American Airlines First Class Service In The Coronavirus Era

Filed Under: American

On Wednesday I flew American Airlines first class from Miami to Las Vegas, which was a roughly five hour flight. I’ve been curious to see firsthand how onboard service has been adjusted as a result of the current pandemic, and wanted to report back on that.

Obviously onboard service is hardly a priority at this point, and some may even be surprised by my conclusion.

American Airlines first class service guidelines

When it comes to American Airlines first class service at the moment, flights fall into three different “tiers” — under 900 miles, 900-2,199 miles, and 2,200+ miles. How does service on these flights differ?

I should note that across all American Airlines first class flights:

  • There are no blankets or pillows
  • There are no pre-departure drinks
  • All service is in cups, so there’s no glassware

Beyond that, here’s what you can expect:

First class service on flights under 900 miles

On flights under 900 miles, American Airlines first class passengers can expect:

  • Drinks (including alcohol) upon request
  • No snacks of any sort

First class service on flights between 900 and 2,199 miles

On flights of 900 to 2,199 miles, American Airlines first class passengers can expect:

  • A paper bag upon boarding with a small snack, hand sanitizer, and a bottle of water; this is the same bag given to all passengers, including in economy
  • Drinks (including alcohol) upon request

First class service on flights of 2,200+ miles

On flights of 2,200 miles or more, American Airlines first class passengers can expect:

  • Meals served on a single tray, rather than in courses
  • Drink service (including alcohol)

My experience flying American Airlines first class

Our Miami to Las Vegas flight was in the air for just under five hours, and was blocked at over five hours. The route covers a distance of 2,174 miles, so we were just 26 miles under the threshold for a flight with a meal service.

For example, a friend recently flew from Miami to Los Angeles, and below is what the one tray meal service looked like on a dinner flight.

Meanwhile on our flight we were handed white paper bags upon boarding by flight attendants — the same were offered in economy and first class.

The bag contained:

  • A bottle of water
  • A honey maple snack (rather than the typical Biscoff or cookie)
  • A single use packet of Purell

That was all the food offered on the flight, and in economy was also the extent of the service (with the exception of non-alcoholic drinks on demand). The only thing I really take issue with is that I think they should offer more than a single use packet of hand sanitizer where you’re on a plane for nearly six hours. I get that procuring hand sanitizer isn’t particularly easy right now.

The flight attendant working first class was lovely, and while service was technically “on demand,” she did pass through the cabin several times to ask if anyone wanted drinks. I had a coffee towards the beginning of the flight (served in a cup rather than a mug).

Towards the end of the flight I had a Diet Coke, served in an unopened can with a plastic cup and some ice.

There’s not much else to report as far as the onboard service goes.

This service was perfectly fine as far as I’m concerned

For so long this blog was largely focused on the minutiae of airline soft products. With the current pandemic, that’s all out the window.

We’ve seen airlines take all kinds of different approaches towards catering during the pandemic. This ranges from Lufthansa maintaining the full regular service in first class, to Turkish Airlines serving boxed lunches and no hot beverages in business class. I don’t think there’s a single right or wrong approach to take.

In the case of this American Airlines flight I’d note:

  • I knew there would be no real meal service, so I brought some snacks
  • If the flight were 24 miles longer there would have been a meal, so don’t totally judge five hour American Airlines first class flights by this

The biggest thing I learned based on my first flight in months is that I’m totally fine with virtually no service, and in many ways prefer it. Some people are bad at following the requirement to wear your mask, though the one exception is that you don’t have to wear your mask while eating and drinking (and some people interpret that rather liberally).

The less service there is, the less opportunity there is for people to take their masks off. I hate that this is what it has to come down to, but frankly I’m not at all opposed to minimal or non-existent service on flights at this point.

Bottom line

American Airlines first class service is very limited right now. On our five hour flight there was a bottle of water, a small packaged snack, and drinks served on demand. And frankly I’m totally fine with that.

At this very moment flying — especially domestically — is about getting between two points as safely as possible. Not much else matters to me right now, personally.

What do you make of American Airlines’ current first class service?

