Why I Order Kosher Breakfasts On American Airlines

Filed Under: American, Travel

Generally speaking I find American Airlines’ domestic first class catering to be pretty bad. Not only do the meals mostly taste really low quality, but my issue is how unhealthy most of the dishes are.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a tasty and unhealthy meal as much as the next person, but if I’m going to have a 2,000 calorie meal, I’d like it to at least taste good. It blows my mind how much low quality cheese American puts into just about all of their dishes, whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

So while I’m generally not a fan of American’s domestic food, the great thing is that they let you order special meals on most flights that serve meals. Some of these are really, really, really good. Like, restaurant quality good, and as far as I’m concerned it’s better than just about anything else you’ll be served on a domestic flight (save for JetBlue Mint).

I’ve written extensively about my love for American’s Asian Vegetarian meals. While these are fairly consistently good, my absolute favorites are the ones catered out of JFK.

The catch is that the Asian Vegetarian meals are typically only great for lunch and dinner, but not so much for breakfast.

In this post I wanted to share a tip for getting the best breakfast you can on American. I always order Kosher meals for breakfast on American, and while I’ve written about it in passing in the past, it occurred to me I never fully explained why, and shared pictures of what’s offered.

My issue with American’s breakfasts is that usually their omelets are disgusting. They’re filled with highly processed cheese, and they usually come with some sort of pork on the side (I don’t eat pork, not due to any dietary needs or religious beliefs, but because I like pigs).

And that’s why American’s Kosher breakfasts are so great. Here’s how the American Airlines Kosher breakfast is served:

As you can see, it’s fully wrapped, in accordance with Kosher guidelines.

If that’s not something you actually need, the downside is that you’ll be doing a lot of unwrapping. It’s not just getting the aluminum and wrapping off each dish, but they’re also “tied” together with a sticker, which can be tough to remove.

So the side of your seat will look something like the below.

But the food is actually really good.

On the most basic level I like American’s Kosher meals because it seems to be the only way to just get a plain old omelet. I don’t want cheese or sausage or anything, so this meal is always a plain omelet with mushrooms and potatoes.

The sides are actually pretty delicious as well. There’s a side of fruit, which is good enough, but then it comes with a bunch of sweets as well. The cherry pastry is consistently very good, as is the pineapple cherry cake.

I don’t know why there’s a need for a croissant, a danish, and cake with breakfast, but it does give you a nice selection. 😉 So much for trying to eat healthy… oh well, at least these things taste good!

Bottom line

The ability to order special meals in domestic first class on American has really changed my impression of their catering.

For breakfast I love ordering a Kosher meal, so I can get a plain omelet, while for lunch and dinner I love the Asian Vegetarian meals, which are almost always delicious.

Anyone else enjoy using special meals to improve your American dining experience? 😉

Comments
  1. There is so much wrong with this I can barely breathe. Not least being the wasteful wrapping. And want is it with Americans and cheese? I can’t believe what you do to cheese.

  2. You seem blissfully ignorant of the fact that all these breakfast items conform to the Jewish dietary regulations of kashrut, primarily derived from Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

  3. @Joe Chivas –

    I’m pretty sure Lucky understands kosher food implies something more important than being wrapped separately.

    You don’t need to define kosher for us, thanks.

  4. I love this! I’ve done the same thing to make sure I had better a quality meal. Thanks for the tip on the Asian vegetarian meals!

  5. I have always been curious to try this, but having perused flyertalk decided against ordering kosher meals for most airlines as they tend to be generally terrible mostly and often not heated through properly due to all the wrapping and this is from Jewish people on there.

    It apparently depends on the supplier apparently, a lot of airlines use Stogel which is a Belgian company and generally universally disgusting but used cos it is cheap – Delta is a particularly prolific user of them which is no surprise. There are a couple of good caterers – Hermolis based in North London in the UK which BA and Cathay Pacific use for flights catered out of Heathrow is meant to be pretty good, and I hear Turkish Airlines have some of the best Kosher meals – they are always catered from Istanbul and they use a small native Jewish supplier based there.

