American First Class Meal Ordering Changing September 1, 2014

Filed Under: American

File this under “things that don’t really matter, but you can’t help but wonder who thought of it.”

American has long had a pretty straightforward way of taking first and business class meal orders. The system was abbreviated “FEBO,” and stands for “Front Even Back Odd.” Basically they’d start taking meal orders at the front of the cabin on even numbered flights, and at the back of the cabin on odd numbered flights.


In addition to that they’ve let you pre-order first and business class meals, so you can actually choose your meal in advance regardless of where you’re seated.

Apparently that system was too simple.


On September 1, American and US Airways will be aligning their meal policies, and as part of that they’re apparently also making the system by which they take meal orders more complicated. Because FEBO was just too straightforward, I guess?

Under the new system, meal orders will be taken based on direction of flight.

If a flight involves a change of time zones:

  • Meal orders will be taken starting in the front on eastbound flights
  • Meal orders will be taken starting in the back on westbound flights

If a flight doesn’t involve a change of time zones:

  • Meal orders will be taken from the front on southbound flights
  • Meal orders will be taken from the back on northbound flights

This gets especially fun because there are several routes where seasonally there’s a time change, while other times of year there isn’t. For example, right now Miami and Santiago are in the same time zone, while later in the year they’re not.

Again, this isn’t a big deal at all, I’m just puzzled about what problem they were trying to solve with this, and who came up with it and thought it would be a good idea.

I do hope they’ll continue to give the option of pre-ordering meals after September 1…

(Tip of the hat to Gary)

  1. They almost always run out of the first-choice selection so inevitably a couple of people get screwed each flight. They’re probably trying to make it more fair so the people in the back don’t always get screwed.

  2. To add even more confusion (and be incredibly pedantic), do they actually mean time offset or time zone? Using the example you provide, the technically correct statement would be that “right now Miami and Santiago have the same time offset, while later in the year they do not,” as Santiago and Miami are always in different time zones (Chile Standard Time/Chile Summer Time vs. Eastern Standard Time/Eastern Daylight Time).

    I’m sure AA doesn’t mean it this way, but as a professional scheduling nerd (I have a copy of the IATA SSIM [Standard Schedules Information Manual] on my desk as I type this), there is a distinction.

  3. In the past, American used to number even flights for one direction and odd flights for the other. This is no longer universally the case, so as far as I can tell (and this is what the folks on FlyerTalk observed) this is an attempt to return to meal service that “respects” the scheme.

  4. seriously… why take something so simple and functional and make it so complicated?
    i guess somebody needed to justify their job…

  5. The original intent of so-called FEBO was to provide choice based on the direction of the flight. Typically even numbered flights went north or east, and odd numbered went south or west. Now there are so many flights that go to/from a destination with the same flight number – disregarding that previous flight numbering convention. So this gets back to a consistent way of taking choices by direction and avoid the vagaries of the flight numbering process. Now, actual execution may be interesting… šŸ™‚

  6. Out of hubs, one often ends up on the same flight number both out and back to a destination, as you’re essentially staying there a multiplier of 24 hours, which makes things such as renting a car efficient. FEBO was a shorthand for the days when flights were numbered based on direction, so it makes at least a little bit of sense that they’d change.

  7. I’m sure Doug and his army of fools came up with this short-sighted idea and didn’t think everything through.

  8. This is what US Airways has been doing for a while now.

    It isn’t that complicated. The whole time zone thing is in case you actually aren’t going significantly east-west so you need to come up with another thing to base it on.

  9. I’m puzzled at folks thinking this is a “short sighted” a otherwise silly/over-complicated change.

    As already mentioned, it’s keeping the intent of FEBO alive in a world of merged super-airlines that are running short on flight numbers. The “change in time zone” rule was always embedded in FEBO by virtue of the scheduling department trying to determine if a basically “north/south” flight should have an even number or an odd one. This time zone rule is simply being pushed from scheduling to in-flight.

  10. The order taking is inconsistent, on Sunday, Aug 2, 2015 I flew from ORD to EWR (West to East), and they took orders starting in the back. Even the flight attendants are confused when I asked. It was an odd numbered flight, so I think the flight attendant just made a command decision to use the old method, that is if the article is correct about west to east changing time zones being front to back.

  11. Right now flying dfw-hkg on 137, orders started in the front, and since I was back, I got no meat choice, fish and pasta was all that was left. It’s fine, was gonna get the pasta anyway, but seems off (as long as I’m understanding it).

  12. After all this time, I’m pretty sure the reason the switched to this method is the fact that many of their flights reuse flight numbers. Indeed, out-and-backs on AA frequently have the same number now (2654 LAX-YYZ-LAX as a good example).

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