American Launching Improved Meals on All International Flights

American Airlines launched their Sydney flight with an improved meal service. American executives described it as a test. The flight was expected to be higher yield, justifying the investment which was also necessary as a part of their joint venture with Qantas given the expectations of Qantas customers.

Back in December I asked whether the better meals would be rolled out more broadly, and at the time they didn’t know. It seemed a good guess that it would be a part of the Auckland flight, which is included in the joint venture with Qantas. And that it could be something American would do on high yield ultra long haul flying like Dallas – Hong Kong. I didn’t expect it would spread systemwide.

However that’s exactly what American’s CEO Doug Parker shared at the JP Morgan airline and transportation conference yesterday. (HT: Demetrius for the location of Parker’s .pdf slide deck.)

Note the shout out as well to the One Mile at a Time blog in the presentation deck!

We don’t yet know the particulars beyond the Sydney flight. The ‘concepts’ will likely be the same, although specific menu choices should differ since Sydney gets a very customized Australia-inspired menu.

The First Class Meal Concept

American only offers international first class on its Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 777-200s that haven’t yet been reconfigured with the new business class product (a process Parker says will be completed in 2017). That means there’s only a limited and shrinking number of flights that will feature the new concept that’s in service on Los Angeles – Sydney.

They offer smoked almonds at your seat upon boarding. Olives and potato chips after takeoff.

They’ve redesigned the menu to offer a variety of small plates in addition to main dishes. The idea is that some passengers may want a salad and a variety of small dishes, first class passengers can mix and match from the menu as they wish. The flight will be over-provisioned around 150% to meet customer choice in how they organize their meals.

American introduced a canapé service like the old amuse bouche which was discontinued with the merger.

First and business class meals are on a 3 month rotation, and offerings are different in each direction based on what’s seasonal at the originating station.

Small plate offerings currently include poached Maine lobster, lamb carpaccio, and a meatless option roasted tomato tart.

Salad is served in a bowl, a larger portion than currently offered. This one focuses on the greens with few added ingredients. (There’s a choice of a salad dressing or balsamic and olive oil.)

When I visited the new meals launch event they highlighted a soup course of butternut squash with marshmallows.

First class has 4 main meal options.

You can pair extra vegetables/sides with any entree.

The cheese course consists of 3 cheeses served on a cheese board (business class has 2 cheeses).

Traditional desserts include a chocolate mousse and a warm sticky pudding.

Separate from dessert there’s a chocolate service for pre-bedtime.

Mid-flight snacks include wagyu sliders and a mezze, and there are also packaged snacks at the bar. These are the same in business class.

Breakfast includes 3 choices, two of which are similar to business class. There’s a traditional American breakfast, a continental option, and unique to first class a sweet option.

Business Class Concept

Service in business class begins with warmed nuts and a cocktail offering.

There are 4 entree choices. The trays come pre-plated, the only difference is the entree that’s added, and those are pre-plated as well (versus individually plated in first class).

Ice cream sundaes in business class are pre-made rather than built individually as in first class, and there’s a cheese plate as well.

Business class gets the same mid-flight snacks as first class, and two of the same breakfast choices (although not as upscale a yogurt), lacking only the third sweet breakfast choice.

Business class seems an improvement over the current international fare. First class represents a huge difference. I look forward to seeing how this translates from the Sydney flight to the rest of the system later in the year.

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. So provide fervent food only if there are enough paying customers?

    I have always said, steal the airline blankets and give it to an homeless person. Win, win, lose.

  2. Those meals are supposed to look like that on the plane—-it never does, of course. I hope the switch those strips of bacon (a massive load of petrified fat and cholesterol sitting in a plane) with grilled veal.

  3. I’m looking forward to my first long haul first class experience to Sydney later this year. I’m more interested in the seat/bed than the food, but some of that food looks yummy.

  4. I wonder why they still use nuts given the extent of nut allergies. We flew business to Europe last year and told the flight attendant of our daughter’s nut allergy when she asked if we’d like a pre-departure drink. Sure enough, she put down a bowl of nuts in front of her. I scooped it up and put it on my table. She looked at me and said, “That’s right. You did tell me that. Sorry.” I often wonder what people do when they have an airborne allergy to nuts/peanuts. It’s got to be terrifying for people.

  5. I cannot believe OMAAT made an investor slide deck at a conference…that is truly incredible.

  6. Gary would you please provide a primer on traveling with infants on award travel when – you are bored for a topic.

  7. I’m always stunned by the quantity of food offered in first and business class. Based on the quantity, one would think passengers were preparing for something physically challenging. Instead, passengers are essentially getting ready for 8-14 hours (on an international flight) of sitting and/or sleeping.

  8. I found the AA72 J class food to be a small, but at the same time noticeable step up. It doesn’t take much effort to really differentiate a product. I loved that the salad was actually that, a salad. A nice big plate of (fresh, crisp) mixed greens with a healthy dressing. Many AA salads frustrate me because they consist of cheese and a creamy dressing, garnished with a some tomatoes and a few limpish leaves of lettuce.

  9. The J food actually looks better than the J CX food SYD-HKG ! Hope the standard can be maintained!

  10. Doug – if you care about employees, why is AA the only airline NOT to give profit sharing? Pay might have gone up, so did the cost of the medical we now have to pay. You say you rather have higher wages but I do not see it. Practice what you preach. You want a happy work group, show them with better work rules, profit sharing, airplanes that work and more.

  11. So how much does AA pay you to pimp their products this much? Must be a hell of a deal – they comp you a few upgrades and you give them all this free pub. Tell us Gary – what does AA give you that they don’t give us?

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