    So yeah that is my wierd knowledge of Kosher airline catering despite not beint Jewish – I doubt I will ever fly AA but if I do find myself on them and it is breakfast time, I will keep this tip in mind!

  6. Lucky, while I understand the standard food is pretty miserable, I am shocked by the wastefulness of the meal packing.

    OK, our favorite mode of travel here isn’t the greenest, but maybe we should at least try to avoid the worst excesses. Even if the actual impact of the added packing here is negligible (which I think is perfectly possible), the sheer amount of waste just sends a very wrong message.

  7. @H: This isn’t just for the sake of it, my understanding is as Kosher food has to be prepared in a Kosher kitchen to stay kosher, to enable these meals to be heated in the normal on-board oven where other non-kosher foods may have been prepared, they are wrapped to avoid contamination and make them non-kosher. If you know any jewish people who keep strict Kosher, you will have heard the story about a flight attendant unwittingly unwrapping it to heat it by mistake thus meaning they can no longer eat their meal…

  8. @vlcnc: I understand the implications of a kosher diet on planes (no offense taken). What I meant is that I wouldn’t feel comfortable causing so much waste without being subject to the restrictions making this necessary.

  9. oh. Another “AA is awful but here’s how I manage to tolerate it and fly them all the time” Post. How original of you.

  10. I once ordered the Kosher meal on a domestic flight Sydney to the Gold Coast. Someone had recommended it to me because they said you get more food considering it’s such a short flight (just over an hour). So while everyone was eating their half sandwich/snack, I was tucking into an almost full meal complete with snacks on the side.

  11. Isn’t ordering a Kosher meal when one doesn’t only eat Kosher food pretty similar to those who inaccurately claim pets are actually emotional support companions?

    I’d also say that this suggestion is somewhat offensive to practising Jews because it doesn’t respect the religious significance of Kosher food and instead demeans it to simply be a way of getting a “better” breakfast.

    I really think that this post is inappropriate. If, privately, you do this then don’t ask don’t tell might apply but boasting of it and encouraging others to do the same seems really disrespectful to me.

  12. I appreciated your suggestion on the Middle Eastern meal on AA in a previous article. It’s my go to now as a result for lunch or dinner in domestic first. This one though does not look all that great. I rarely eat breakfast on planes anyway as it’s so bad and I prefer to have it prior to boarding or I suffer from low self-esteem 🙂

    Just can’t understand how European and Asian carriers can do such decent catering for what I will assume is not much difference in cost. Even BA on short haul flights can put together a tasty small snack. Would be interested to see the cost difference and I will bet that it’s not significant per passenger when compared to the junk on the U.S. big three. My take is that lack of competition for the catering function is the real culprit.

    I wish these U.S. catering firms would get some real competitors from the likes of Do&Co etc to come in and shake things up on the quality to cost level. Would even be a great opportunity for firms like Zoe’s and Panera to expand their business using the brand start an inflight catering company.

  13. @H: No offence taken! I am not even Jewish! Haha… I was just explaining the reasoning that’s all. I guess the solution would be for someone to come up with a more green solution that also satisfies the dietery rules. Although my experience of religious minorities is the environment is quite low down on the list as a community so we probably won’t see it soon until they are forced. It has to be said though even regular airline catering is terribly packaged and little of it is recycled.

  14. @ Bour — No, not at all. You require a special certification to travel with an emotional support animal (though it’s easy enough to lie about). Anyone can request a special meal. No one — literally no one — is being harmed by someone else ordering a special meal.

    And look at my case, for example. I don’t eat pork, and most of American’s regular omelets have pork in them. So this allows me to order something that I can actually eat.

    Similarly, there’s no requirement to actually be vegetarian to order a vegetarian meal onboard.

    I’m not sure I see the issue? People can request things with different motives in harmony, in my opinion.

