American Improving Domestic First Class Catering

Filed Under: American

We’ve seen most airlines reduce inflight service due to the pandemic, to minimize contact between people, and also to maximize the amount of time that people have their masks on. Recently Delta announced that it would improve inflight service as of April 14.

Now American has made a similar announcement, but only for first class flights of over 2,200 miles.

American’s current domestic first class catering

What is service currently like in American Airlines domestic first class?

  • On flights of up to 900 miles, the airline serves drinks on request, but no food
  • On flights of over 900 miles, the airline serves either a sandwich or yogurt & granola for breakfast, and a sandwich or cheese plate for lunch or dinner
  • Exclusively on premium transcontinental flights, the airline serves a hot meal on a single tray

American Airlines’ first class turkey sandwich

American expands “Fresh Bites” catering

Earlier this year American Airlines trialed a new “Fresh Bites” concept in first class on select flights out of Charlotte, and that’s now being expanded.

As of April 14, 2021, American Airlines will expand the Fresh Bites trial to domestic first class customers on flights of over 2,200 miles (which is roughly 4.5 hours). American plans to expand this to other (presumably shorter) flights later this year. Fresh Bites will offer a more substantial food selection, and will include:

  • Items such as fresh fruit, yogurt, and breakfast sandwiches for breakfast
  • Items such as sandwiches, salads, and fresh appetizers for lunch and dinner

View from the Wing has a picture of what this looked like during the trial. You can generally expect a tapas-style box with several options, like salad, cheese, fresh fruit, veggies, and more.

Note that nothing will change on premium transcon flights, where a hot meal will still be served on one tray. Premium transcon routes include the following markets:

American Airlines’ hot meal on premium transcon flights

As American Airlines describes this catering change:

The offerings being tested are heartier options than the fresh snacks customers currently receive, but also incorporate customer favorites such as fruit and cheese. American has been working hand in hand with the APFA and a team of experts from the Travel Health Advisory Panel for guidance and feedback throughout the planning process. Flight attendant and customer feedback has also played a critical role in ensuring the careful return of new fresh offerings.

Will this be the new normal for domestic first class catering?

Interestingly during the start of the pandemic, American continued to serve hot meals on all flights of 2,200+ miles. However, this service was cut as of July 2020, at which point the airline just started serving the same sandwich or cheese plate that’s currently available.

In other words, catering on 2,200+ mile flights will now be better than it has been for the past several months, but not as good as it was through last July.

It does seem increasingly likely that meal changes in first class may be permanent. In August 2020, American’s SVP of Flight Service at the time, said the following about the future of inflight catering:

“We’re not going to come back with full tray services immediately. There’s going to have to be some interim step. And I really think there’s an opportunity to re-think it. When you think about the footprint we have for meal service and how we served, it’s been very similar over the years. And is there a way to bring back something that still has a premium feel but is different and more modern, and is this an opportunity to reset in a way that we might have made more incremental changes before.”

Bottom line

American Airlines will bring back more substantial food in first class on 2,200+ mile flights, but won’t go so far as to bring back hot meals. Later this year we should see this service expanded to shorter flights as well.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that inflight meals will likely never return to how they were pre-coronavirus. Personally I won’t miss them too much, since it’s not like they were ever great…

What do you make of American’s domestic first class meal changes?

  1. I have to say the sandwich looks much more appealing than the transcontinental flight meal! God I miss Qatar’s premium class food service! LOL

  2. This is beyond disgusting. A cardboard box filled with other plastic boxes filled with junk food? Why even bother.

  3. I get why they stopped food during peak covid last year and i never missed or really cared about the food. If you can afford first class ticket you can get a good meal at the airport anyways or just before or when you land. I get that the points community wants everything free and 5 stars but honestly i would rather just get more regular drink service in first on AA than them waste their time on a meal which is never gonna be good. The “Zoes” sandwiches they have are just fine.

  4. @Ben Dover

    I’ve had better meals in Aeroflot economy than flagship business. I’m setting the bar low for my upcoming DFW-ANC flights in domestic first on the 787. A pillow , a blanket , and a glass of Cava.

  5. These boxes will likely be better in quality and taste than what AA was servicing in standard domestic First pre-pandemic. AA’s domestic first class food has been slop for years.

    And the Zoe’s food that was for-purchase in Y was decidedly better than most of the domestic first hot meals.

    *Note: better than before, does not mean actually good. Just better than abysmal.

  6. Is it really unthinkable to serve a simple soup, salad and maybe a sandwich or wrap?
    It’s a 5 hr or less domestic flight, we don’t need much, and the cheesy slop they served pre-covid was uniformly awful. Even though the pasta is usually “better”, it still can’t be considered good.
    I’d rather they save the money n food and upgrade the wines. At least then we can enjoy a couple glasses to help us forget the crappy seats.

  7. This is a bunch of BS and nothing but using Covid as an excuse to cut costs.

    How does a flight attendant handing you a sandwich or cheese plate, plus serving drinks whenever asked, minimize exposure to this virus any more than the service we had pre-pandemic?? So lame.

  8. I just had it out of Charlotte. It was DISGUSTING. Fruit had mold on it. Wish I could attach the pic here. I overheard a girl behind me tell FA that there was glass in her salad or something. I like the Turkey sandwich and cookie AA has been offering. This box was on par with that united chicken and cheese fococcia whatever.

