As airlines tried to balance cost and safety concerns in an unprecedented new era of travel, premium cabin meal service was one of the first cuts. While other carriers have made clear there are no immediate plans to restore first class meals onboard, American Airlines has been experimenting. It’s re-introduction of “real” food is a positive step, but also a sign of how our expectations have changed.
American Airlines Adds Choice To First Class Meals
Over the course of pandemic American Airlines has yo-yoed between meal service offerings in a unique way. It was the last major U.S. legacy to cut meal service when the pandemic began and the first to restore it on some flights.
Then it cut it once again, subbing hot meals for fruit and cheese plates, and now it is bringing back meals similar to what passengers used to be offered for sale in the main cabin.
As first noted by View from the Wing, American Airlines will start offering a choice of light meals in first class on flights over 900 miles beginning on August 26, 2020.
Meals will be individually wrapped in disposable packaging.
The following routes will still receive meals:
- New York ⇄ Los Angeles/San Francisco
- Honolulu ⇄ Dallas
American Airlines First Class Breakfast
On flights departing between 5:00AM and 9:45AM, first class passengers can choose between:
- Continental breakfast box (yogurt, granola, blueberries)
- Turkey + Swiss croissant
American Airlines First Class Lunch + Dinner
On flights departing between 9:46AM and 9:00PM, first class passengers can choose between:
- Fruit & cheese plate
- Turkey + havarti sandwich
American Airlines’ Senior Vice President of Flight Service Jill Surdek hinted at a new “modern” approach to meal service earlier this month:
“We’re not going to come back with full tray services immediately. There’s going to have to be some interim step. And I really think there’s an opportunity to re-think it. When you think about the footprint we have for meal service and how we served, it’s been very similar over the years. And is there a way to bring back something that still has a premium feel but is different and more modern, and is this an opportunity to reset in a way that we might have made more incremental changes before.”
We now see what that is.
And yes, we see that “modern” truly did mean skimpier meals. After all, what American Airlines will soon offer is no different than what it used to sell in economy class.
But it’s hard to fault American Airlines here. While Delta and United offer only snack boxes, this is something more. Frankly, the sandwiches look tasty and are probably better than some of the cheese-infused first class meals that characterized AA first class for years.
But why not some chips and fruit with the meal? Or at least a hot cookie that could be placed in a bag so as to avoid contact with passengers? Perhaps some hot mixed nuts currently on sale?
It’s clear these meal service enhancements are about saving money, but at least AA is offering something a bit more substantial than shelf-stable sugary or salty snacks.
The back-and-forth from American Airlines demonstrates it is still trying to find its footing concerning meal service. That’s perfectly understandable, at this point. I still think AA could distinguish itself in a positive way by offering full meals onboard. If flight attendants are simply handing trays or handing boxes to each passenger, it hardly matters what kind of food is on them from a safety perspective. Ultimately, AA must decide if it wants to court customers based upon soft product. I hope that it will.