Comments
  1. Total nonsense. When the proper service returns, so will I. Until then, no thank you. This is simply cost cutting masquerading as a safety initiative.

  2. I’m sure it will be politicized and/or we will have some baby tantrums on the comments, but I think this is a responsible post. Good job!

  3. I disagree with ryan but i think he brings up a good point.

    After covid, do airlines really have incentive to restore service? Almost like a game of chicken, first one to do so loses out on some profit. I’m sure delta will lead the way here.

  4. Thanks for the insight. I’d be interested to know how much of a holiday feeling you are having travelling now. Obviously you’re thinking about your blog but I wonder too how often you take your mind off COVID and relax? Probably not in a casino but maybe when on a hike in canyon parks far away from people?

  5. They should be charging less. I understand the need to alter service, but what I do not see is a justification to charge the same first class prices for a less than first class experience. Especially on AA where the service levels were already marginal.

  6. May I ask, what were the alcohol choices…??? On UA its just beer and the economy wine [insert sick face emoji] …

    I have only flown one flight that was of any significant length [SFO-DCA] and I remembered your story about alcohol on one of the dry Middle East carriers, so I bought a few treats for the crew and a bottle of wine for myself and co-worker and asked the F Class F/A if they minded serving us from that…Yes, I know, major first world problem and they technically shouldn’t be doing it, but they did and we were beyond grateful for it…

  7. Honestly, this catering is ridiculous for first class even if it is domestic. Even that hot food looks horrible.

  8. I did the same flight in the same class of service. I had more service on the TPA MIA leg than the MIA LAS leg. The crew basically threw the white paper bag at me upon boarding and never left their jump seat. Not even a hello or goodbye. In contrast, connection thru DFW on the way home the crews were attentive the entire time.

  9. You might have convinced yourself that you can do what you like with your facemask on, but with needless travel you are only risking spread of infection into other areas, particularly if you are starting out from from Florida.

    Show some respect for others, stop being so selfish and do not travel.

    Little wonder that Gov. Cuomo is considering quarantine for people from Florida.

  10. I don’t understand the connection between minimal food in First Class and pandemic hygiene and safety. There is a general medical concesus that food contamination risk is extremely low/non existent and surface contamination risk is very low. And the food is covered anyway. So it really just boils down as an excuse for extreme cost cutting without lowering First Class fares. And, no, I’m not “fine” with that.

  11. Lucky, did you either purchase any food in the airport before your flight and eat it there or bring it onto your flight?

  12. This is nonsense, and it all comes down to cost cutting with a politically correct excuse. Times like this call for additional hygiene/safety precautions, not to stop eating/drinking all together.

  13. Lucky I think you’re going way too easy on them.

    There’s no reason the first class bag couldn’t include additional snacks. They should throw in some chips and chocolate at least.

  14. Don’t see why they can’t offer more even if it is prepackaged. There are many ways to make prepackaged presentable for first class. Without the frills why would anyone pay 2x or 3X the economy fare. First class should be First class period.

  15. This is an insult and it stinks. Count me out. I will wait. And I am NOT fine with no proper meals. I am also not a masked ball fanatic.

  16. @joechivas what has this to do with anything. It’s ridiculous to expect Juneteenth to be remembered in a travel blog unless it’s relevant. Did you remind him about Holocaust Memorial Day ? What about Native Americans who are always ignored ?

  17. I was so happy to see that there was a comment about a mask! Maybe renaming the site “One Mask At A Time” would increase clicks!

  18. I think for lots of us who read this blog (like for Lucky himself), getting there was *more* than half the fun.

    We actually cared about the “minutiae” of good, first-class service.

    Reading this article makes me doubt I’ll be flying much any time soon. I don’t care about status or points right now. I canceled business class tickets I had for Summer (Europe and US).

  19. Republican here. Juneteenth is a big part of American history that marks the end of slavery and included black Americans in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. It should absolutely be a recognized national holiday. Frederick Douglas or Harriett Tubman should be on the face of a US currency.

    How about that coffee in a cup photo ? Merica !

  20. They should do a little better on a flight that long. Maybe throw a few more packaged snacks in the bag.

  21. @Matt

    Ben noted on another post that they were driving around ~three states seeing parks, etc., not going to Las Vegas per se.

