American sent out a press release today, “FREE MAIN CABIN MEALS COMING ON SELECT COAST-TO-COAST FLIGHTS” of course ‘select’ is the operative word. American Airlines will offer free meals in economy only on the New York JFK – San Francisco and New York JFK – Los Angeles routes starting May 1.
Here’s what the meals will consist of:
Depending on the time of day, customers will be offered a continental breakfast or a boxed meal with a sandwich wrap, kettle chips and dessert. The menu also includes a vegetarian option and a fruit and cheese plate.
American Airlines Airbus A321T Economy
These are premium routes (United used to offer only extra legroom seating in economy) and more importantly Delta began testing free food in back on these routes back in December.
So it’s a competitive response. In January I wrote that United and American blindly copy Delta for all the wrong things. They assume if Delta does it, it must be smart, like opening a fast food restaurant across the street from McDonald’s knowing that McDonald’s has a tremendous research and analytics capability behind where to locate stores.
Moreover American doesn’t want to lose customers especially on these flights. However Delta didn’t just roll out meals in economy on New York to San Francisco and Los Angeles, they added meals to a total of 12 routes including others where they compete head-to-head with American:
- Washington National – Los Angeles (where Delta will offer fully flat seats up front)
- New York JFK – San Diego
- New York JFK – Seattle
The New York JFK flights, in particular, are ones where you’d expect American to add this service next since they’re already provisioning economy meals at that airport.
Meals alone won’t attract customers, investment in product has to be a part of an integrated strategy at developing a more premium brand. So far though American seems to be fighting a rear-guard action to avoid losing customers.