  15. I have to respectfully disagree with you on this Lucky. My two friends and I had the same kosher breakfasts pictured above on American last week out of SEA and we all thought the only edible thing on the plate was the danish. My fruit and cake and juice were frozen nearly solid and I didn’t want to keep the plate in front of me for an hour until it defrosted. Perhaps it would be a bit different flying out of New York where Berenstein catering is located. The flight attendant actually lost the hot portion of our meal until about an hour before landing. I tried about one bite of the omelette and potatoes and that was enough. Not for me. At this point, I plan on bringing my own breakfast next time I fly American.

  16. Last week I flew premium economy MIA to GIG and I ordered the Kosher meal for the first time ever. The food was very disappointing. My breakfast looked nothing like yours. I had the fruit, but no croissant, or cake or danish. Instead I had a FROZEN bagel and cream cheese.

  17. IMHO the ability to order special meals domestically has been the single best customer service improvement AA has made in years. I’m curious to know the price difference in catering. On the one hand, I would generally associate better food with higher cost. On the other hand, AVML/Kosher breakfast omit what is usually the most expensive part of the meal (the meat).

    And totally not understanding why anyone would find it offensive for a goy to order a kosher meal.

  18. @Lucky I recommend you to try the BA shorthaul Kosher meal, it is phenomenal and in size of an int’l business class meal.

    Also BA will offer to unwrap it if you like.

  19. I have a clarifying question with the point Bour is making— are you able to pre-ordering the meal in advance of your flight, or are you asking when you are actually already in air? Because air lines carry limited stock of specialty meals and if you can’t order until you’re in flight them there may be an actual Jewish person who then can’t eat because they run out of kosher meals more quickly than expected

  20. and I also ordered Asian vegetarian for AA PE from MIA to LHR. Absolutely disgusting! Thank you, Lucky!
    Honestly, your Kosher breakfast on AA is nothing to brag about. What you should be writing is that meals in AA domestic F do SUCK BIG WAY no matter what! I do understand that such a post would not sell more credit cards but it is true. AA catering in F and J went down after the merger and never came back. Thank you, Mr. Parker! (and I did ditch my AA credit cards).

  21. @Bour
    My food doesn’t disturb other people.
    ESA sometimes do.

    Also, one never claims to be a Jew just by eating their food. I don’t remember my Jewish friends being offended when I eat Kosher nor I ever converted over passover.

    Crazy people like you make it so hard for others to ask if someone wants to eat fried chicken without offending them.

  22. Frankly, it doesn’t look any better than the usual omelet, sausage, croissant and fruit I order on AA TransCons, which is usually a safe choice, although not the healthiest if one is concerned with calories and cholesterol. It’s always a “pick your poison” proposition on domestic AA flights.

  23. At least we didn’t get another review where you ordered the salmon or fish option again! Your obviously an extremely fussy eater!

  24. I think it is ironic that you have made a recommendation that echoes the “Orange Is the New Black” TV series. Inmates feigned Judaism to get better meals (Kosher) in prison. Hmmmm, I can now draw the conclusion American Airlines = prison?

  25. Maybe I missed this, but when are breakfast/meals served on domestic AA flights? I can’t seem to figure out the distance/time/routes that “unlock” meals?

  26. As I kosher consumer, I find it interesting that you like the kosher meals. Most KSMLs are universally regarded by most kosher observant travelers as to be nearly inedible. There are exceptions, the biggest being Hermolis catered means on BA. (If anyone ever flies BA economy out of LHR or DXB, I highly recommend ordering the KSML. In business and first I’m not sure if it’s better than the standard option, but in economy it generally appears to be superior. Full disclosure: I haven’t carried out a taste test.) Kosher travelers have been forever complaining about both the fact that airlines can’t get better KSML caterers, and that there is generally no superior food options in business and first (which means you need to pull out a PB&J in first class if you want anything to eat).

  27. I also use the same reason regarding pork, but for doing the opposite of you.

    I love pigs, and they taste fantastic. Where would the would be without bacon?