  22. Complete trash. This isn’t being done for safety, it’s cost cutting. Why can’t anything be provided for flights under 900 miles unless it’s on demand? Junk. Anyone paying cash or miles for first class is wasting their money if they think it’s a “healthier” way to fly. People behind you in economy are sneezing up a storm, right through that dumb little partition that AA and United have between economy and first lmao.

  23. Quick TSA question, Ben. Did they request that you pull your snacks/food out for separate screening, or were they OK with you leaving it in your carry-on?

    Thank you for giving us an accurate in-flight run-through. I appreciate it.

  24. i think lucky needs to put his saying or position on all of what is going on in the country right now. maybe make a statement that all lives matter and he / we will not stand idly y while racism is running crazy around this country. no more taco bell, or dominos, or anything. that is racist.

  25. It’s OK to sit within 6 feet in a plane. However, it is not OK to serve warm food, extra food (why is there no snack basket?), or install a hand sanitizer station on the plane?
    This is just cost cutting, nothing about safety. I’m tired of airlines doing this.

  26. I agree with @JetAway. I don’t get the whole thing with changes and limited services. Food is covered, and the pillow and blankets normally come in plastic bags (and if they don’t, this should be the practice from now on). If flight attendants wear masks and gloves to serve food, there’s no excuse for a reduction in services under the disguise of minimizing contact and touching surfaces. I just don’t get it. This is the perfect excuse to do cost cutting/profit and never really return to pre-COVID-19 levels of service. In the meantime, you pay the same price or even more. First/business class is not just about the hard product.

  27. Good point, @Frank! Just the sitting arrangement itself invalidates the whole argument of limiting service to reduce contact and touching surfaces.

  28. @d3kingg agree and yet why indigenous Americans ignored ?

    I don’t believe trump knows they exist

    Elizabeth Marie tall chief was a famous ballerina , thakusa witko ( crazy horse ) , Will Rogers (bet many of you didn’t know that ), Geronimo , Pocahontas, and of course Hiawatha

  29. There is no such thing as a decent meal on AA in domestic first even in non-Covid times, it’s all garbage anyway, so I personally don’t care about reduced service. What ticked me off two weeks ago was sitting in a completely full flight, MIA to ORD in first, not a single seat vacant on the entire plane. So much to AA trying to provide any kind of space or distance. I’ll be in UA first a week from now, hoping that will be better.

  30. Due to my mother’s passing on May 15, 2020 in Germany and we could not find flights with American Airlines, we purchased business class tickets with United Airlines for our flight from Denver to Frankfurt. $14,000 and the service was UNBELIEVABLE. no cups, no ice, and prepackaged food From DC to Frankfurt. Of course the entire flight with masks on. What is absolutely disturbing. The airlines take your money but then immediately and before take off you will hear “due to the COVID our services have been reduced” yet the price for a ticket during COVID has …..

  31. I love the keyboard warriors in the comments saying they won’t come back until the proper service comes back. Service in domestic first is a joke, but sure you’re welcome to avoid traveling for 12 months until the legendary AA lobster roll returns.

  32. @Evan. They are charging the same amount of money for less service. Why would that be deemed acceptable to anyone? Air travel right now is optional for most people. I am opting not to partake until they restore the service. Seems perfectly reasonable.

  33. Totally agree with your assessment. I wish they would make it 2000 miles and not 2200 miles 9 but then someone would want it 1950 miles, etc. . . or 2 hours or less 2:01 – 5 hours and over 5 hours would make more sense IMO. I applaud how AA (and others) are handling the situation. I had to fly early on (Easter weekend) to visit my Mom in hospice care (she’s still kick’n at 92) and will be seeing her after July 4th too. Keep up the good work and the airways open and come on folks, wash your hands, wear your mask and keep you distance as much as possible. We will get through this.

  34. Have others gotten alcohol on UA? Several flights in 1st and there was nothing for me. They did at least offer snack boxes in 1st on the mid range flights.

