American Responds: Bringing Back Some Meals and Improving Snacks

On September 1 American aligned its domestic first class meal service with US Airways.

Back in April US Airways got more meals. And then in September American got fewer meals. Effectively the two airlines met in the middle — US Airways had been serving meals on flights of 3.5 hours or longer, and American on flights of 2 hours or longer (more or less). Now they both serve meals on flights of roughly 2 hours 45 minutes.

That’s left out some markets where meals made real sense – not just because of flight length, but also because of premium traffic and competition. Indeed, just before American puts its new meal standards in place United announced they were adding meals to flights.

In general American customers have been unhappy with the changes.

Rather than the changes being set in stone though, American apparently realizes they didn’t get it quite right with the September 1 meal services standards and they’re updating their meal service again. They’ll:

  • Bring back meals to some flights where they had been cut (flights between 2 hours 30 minute and 2 hours 45 minutes, plus more exception markets)
  • Bring back key meal elements that had been eliminated.
  • Improve the quality and time-appropriateness of some of the service

In other words — and we’ll see how well they do with this — they’re responding to the frustration that customers have expressed and in a really positive way.

We will be adjusting meal tray service to flights of about 2:30 hours; we will also maintain tray service on exception markets as previously announced and add additional markets to include ORD-AUS; DCA/IAD-MIA and DFW-MEX.

On flights of about 2:00 to 2:30 hours, we will offer warmed mixed nuts in addition to a redesigned snack basket containing only a choice of higher quality sandwiches, Milano cookies and bananas. On early morning flights, the basket will be adjusted to include breakfast-type breads, fig bars, apples and bananas.

Another important change will be the reinstatement of ice-cream dessert service on dinner flights of about 3:30 hours or more. This was a signature element of American’s service and we are bringing it back to match the prior standard.

We are working to implement these changes as soon as we can. We expect to add tray service to the additional exception markets beginning October 16. All other changes will occur in phases beginning November 1.

So specific flights get added as ‘exception markets’ — meals despite being less than 1000 miles (DC – Miami, Chicago – Austin, and Dallas – Mexico City).

They’re bringing back warm nuts which had been the subject of cutbacks on flights between two and two and a half hours. And they’re adjusting the snack basket. I’m hopeful that ‘higher quality sandwiches’ means something other than the inedible curry chicken. I assume at least it does, since ‘higher’ is a comparative word, so it should be ‘higher quality than before’ as opposed to just “high quality” (cough).

Time-appropriate snack baskets are also a big deal, for those 6am flights where a bag of chips just isn’t breakfast food.

And… ice cream sundaes. Airlines always seem to be cutting and then bringing back ice cream sundaes. Because every time you cut ice cream sundaes you hear about it. Customers are passionate about ice cream sundaes.

    American Airlines Ice Cream Sundae

I still think that meals matter, and belong on flights that don’t currently get them. It’s not just the length of a single flight segment. Connections matter. Taking a 50 minute flight yesterday, slightly delayed and with a scheduled 45 minute connection to begin with I got on a 2 hour flight. That was four hours’ of travel time without time to eat before or during a connection. And I did the same thing on the return at dinner time.

What this new round of adjustments means is something we’ll see in a month, but I find it encouraging that they’re continuing to make adjustments.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] News is out on the larger blogs as well as the message boards now that American Airlines has wised up on some of the choices it made regarding meals served in First Class. In summary, American is further refining its meal changes and returning some (if not most) of what was lost on September 1. Here’s a quick rundown with a hat tip to Gary. […]


  1. The issue was less the lack of meals than the quality of what’s being served versus before. Still a massive downgrade. That’s a longer lead time change, but it needs to be made clear as a necessary item for the future.

    Reality is they saw UA announce an extension of its meal window just a week prior and got stuck in a corner. Thank UNITED for influencing this.

  2. But no change to the frozen dinners consisting of gloppy low-quality meat in gross sauce? That’s a new problem not addressed by this response from AA.

  3. I agree with Mike. The problem is the food itself. They need to stop trying to make these low end “gourmet” meals. Simplify it with better quality.

  4. I can’t stand the Sundaes—loaded with calories. AA should get rid of that. Instead, AA should get a local ice cream maker and serve chocolate in a cup with a spoon.

    As for enhanced meals, where’s the Lobster tails in the salad? Bring that back!

    Thanks. ED

  5. Yes, Mark — by now you should grasp that one of the things that Gary covers is food… on a plane and at the destination. You always seem so surprised. Since you comment on it every time, though, you probably shouldn’t be.

    If you start a blog, you’re free never to write about food. Or even to eat, if you prefer!

  6. @serfty – remember that ANC service is seasonal so no need to announce changes to that one now. Flights departing after 8pm already got the short shrift pretty much before the US Airways merger. That 8pm MIA-SEA flight for instance, the mediocre offering was always kind of shocking to me.

  7. At least it seems AA is listening to customer complaints and acting. This is more than can be said for many other airlines.

  8. @mdtravel

    No, mdtravel. You sit in economy to watch the movie, got it. My connection goes to Narita, yours goes to DEN to smoke the hootch.

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