American Is Adding Free Meals In Economy On Select Domestic Flights

Filed Under: American

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Late last year Delta ran a test where they served free meals in economy on select transcon flights. I guess the feedback was positive, as in early February they announced that they’d introduce free meals on flights between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco as of March 1, 2017.

But it gets better than that. A week later they announced that they’d expand free meals to a further 10 domestic transcon routes as of April 24, 2017, meaning that Delta will serve free meals on a dozen transcon routes.

Well, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given how competitive the airline industry is, but American is following Delta’s lead. American will be introducing free meals on flights between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco as of May 1, 2017. Per the press release:

Depending on the time of day, customers will be offered a continental breakfast or a boxed meal with a sandwich wrap, kettle chips and dessert. The menu also includes a vegetarian option and a fruit and cheese plate. The new meal service beginsMay 1 .

“Some of our best customers fly our trans-continental routes and we want to give them a top-notch onboard experience,” said Fernand Fernandez, vice president – Global Marketing. “Providing complimentary meals in the Main Cabin is yet another step we’re taking to enhance our service in this competitive market.”


It is interesting that American is only partially matching Delta here. I wonder if we’ll eventually see American match Delta in introducing free meals in economy in other transcon markets as well.

This is of course great news, but I’m not sure I follow the airlines’ logic. As I said in the post on Delta adding free meals:

Sure, it’s nice for airlines to add services, though I’m not totally sure I get their thought process here. Does Delta think people will select them over a competitor because of this? Do they think they can command a price premium for offering free meals? Won’t the inconsistency confuse people, given that free meals won’t be available on all transcons? And if American and United match (as we’ve seen the legacy carriers do over and over), won’t they all just come out behind?

View from the Wing and Live and Let’s Fly recently had an interesting discussion about this — Gary argued that free meals in economy can contribute to airline profits, while Matthew argued that they cut profits. My perspective on this is the same as Matthew’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to see airlines improving service, but am surprised to see this, and wonder what they’re trying to get out of this.

Are you surprised to see American match Delta? Do you think United will match as well?

  1. Another case of UA/AA following DL: first revenue-based program, then basic economy, and now even the sandwiches. Why do they even hire managers at these airlines if all they can do is just copy management from competitors?

  2. And the peer pressure is now full-on on that other airline named United. UA still has not matched other airlines with longhaul east coast to HNL food offerings. I doubt UA will react. Have no reaction (except a negative reaction) is usually UA’s reaction.

  3. So now the checked luggage fee includes a bag of crisps and finger food item. Why not have a mini-convenience store by the gate with mini-bar items for sale with the swipe of a card?

  4. Since these routes are served with the 32B, there aren’t that many coach seats to start. F and J already get them.

    AA should like add them to routes like BOS,PHL,DCA,CLT to LAX and SFO.

  5. Honestly, I fly on the lowest fare classes regularly. Including food, even if it’s this crap, could sway my airline preferences.

  6. I’m flying to Maui on May 3rd on American. I wish they would have done a more extensive rollout

  7. Maybe they can start giving food in business and first after 8pm. Howboutdat ?

    I can get a full meal in economy on a Europe bound flight or South America bound flight leaving at midnight, but I can’t get a meal on a 6 hour transcon that leaves at 8:19PM.

  8. I kind of wish they would go the other way – more premium food options for sale. Personally I’d like to fly where you could install an app and order food drinks that way rather than having the cart service.

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