  35. Ben, you could’ve flown on a 777 plane between MIA – LAX instead of an Oasis Seat 738 to Las Vegas.

  36. just like the 9 11 hysteria, COVID will be the rallying cry for reduced and crappy service, not just by the airlines, but across the Board. A ways to cut costs to the minimum, and not go out of anyone’s way to be creative. Its all theatre, to show that they are “doing something” similar to the security checks.

  37. Very disappointing but appreciate your reporting. Not sure why anyone would pay the outrageous 1st or Biz fares for a domestic flight during Covid 19 , only those with miles to burn or elite upgrade status.

  38. Took AA1061 from MIA to LAX yesterday. AA is flying a 777-200 on this route again (returns to MIA as AA 162 the following morning). Flew in first, which on this plane is international business. Really great flight and service…actually had printed menus and a small amenity kit. Even though the flight departed at 9pm, it was a full mean on one tray…actually a pretty good meal. The cabin was full, and the service outstanding. No doubt there is some cost-cutting going on here as well…i.e.: if they can hand out amenity kits and credit card apps, they can leave a blanket at your seat as well. I have found the service and availability of drinks on short flights to be spotty and inconsistent. I have a lot of sympathy for the airlines right now, but they certainly make it difficult when they can’t hand me a diet coke on the shorter flights, but still have no issues handing out credit card apps…that’s insulting.

  39. @ Andrew
    So you think having a couple more inches for your ass on the seat and a few inches extra pitch in F , justifies the thousands of $$ extra charged by AA to fly in F as opposed to Y in the same metal tube between point A and B ? and that any other commentaries here re. reduced drastic F service
    ” will be politicized and/or we will have some baby tantrums ” .. Really ? I am guessing you must have one large posterior then.

  40. This nonsense is an excuse for two reasons: 1) Cut costs and 2) Have as little to do with customers as possible. Domestic F on AA has been on a downward slide for a while and now they have an excuse: Covid! We wish we could put 2 cookies in the bag but….You know……Covid. Really, How will it be unsafe to serve some warm nuts and a cocktail in a glass in F! If FA’s wish to avoid any pax contact during the service, just wear gloves.

    I can’t wait to see what AA does in F to Asia. BYO Blanket and pillow?

  41. Going for “Great Scott! I’m paying F/J prices for this?”

    Essentially, F/J passengers are paying for a larger seat, POSSIBLY free drinks and early boarding/exit. That’s it, right?

    AA has found a way to remain AA. “Last place, here we remain.”

  42. This looks pretty mediocre for so-called first class. I still don’t understand why the airlines aren’t doing more to attract new business and revenue: subpar service can’t be helping. Cutting costs and service in the name of safety, which is clearly the situation here, is very short-sighted. Many customers are going to witness these practices and then purposefully defer all discretionary travel until the volatility in policies and onboard experience reaches a more comfortable and acceptable steady state.

    Maybe the airlines’ hidden agenda is to make the overall travel experience so unenjoyable that people just stay at home. This is their contribution to slowing the spread. Bad business, but very noble.

  43. Ironically the service is now better on AA than Delta. Delta won’t even give you drinks of any kind in first class other than the bottled water. Fortunately all the major airlines fly from my home base although the rates are atrocious.

  44. Isn’t there a typo in the title?

    Shouldn’t it be “American Airlines First Class LACK OF Service In The Coronavirus Era”?

  45. Isn’t this the perfect excuse for the US3 to turn a bad service into a non existencial one ? This kind of treatment on F or J ? No, thank you.

  46. Pre-coronavirus we wondered how low could AA go. Now we know, and it’s not pretty.
    A paper bag of next to nothing is a sick joke, and would embarrass an ultra-LCC airline.
    Of course we know that AA is shameless virus or no virus.

  47. It is scientifically proven that any possible virus on food gets completely destroyed once the food is heated up in a microwave oven. So what is the problem of serving regular warmed up food on first class?

  48. So many people don’t seem to realise that the airlines are between a rock and a hard place here. Some people aren’t flying because the whole experience has been downgraded, but others are not flying for fear of contracting the virus…and for some, contracting the virus while flying will compromise their health or even their life, and the airlines need to show that they were vigilant with their on-board service. I wouldn’t want to be running an airline or hotel for quids at this present time.