  28. Changing my AA settings to kosher as my meal preference. That’s what you do to have these ready for you, right?

  29. As an observant Jew and frequent traveler, I feel your pain with the wrapping 🙂 Without it, however, I wouldn’t be able to eat!

  30. @Bour, today’s trend to get offended by everything is really getting old. Get over it.

    I take a totally different approach to poor meal quality on airplanes – I don’t eat! Fasting is actually healthy and nothing to complain about, no trash, no food stains on my suit… Not to mention that losing a few pounds wouldn’t be the worst outcome.

    I am flying to Japan in March and I have pre-ordered the Japanese food option in F. Will be interesting to see if this changes my approach in the future.

  31. My experience with Borenstein catering is opposite of yours Lucky. I got food poisoning from their meal out of JFK very recently. In fact, it was served partially frozen meal (as I can see from your photo, your fruit looks like its freezer burn even though its “wrapped”). Anyway, out of Europe there are pretty good KSML catering such as Stogen and out of some cities in USA I have gotten good meals. Traveling out of LAS and SAN I usually get served Inflightdelite KSML on Delta and its very good.

  32. I don’t understand how people enjoy American cheese and large portions of it in omelette. It’s like eating really salty plastic.

    I grew up in the states. I never ate omelette like this at home. I always see this at diners and on airplanes. When I order an omelette without cheese, people laugh and think I’m crazy.

  33. @Bour

    To the extent that people who don’t generally keep kosher do sometimes order a kosher meal, it can help kosher caterers stay in business. Which is a net positive for people who do eat only kosher food.

  34. @John – Early morning TransCons from West to East. Breakfast is the safest meal on AA given that it’s hard to screw up an omelet.

  35. Can’t you people eat in the lounge or (*gasp*) grab a meal before boarding the plane? If your only complaints are on the quality of cheese and the freshness of the eggs served to you on an X hour flight, you need to re-evaluate life’s priorities.

  36. Flyertalk has a hundreds of comments on how bad AA’s kosher catering from Borenstein. What I am really surprised by this article from you is that you fancy good champagne and caviar but are okay with being served frozen fruit out of a can?

    I lucked and got a really good KSML on Virgin Atlantic ex-LAX from Inflight Delite Kosher which is probably the best kosher meal you can get other than Hermolis in UK.

  37. Oh Lucky. You’ve got some readers with some serious issues. Curious to know how many are actual frequent fliers who travel a lot and get sick of eating crappy food (even in first or intl business)? Of course you are ordering it ahead of time, they hardly ever have extra of special meals on board! You aren’t stealing someones kosher meal for the love of pete.

    Anyway- I love hearing about travel hacks like this since I have always been worried about trying anything other than the vegetarian option (and even that I only rarely order since I get sick of it being the same Indian dish). This review brought a great response from many kosher meal orderers about various airlines and their kosher meals. Yay! Secondly, as someone who likes fish and not meat I usually don’t get a lot out of the food portion of reviews since they almost always pick chicken or beef options. And let’s be honest, when traveling long haul business, the seat, entertainment and food are why you pay extra. With your reviews I know I’ll get a different perspective- so ignore the haters. They want the same old, same old reviews they can read someone else. You always look at things from a different perspective and find new ways to talk about travel. So thank you and keep it up.

  38. I would say if you want to eat healthy, then you should pre-order the fruit plate meal or the low fat meal and those actually are not only healthy but they taste amazing. I tried it a few times already. They were delicious on China Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

  39. @bour as an Orthodox Jew who keeps kosher there is absolutely nothing offensive about the fact that Ben orders Kosher meals. I genuinely don’t even know why you would say that.

    @lucky if you are ordering Kosher breakfasts just make sure you do not do it during passover. There’s a longer explanation as to why, by the meals will probably be much worse. Typically passover falls out at some point in late March through late April

  40. Im a religious Jew which is why I’m only seeing this post now. I must say kosher airline food for the most part is nasty especially the garbage served in America. Some stuff that comes out of Istanbul and England is decent. I get a strong desire sometimes to eat the non kosher airline food when looking at trip reviews here

  41. I want hamburgers–just hamburgers. Good hamburgers–now–or somewhat edible.. Can you you do that AA? Seems like a simple request. No fries needed as they suck reheated.

