do my best to dress it up a little and present it to the birthday boy/girl.


    I make no judgement on the original Qatar topic, and this isn’t necessarily a question of flying class but of the demands of Frequent Flyers.

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    [quote quote=993028]I make no judgement on the original Qatar topic, and this isn’t necessarily a question of flying class but of the demands of Frequent Flyers.[/quote]

    IMHO the demands of frequent flyers are among the easiest to meet. They travel regularly so have a good idea of what the reality vs expectations are. They will usually be the ones travelling in Business Class that will want an on time flight, a bit of recognition and wifi. And will very often not eat or have an express option especially on an overnight flight.

    I guess for obvious reasons it is the in-frequent flyer who may find an airline does not meet their expectations, especially if they are travelling for a special event or they’ve saved up a long time with their hard earned cash to fund a fare verus someone returning home from a business trip using a ticket they didn’t pay for themselves.

    And when it’s a product you aren’t familiar with your expectations will largely be based on the reputation of a service provider, or marketing.

    An example for me is Alitalia. The first time I flew (which was only last year) them my expectations were very low going in as their reputation is not great. I’ve completed a few long haul trips with them now and i’ve found they have exceeded my expectations. Not that they are AMAZING but just they weren’t bad as I would have expected.

    Emirates for me on the other hand were a total let down. My expectations were maybe high. And they didn’t meet them. But doesn’t mean they were any worse than Alitalia.

    4 users thanked author for this post.


    [postquote quote=993024][/postquote]

    This is the surprise and delight that I was talking about. Last year flying CW for my husbands 40th the cabin team made sure that he never had a dry glass, and gave us a couple of bottles to take off. I didn’t demand this, just added a note on the booking and was extremely happy that the note was read and passed through to the flight team. Nothing was demanded, nothing was expected, but definitely delighted that something did!

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    Yes. Every year there must be hundreds of thousands of people with weddings, 21st/50th/60th birthdays, anniversaries etc all of whom thing they are special cases.

    Airlines on the other hand have tried to keep costs down by streamlining operations, cutting costs and moving to minimum wage staff who most likely are not that interested. 20 years ago things like this were quite easy, these days even getting a one off item like a cake through security is a logistical nightmare, even for the caterers.

    Overlay that with things like coronavirus and you can see that airlines have more pressing issues to deal with.

    So unless you are a top tier FF, travelling in a premium cabin and spending tens of thousands with the airline I would forget it and move on.

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    @ JDTraveller – ‘surprise and delight’. Yes it usually goes down very well 🙂 It is very dependent on the culture of an airline though. At BA (and I would never shout their praises here as I know how they are generally perceived and this is often true) we are given a large degree of freedom on board. We can upgrade for a reason requiring service recovery. Someones birthday/anniversary that is travelling in economy? No problem, take them champagne and prepare them a little cake from First. I think partially because we DON’T have all the bells and whistles options we can work a little more fluidly with what we have. This wasn’t the case ten years ago. The curtain divider was like a border. Nothing crossed it.

    Many other airlines (like Qatar in my experience), I get the impression their crew aren’t quite as empowered to act on instinct and initiative and instead follow very firmly laid down service procedures. Don’t get me wrong, they are an amazing airline and I enjoy flying with them but consistency is I guess what they aim for above all else.

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    Friendly and professional crew and a reasonable meal is all I expect.
    If crew offer an extra goody,that’s great.
    Upgrades are not expected as I pay for F or J class.
    Arriving safely is my only priority.


    Hi all

    I have decided to create a profile to add my 2 Rappen to this topic. As a flight attendant for an international airline out of Switzerland I think about the expectation society quite a lot, in different areas of life.

    Point 1: You are a guest. US major airlines aside, most (unfortunately not all) crew are willing to make your stay a pleasurable one, and try to treat every passenger as a guest. Going the extra mile for you is part of my job, and luckily at this specific airline we are provided with a so-called “compensation drawer” with chocolates, electric candles, moleskin books and the such. If you discreetly mention your special occasion and time permits, of course we will try to do our best to make you feel welcome and make you feel treated specially. If you wish to order some truffles or want champagne instead of Prosecco , you can order this online. And we certainly won’t object you bringing your cake on board and will do our best to plate it up nicely for you and your spouse (but then again why would you want to eat this on board and not in your comfy home or destination?).

