Expect Changes To Airline Lounge Catering

Filed Under: American

Airlines have a tough road ahead of them, and are responding to it in various ways. Not only do they have to deal with a reduction in demand, but they also need to put more of an emphasis on cleanliness and safety than ever before.

With that in mind, expect some significant changes to the service procedures in lounges.

American Airlines Admirals Club changes

As noted by @xJonNYC, in a memo to American Airlines employees, the company revealed that they’re making significant changes to how food and drinks are served in Admirals Clubs and Flagship Lounges:

Changes to lounge procedure: We’re making changes to our Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge procedures to provide even more peace of mind for customers. Effective Monday, March 16, American will replace buffet-style food with individually portioned, covered food items and will shift most self-serve beverages to individual portions (e.g. milk cartons) or bartender/wait staff service. More details will be coming soon.

To give you a sense of what will be changing, in Flagship Lounges American will replace buffet-style food with individually portioned food items:

  • This includes both hot and cold breakfast and all-day options
  • Milk carafes will be replaced with individual cartons in beverage fridges and other beverage dispensers (water, tea, etc.) will be moved behind the bar

In Admirals Clubs, breakfast and all-day set up will be displayed on trays, either pre-packaged or individually wrapped:

  • This includes both hot and cold breakfast and all-day options
  • Pre-packaged Quaker oatmeal with hot water available
  • Soup will no longer be served
  • Milk carafes will be replaced with individual cartons in ice bath or frost top and other beverage dispensers (water, tea, juice, etc.) will be moved behind the bar

On top of that, across the board:

  • Bulk condiments will be replaced with portion-controlled packets
  • Snack dispensers will be replaced with individually wrapped or pre-packaged snacks
  • Cutlery and napkins will be pre-packaged
  • Apples will be wrapped
  • Desserts will remain in the same display but individually wrapped
  • More frequent cleaning of touchscreens on beverage machines
  • Food for purchase will still be available
  • Avocado Toast and Guacamole Action Stations will still be offered, as the portions are individually made by servers using gloves

I’m sure American won’t be alone in adjusting lounge catering in light of the situation.

Expect big changes to lounge food & drink offerings

Lots of airline lounges are closing as well

While the above is being done for health and safety reasons, on the cost cutting front we’re seeing airlines around the world start to close lounges. While Cathay Pacific was one of the first airlines to do this in Hong Kong, we’ve seen many other airlines around the world follow.

I expect we’ll soon see a significant uptick in the number of lounges that are closed in light of reduced demand, as a cost saving measure. We’ll probably see the number of lounges in hub airports reduced, and I can also see lounges at smaller stations closing temporarily due to reduced demand.

Cathay Pacific has closed The Pier First Class Lounge

Bottom line

While hardly the most important thing in this saga, airlines will no doubt be adjusting their service protocols to limit the amount of self service in airline lounges. On top of that, I’d expect many lounges to close over the next several weeks as a cost cutting measure, given reduced demand.

If you’ve visited an airport lounge in the past few days, did you notice any differences? 

  1. Was just in the centurion lounge at LAX and they had staff at the buffet to plate and serve food for “health reasons”.

  2. It is more than two weeks ago that JAL stopped buffets in Japan, and only had individually wrapped items. Same for ANA. Nothing new in these steps. Hotels in Tokyo also took similar steps more than two weeks ago, no breakfast buffets, only set courses from the kitchens.

  3. Overdue. In the BA 1st lounge at LHR a few days ago, I watched a posh-looking woman at the buffet sticking her hand into a bowl of Parmentier potatoes and shoving them straight into her mouth.

    Coronavirus. Food hygiene. Manners. What are they?

  4. individual portions (e.g. milk cartons)

    What happened to all the global warming fanatics? Did someone at Greenpeace got the virus?
    Where is Greta thanking the virus that stop airplanes.
    Why isn’t Trump attacking the hoax claiming that the virus was a climate change weapon.
    Now if the virus dies down in the spring or summer, will someone be crazy enough to support global warming to cook future viruses?

    That’s why humans are bunch of hypocrites. Too busy buying hand sanitizers to worry about climate.

  5. Do what they do at the Escape Lounges where all the hot food is in individual covered hot bowls that are put out.

  6. Admirals also cutting lounge benefits. I was in MIA Admirals Tuesday morning. They said newspapers were being discontinued in all Admirals and Flagship lounges worldwide as of March 30. Also, previously as EXP connecting internationally my boarding pass had been coded with 2 free premium drinks or bottled water. MIA Admirals near Gate 15 said that was no longer offered and hadn’t been for some time. They said I should go to the Flagship lounge if i wanted free bottled water, but Flagship lounge is by gate 30, not near my departure lounge. On my outbound flight from LGA to Mia (connecting to EXE) the premium drink coding was in my boarding pass. MIA representatives said premium drink boarding pass coding was being discontinued nationwide.