  49. nope..i will not travel u til proper service resumes…flying seems absolutely depressing under these conditions…too bad if u have to fly for work..good thing i have a choice.

  50. To contain the virus and minimise impact certain precautions have to be taken, however as the world is slowly opening up again a lot of these measures also mean much less enjoyable travels.

    These service reductions are silly. Five hours in first class and only a few snacks? Wasn’t it St Lucia which bans you from leaving your hotel? I love travel, but until the situation calms down and these are abolished I will stay home.

    A friend of mine asked if I wanted to go to London in August. Currently that would entail 14 days of isolation on arrival, and from what I understand that equals to house arrest, you can’t leave your lodgings. Please correct me if I’m wrong. On my return, I would face another 10 days here – however, in my country you are allowed to go outside but stay away from crowded places, public transport etc. Add to this a requirement to wear masks in public places and lots of community transmission in the U.K. and it’s simply not enticing. Meanwhile, in my country we’ve had less than 250 deaths, currently there are less than 20 people in hospital, no requirements of mask wearing except on planes. I’m lucky to live in a country with great state healthcare, a population which has been good at heeding government advice and as a result things are more or less back to normal apart from limits on group sizes and no nightclubs. Oh, and the country is beautiful, clean, safe and has great restaurant without armed guards.

  51. The airlines are having the best opportunity now to collect revenue. Airfares are high and food or service is nonexistent. The best excuse is to use the topic of COVID which has absolutely no relation to the amount of food.

  52. I’m glad you were satisfied with the offering in first. Frankly I think people forget air travel is and will always be public transport, getting you from point A to B as safely as possible – so clearly AA achieved that –

  53. Interesting that they don’t provide a blanket and pillow. Why? Aren’t they usually provided in plastic bags? Makes we wonder if they were clean or just repackaged for each flight. If the service was as presented in plastic bags, clean for each flight, why on earth do they have to eliminate this service. I can agree with the majority of comments here that the airlines are using Covid as an excuse to reduce expenses. Why not just tell us that because most business minded clients would understand as this industry has been all but bankrupted by the Covid, sad situation!

  54. How about making the flight in coach and reporting back the experience, since that is where most people will be sitting when they return to travel? I don’t see people rushing to pay first class prices for sub-par treatment.

  55. Flew AA First MRY-DFW-BOS.

    Flights were awful. At least the flight attendants could act like they were happy passengers were flying. No smiles on 3 of the 4 flights. Asking for a drink on request was like Oliver Twist asking for more pudding. On the DFW BOS we asked for a white wine. After that cane in a plastic cup, I asked, could we have a refill? The FA said there were two other people also wanting white wine, so we would all have to share.

    The COVID crisis has enabled the FAs to do as little as possible, all in the name of social distancing. Terrible!

    Flying on Saturday on Delta in First. Hoping for a least a smile.

  56. Flew AA First MRY-DFW-BOS.

    Flights were awful. At least the flight attendants could act like they were happy passengers were flying. No smiles on 3 of the 4 flights. Asking for a drink on request was like Oliver Twist asking for more pudding. On the DFW BOS we asked for a white wine. After that cane in a plastic cup, I asked, could we have a refill? The FA said there were two other people also wanting white wine, so we would all have to share. So we got a second glass, but I felt guilty fir asking.

    On the DFW-MRY flight I was told be the flight attendant that people in coach were upset that I was served a drink in First Class, and that she wouldn’t serve me a second glass of wine on a 3 1/2 hour flight.

    A new one for me, coach passengers dictate the service for First Class passengers. That’s AA for you. Absolutely awful.

    The COVID crisis has enabled the FAs to do as little as possible, all in the name of social distancing. They sit and read their phones and books and do nothing for passengers.

    Flying on Saturday on Delta in First. Hoping for a least a smile.

  57. Jeez, all these Karens finally getting back in the air. I’ve been flying for a while now and it’s been glorious! I’m going to New York next week and I see that now it’s going to suck with all the complaining DYKWIA people. BTW, the smart move is just to claim that you have a medical reason for not wearing a mask. Thanks to the wonderful HIPAA laws and ADA stuff it’s completely illegal to challenge anyone about their medical conditions. Just call AA Special Services and let them annotate your record and you are all set. It’s not a requirement but it makes it easier. Make the laws work for you!