  42. Lucky, I told you do this a years ago at the Chase lunch as a gag for a trip review, I didn’t actually mean it seriously 😀

    Not many worthwhile KSMLs out there, though as others have said, Hermolis is generally excellent and is served by BA and other airlines ex-LHR, BA ex-EZE, CX ex-HKG, SQ ex-SIN, KE ex-ICN, among others.

    Nearly everything else is typically inedible. If you’re recompensing this domestic breakfast, the state of non-KSMLs must be really, really bad. I’d sooner bring my own food.

  43. Just a quick note on the reason for the wrapping. In order for the food to maintain it’s kosher status from the time of preparation until the time it comes the consumer, needs to be wrapped and field. It is up to the consumer Cameron this case the flyer, too unwrap the food and the product maintains kosher status. If the item is served to the passenger unwrapped, it has lost its kosher status and the kosher consumer would not be able to consume anything is that has been opened. Personally I really don’t care about all the wrapping.

    as for some of the comments about frozen meals at cetera, for that you have to blame the airline, not the caterer. Decatur it does what it can however, the airline needs to be the one to cook the meal in the galley for the right amount of time, something that usually don’t.

  44. 1. The waste created is staggering.
    2. Could anyone explain why the food is wrapped like a mummy? I find this quite troubling.

  45. Uhhh is there any airliner doing vegetarian kosher meals ?
    I fly Asia Europe Africa only..
    I have tried out all veggie options..Western..Oriental..Asian..
    Jain..with several mostly Asian/M.Eastern airlines and seen the rise & fall of culinary experiments to the delight and disgust of passengers
    I do note a recent effort by Emirates to undermine austerity measures and offer better quality again
    BTW @Netta there was a time complaints turned into points by the magic wand of customer services !

  46. Julius Maesarc: You are crazy if you think Stogel Kosher meals are good, they look revolting and most Jews I know confirm they are disgusting!!!

  47. @curious
    I will try to explain it here again and actually check with Google decided they thought I wanted to say before posting it.

    in order for the food to be considered kosher and to maintain its kosher status without breaking kosher from the time of manufacturing, it needs to be wrapped. This means it needs to arrive to the pax still sealed. Furthermore, anything heated in a non kosher oven needs to have a DOUBLE seal on it otherwise it’s not kosher.

    Would you buy anything open from a store, something that’s supposed to sealed for protection? Hope you said NO.

  48. Funniest ‘specialty’ meal request was travelling for a 50th birthday celebration. Our friend changed her husband’s meal preference to ‘low calorie diet’ meal which the flight attendants would announce loudly when they presented it (we could then all tease him on each leg of our multi-flight itinerary… yes, we are mean people. :). He’s slim by the way.

  49. I had kosher meals at Emirates – and I loved it. They serve those even ex DXB.
    I have no idea how they get this managed but it’s (of course) always sealed and the FA always ask me to remove the seal upon preparation 🙂

  50. @Susan Hampshire, I saw on James’ Instagram page an announcement that he took a full time writer’s job with The Points Guy. Sad to see him go from OMAAT, as I don’t follow TPG 🙁

  51. Since you’re Jewish like me you should only be eating kosher meals anyway. Until recently you couldn’t order special meals on most American domestic flights. Thanks to lobbying by many people including me that changed.

  52. Thanks for the tip! I take my annual ORD to LGA in a couple weeks so I just might try this. For some reason these flights (UA and Delta too) always include a meal even though we’re only in the air about 1-1/2 hrs. Fruit plate is my usual choice, which includes a yogurt/granola sugar bomb anyway – might as well be kosher pastry.

  53. FYI, AA does not serve pork on domestic flights and usually the sausages are either chicken or turkey meat.

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