  7. The buffets have long been disgusting with so much cross-contamination. Airlines should have switched to pre-made salads, yogurt parfaits, etc. years ago.

  8. I’ve noticed alarmingly for years now how people use their hands and dig into buffet items in lounges. I was happy when the guacamole to order was added to the Admirals Clubs a few years ago which was both a healthy alternative, a fresh alternative and a clean one. If anything good comes out of this Coronavirus tragedy maybe it will be cleaner practices, both personally and in businesses that serve the public.

  9. I was at the T1 C Delta Sky Club at SFO on Thursday. No changes to the buffet, and Food Network’s Aarti Sequaria was in the club demonstrating some recipes from her cookbook. Was a great way to end the trip. Outside of some additional hand sanitizer stations in the Club, I didn’t see anything different. SFO and MSP were pretty quiet as far as travelers go.

  10. Ok and will the ticket price greatly reduce because carton box drink and tiny ugly portioned food are not what is expected in business lounge !

  11. More over what is nice now is that it is buffet. You take what you want what you will eat to avoid waste. For me by exemple i like the salad buffet. There are bowls with red beats corn salad carrots potatoes and so on… so as i like corn and red beat i fill up my plate with them and only them. Now you tell me you are going to offer me mixed salad in carton plastic box pre made….. ok so i will and encourage other customers to do so to take not one box but as many as they want to have enough of the veggies they want , open them, throw on the floor the veggies they dont want and the spent boxes too to gather in one box what they want. If they turn to pre made box that is what i will do!

  12. The Strata Lounge in AKL is still going all out with buffet. Saw an old man snapping photos of the buffet, cough into his hands, then serve himself some brownies.

  13. @TARA,
    Quit the tantrum.
    There is a contagious virus going around that can be fatal. Take as many as you want and discard the remains properly, not on the floor as you suggested.

  14. If they were soo concerned with passenger safety then maybe its not a good idea to close the lounges leading to everyone sitting together in the terminal instead of being more spread out.

  15. I see no evidence of “enhanced” procedures in QANTAS lounges in the interests of health and safety.
    In Singapore, the F Lounge is a la carte only, so better than buffet ( if one can bear the extreme number of DYKWIA wankers there at any time, but seems to peak with BA departures).
    The J Lounge has buffet, the numbers are way down ( F Lounge had more people, but it will close April 20th, meaning J Lounge will become a zoo again), so keeping a distance was not a problem. Bottles of hand sanitizer everywhere.
    The domestic J lounges: no change, all buffet ( the food is very poor quality, I don’t eat it, preferring to pay $15 for something tasty , to go, from one of the retail outlets and consuming in the lounge. Lounge coffee is ok.
    No hot water in the men’s bathroom in the Melbourne J Lounge today.

  16. United Club LAX serving food as of Saturday morning. Guests kept “one meter” away. Coffee and soft drinks still self serve.

  17. You’re all a bunch of germaphobes. Read the numbers: minor illness, causing mass panic, causing major economic catastrophe.

    This panic, through various effects, will end up killing more people than the pandemic.

  18. Ever since I discovered the process of Changi Airport lounges being supplied their food, I never stepped into a lounge ever again unless it’s made to order.

    I really do not think Star Alliance Gold is really worth that food.

    Even for the most premium of lounges, it’s cheap shit, and you won’t believe when it was last cooked. It’s so ironic that Economy Class passengers are in reality, getting better food by paying for it at the airport, and flying Economy.

    It just unsettling how airlines feel like they can get away with it, because they know how to compensate you.

    Honest to God, I am not lying about this.

  19. I will say however. It is actually where you sit, how you travel as a business traveller that the problem stems from.

    These problems, mean that it’s safe to say that elites are more unhygienic.

    Consider, an elite travelling for work, let’s assume he’s infected but doesn’t know it. He’ll be on his phone, he’ll be manually checked in, he’ll go into the lounge and talk over everyone, to get a cup of coffee, be nice to fellow passengers, he will be on his laptop on his phone while eating. And he will be rushing to the gate, where he will want to be first, where he’ll talk again…

    The corona virus spreads when your saliva, mucus comes into contact with your hands, face and mouth, and then whatever you touch after that… is biohazard, until you actually wash hands with soap.

  20. Seems like hot oatmeal and soup would be better served from their heated containers rather than getting rid of them. The virus has a very short lifespan once the temperature rises. Just change the ladles more often if they’re worried…or have one server dole it out. Soup is about the only decent thing in most of these buffet-style lounges.

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