  58. What a shame. How is a plastic cup safer than a regular glass? Just because it’s single use doesn’t make it safer – humans have known how to properly clean glassware for decades and I really hope that airlines did that even pre-COVID.

    Silly. If one can get a proper service at a restaurant, I don’t see how’s plane different.

    This is all just cost cutting in disguise.

  59. No one considers the context of reduced catering is not only due to social distancing on board , but restrictions in the catering facilities. In some countries and airports they have all but closed down. There are staff reductions Some catering establishments reported staff having contracted covid Then there is the supply chain. If you travel in business or first of course you benefit from the extra comfort ,baggage and miles
    Food quality food is an expectation but not contracted
    Some say why not reduce the air fare
    The budget for a meal in business is probably around $50 ( in economy is under $10) . Therefore if you paid $5000 what did you expect ? A $2000 reduction ?

  60. @wilhelm the U.K. quarantine is supposed to end 28 June and you refer to your friend inviting you In August

  61. Here’s an idea. If this is the service being provided in the name of safety how about selling only a single class of service – economy, with an extra charge for the “bigger” seats up front?

  62. I join the others that being what 24 miles under there is no meal ?
    I normally buy 1st than try to use miles or rely on upgrade, and this would piss me off since they are still charging 1st fares.
    Now know why private jets are getting tough to find.

  63. This is nonsense. Bring back the good ole days with champagne upon boarding, leaving the bottle of blue label at my seat, steak, fish, you name it. this is crap.

  64. I was surprised you drank airline coffee! Unless it were made with bottled water I am not partaking.

  65. BTW, I have also flown AA first 7 out of 8 flights in the last 9 weeks and your description is pretty much spot on. On only one flight of about 600 miles was I not offered a drink.

  66. Thanks for the info. Exactly what I needed to know. I’m a 69 year old woman in Sonoma County CA agonizing whether or not to get on that plane in 2 days and fly to CT to see my family. I miss them so much it hurts. Upgraded to first and will be masked and wearing a face shield

  67. I’ve been flying AA first for the last couple of months. Most recently from ORD-PHX. The flight attendants were wonderful and there was no problem getting drinks the entire flight. I do wish there was more food/snack options and it could go back to the way it was before Covid. I am flying United first on Friday between ORD-IAH wondering what that will be like…..

  68. I’ll be flying first class from Tampa to Seattle soon. I’ll be doing everything I can to avoid getting sick; mask, gloves, wipes. I won’t accept any food or drink. I’ll bring my own water/snacks.
    Fingers crossed.

    This is not a Democrat or Republican issue and the sooner people realize this, the sooner the virus will be a memory.

  69. I flew Las Vegas and Dallas on American and experienced the same white bag service very sad, considering I just flew Las Vegas – San Fransisco first class on Alaska and was pleasantly surprised when they offered a more then generous snack pack, which I opted for the mediterranean which included olives, pita chips, chocolate, nuts, hummus, and fruit snack. Perhaps American needs to take a note from Alaska and be able to offer something similar to first class passengers.

  70. I’ll be flying AA First from SFO-CLT-DSM in mid-August. The flight to Charlotte clocks in at 96 miles above the 2200 mile threshold so it’ll be interesting to see what service is like there.

    I’m looking forward to seeing if American will improve service if COVID is less severe by then. If not then I really see no point in flying in first until things change a lot.

  71. As a corporate jet pilot, I have flown all during Covid on the airlines. I am based in DFW, so AA is my main line, but I have flown Delta. I fly mostly FC or get upgraded, as I made my way up the Platinum food chain very quickly this year (45,000 miles) As this is my job, my clients prefer I stay safe, but I agree…the lack of service and prices do not correlate. Delta is already doing better service in both FC and their clubs. But for me this is JOB security as my wealthy clients will not fly on the airlines and this keeps me busy. AA can definitely do more little things and make more attempts to improve service. It seems to be dependent on the lead flight attendant.

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