    Point 2: You are a guest. One of up to 400. Everyone is special, and while we try to treat frequent flyers more specially, you (frequent flyer or not) are still one of 1000+ guests we are having in the course of a couple of days. There are bound to be many, many guests on board that are travelling to or from a funeral, wedding, new job, old job, anniversary… As a guest, please never assume you are more special and DESERVE more than other guests – whether on an aircraft or at friends. Guests don’t do this.

    Point 3 (and this is entirely personal): As stated above, crews are trying to make your stay a pleasurable one, and we’ll prefer doing this for guests who cherish it, not the ones who think they deserve it. Less is more: If you discretely mention your birthday (which can often be seen in the digital crew passenger information devices anyway) or wedding a crew will do more for you than if you demand it.

    In summary: If you want a cake on a carrier that does not provide it, please bring one along or be happy with what the crew comes up with. Don’t be pretentious. Be a guest. No more, no less.



    When I travel, which is usually BA in the back, I have no expectations, I know what I am going to get, and accept that. However I always like to take a small treat for the crew. A box of chocolates, aster eggs at Easter , Mince pies at Christmas. I ask for nothing in return, except that the crew feel valued, as they do a hard job, with so many passengers not realising what their role is. I read somewhere in the article that it is often in frequesnt fliers who expect more, maybe expectations are too high.
    I always give chocolates after service, as a small thank you, even on, or did on Flybe after buying a coffe, with the words ” and something for you as a thank you”. The look of amazement and the thanks, were a real tonic, and worth it. On one Iberia flight the cabin manager said in 14 years flying noone had given him or his crew Chocolates, he was almost in tears. Embarrassingly then he insisted on giving me drinks, nuts and repeated top ups,which caused looks from other pasengers. Rambling here, but the point is never expect, and then you are never disappointed.

    5 users thanked author for this post.


    [postquote quote=993053][/postquote]

    It’s a nice gesture.

    The flip side is that I have a couple of friends who are crew on EK, one of them told me they automatically bin any chocolates received as gifts for fear they have been tampered with.


    Slightly off topic but a couple of years I ago I took my partner to an opera evening in Salzburg during the summer festival, this involved selections from various operas and a four course meal. As it was her 60th birthday I splashed out for a table near to the front for the 4 of us. Before the meal order was taken I was asked if we had been before, I replied yes three times but tonight was special due to my partners birthday. At the end of the evening they ceremonially presented her with a cake, and the whole opera cast, and approx 300 members of the public sang happy birthday to her, nothing was asked for but it made a memorable occasion even more memorable.


    Probably about 25 years ago, my parents went on a cruise and returned to London on BA from somewhere in the Caribbean, I forget whether it was Puerto Rico or Barbados. They were on normal economy tickets. I put a note (OSI – which is information, rather than a request) in the PNR to say that the day they were flying was my mother’s birthday.

    If the check in agent had wished her Happy Birthday whilst handing over the boarding pass my mother would have been delighted. As it was, a small contingent of the BA ground crew formed an impromptu steel band and sang Happy Birthday to her. My parents were then escorted from the lounge onto the aircraft and greeted personally by a senior CC member (my mother thought it was the Captain as he ‘looked important’ and had ‘stripes’ on his shoulder!) I think they got a bottle of bubbly too.

    A lovely gesture and my mother was delighted, and a little embarrassed at the fuss. From then on, whenever my parents flew on BA, they went business class, which shows that treating customers well does engender loyalty. Those were the days when BA was run by people who cared about the airline and its customers and were proud of its Britishness, not like the current rabble.


    Singapore First have always been great on cakes for birthdays and wedding anniversaries but the biggest and most unexpected gift was from Amex Centurion who, when they learnt that our first newfoundland, Saskia, had died, sent a picnic hamper from Fortnum and Mason with the message’ “So you can have a picnic in the woods to remember Saskia”.

    Not surprisingly, they still have our loyalty.

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