Over the weekend, American Airlines announced that it would scale back meal service in domestic premium cabins. As innocuous as that seems with all the worries on our plate, it is a shortsighted move and insulting to customers. Yet part of me cannot blame American Airlines for the meal service cuts as it tries find its footing in a harsh new environment.
American Airlines Cuts Meals On Many Flights Over 2200 Miles
Throughout the pandemic, American Airlines has offered full meals in business and first class on flights over 2200 miles. A couple weeks ago, American added a fruit and cheese plate to flights between 900-2200 miles. Now, AA will offer the fruit and cheese plate on all domestic flights over 900 miles with just a handful of exception markets which will continue to receive meals:
- New York ⇄ Los Angeles/San Francisco
- Honolulu ⇄ Dallas
Meals like this have recently been cut from American Airlines
A fruit and cheese plate is now offered instead
A couple things to address first.
First, United Airlines also only offers meal service on its premium transcontinental flights and longer Hawaiian flights. Meanwhile, Delta does not offer meal service at all right now on domestic flights, instead offering only snack boxes. In that sense, American Airlines still surpasses both Delta and United in terms of meal offering, because the fruit and cheese plate, at least historically, has been very tasty. Second, JetBlue has recently restored meal service, but only offers it on Mint transcontinental flights.
The AA move is concerning (and at least newsworthy) because it seems to be moving in the wrong direction, not the right way (like JetBlue). But it’s not even about that.
One Mile at a Time and View from the Wing debate over whether a strong inflight experience is more important than ever. I tend to agree with One Mile at a Time that the most people just don’t care and would much rather have a blocked middle seat. But that’s speculation at this point and View from the Wing rightly notes that there is something wrong with the idea that a first class passenger traveling on back-t0-back six hours flights (like Philadelphia to Los Angeles to Honolulu) receives no meal onboard, just a snack. With most airport concessions still closed, planning food and drink is another stress point in today’s travel experience.
What I liked about AA’s early decision to keep (mostly) full meal service on flights over 2200 miles was how it differentiated AA from others. This pandemic era is the perfect time to experiment. Remember a few weeks ago I wrote about Delta’s bid to become the premium U.S. airline? It seems to be working. Delta says blocked middle seats are the number one reason people are choosing Delta right now.
American Airlines has decided not to block middle seats. But while United cut meals and amenities like blankets, flying transcontinental flights was largely like normal on American Airlines. Maybe AA found this just didn’t matter and customers did not care one way or the other. Maybe that is why American Airlines is now more aggressively resuming service and dumping cheap fares in many markets, unlike Delta and United.
Let’s face it: American Airlines and premium are not synonymous. It could be that AA just decided not to bother.
That’s why I am so split on this. On the one hand, I think airline meals only matter to a small subset of the traveling public. But who will splurge for a first class seat, especially on American Airlines, when seats and legroom are only marginally more comfortable than Main Cabin Extra and there is no service onboard? Doesn’t it just make sense to buy two economy class seats to be able to stretch out even more and save money? Does AA really want its premium cabins filled with complimentary elite upgrades and employees?
I do not think meal service matters to most people, especially now. But I also think this is a move in the wrong direction and represents an odd decision to punish the few passengers still buying premium cabin tickets in this era. I doubt AA will reconsider this move, but it simply seems “penny wise, pound foolish” as American Airlines positions itself to win back business in the longterm.
Your thoughts? Does anyone care about AA cutting meal service on most domestic flight over 2200 miles?