  9. Just had that “sandwich” about an hour ago. Your idea of “improved” and mine are very different. It sucked!

  10. I’m so over the sandwich and cheese plate in first. The last flight I was on, they ran out of sandwiches by the time they got to me in the second row on a paid ticket! The pandemic is definitely an excuse for the cut rate food and service. They don’t mind packing the planes fuller than full, but god forbid they serve actual food on long haul flights.

  11. People have unrealistic expectations on an airplane and most have no concept of how challenging it is to offer Multiple Choices to cater to every whackadoodle with a food allergy, no shellfish, no nut products,no gluten, no Green vegetables and really expect Gourmet Entrees to boot. Laughable. Everybody is a Critic. Airlines move You from Point A to Point B….only Your Complaints are Nonstop….Get a Grip! (I have observed so much nonsense from the Travelling Public it is annoying and I do not even Work for an Airline but I do know I am getting more disgusted with ‘the wannabes’ evry flight that I take).

  12. Absolutely Awful this stuff out of Charlotte . That people have low food standards in the US thats quite obvious. Don’t want a hot meal , don’t eat it . But why deprive others first class passengers? Meals at the airport are normally disgusting and AA food was actually better than TGIF sand other horrendous American grub. Sandwiches, cheese platters and plastic stuff are nothing but a way of cutting costs and lower the standards f everything. Sometimes I wonder if some of the comments on here are not from airline folks who want these low standards to become permanent .

  13. As a point of comparison, I had my first domestic flight in 15 months yesterday, from Canberra to Sydney on Qantas in J. I had a hot breakfast in the J-class lounge (the lower tier QF Club was closed and its members used J). Scrambled eggs, bacon, toast on a china plate, plated by staff rather than self serve, and an espresso coffee but it was in a take-away coffee cup. On board, a hot meal, a steak and Guinness pie, with a good bottled wine served in a real glass. No refills, but this is a 200 mile flight.

  14. I really don’t care about airplane food. I like the hard product on American’s 777s and 787s. On a long haul flight the typical Captain is aged 50s-60s with previous Navy experience. I never take for granted getting safely from point A to B.

    I’m sure Ben will fly the Four Seasons private jet and let us know about the dining experience. Lol

  15. “As part of American’s Clean Commitment (…) each fresh meal concept will be served in a one-step delivery to help care for the wellbeing of customers and flight attendants.” — serves a 1.5oz Brookie Bar, a 0.7oz sourdough flatbread, and four tiny appetizers…

  16. @Mike C Good God man! How did you even have a chance to have a sip of wine, let alone savor steak and Guinness! A 200 mile flight, at best (or in SouthWest WN time) is 37 minutes. Giving 10 minutes to climb to altitude, then time to serve everyone, and pick all that fine china up, prior to descending and crushing the wheels to the runway.

  17. First class means 1st class. If you pay the big bucks you are inclined to expect more. I’m booked 1st from PHX to MCO. Was hoping they would realize we have a choose as to which airline we fry. If we don’t get treated right we will go elsewhere. Hope AA ups their game or they will lose business to Delta and United. Lots of other options.

  18. I still don’t understand our preoccupation with meals on planes.
    That was actually one of the things I enjoyed about flying during the height of the pandemic. No two hundred pound carts being rolled up and down the aisle. When there are literally dozens of restaurants in most major airports WHY do we need to be fed on a 4 hour flight? It can’t be because we’re hungry. If you are trapped in an airplane and you are starving, then by all means, enjoy that turkey sandwich and a Coke. But let’s get over expecting gourmet fare. We should expect good service yes. But not great food.

  19. The reality is that the industry hasn’t recovered. You may notice more people in the terminals, but those are leissure ticket travelers. Most frequent flyers are holding their ststus because airlines are waiving the annual requirements in hope for a recovery. Lots of complimentary upgrades, a lot of staff travelers is what is filling premium cabins. Yes, there is still people paying for the ticket, but is nowhere near what is required to mantaine the airline afloat. International traveling, which is the bread and the butter is still depressed.
    You will continue to see cost cutting wherever they can make one. Honestly, it is not like you are getting deceived. You know what you are going to get when booking first class, you may bring your own food on-board, if the seat and confort is what is most important to you when paying first (plus the clubs, included checked luggage etc). For the time being, it is what it is.

  20. Zoe’s Kitchen is the Buy On Board food. Simple a free BoB item. EXP already get it for free and some CC’s give a $25 daily on board credit. AA could be doing something like before – heated food, just serve with the cover on – and let the passenger take the foil off.

    This is a downgrade on purpose. They could work serving food safely.

  21. Road kill would have been better than the soggy turkey sandwich I was served in AA First Class DFW-JAX a few weeks back. I was so underwhelmed I bought a sandwich in the sterile area at JAX for the return flight. 10x better.

  22. Ben, I’m with you here. I don’t understand why everyone’s crying about changed / reduced airline food.

    Pre-COVID, my favorite AA first class meals were the ones that their chefs were involved the least in preparing! My all time faves are the steel cut oats and fruit plate. Had a tomato and mozzerella sandwich at some point too which was good.

    I flew PHL->SFO last week, and honestly enjoyed the Zoe’s kitchen yogurt and granola plates way more than the gross omelettes and soggy crepes on the premium transcons to JFK.

  23. same crap, different day. how many times does an airline that has around forever need to improve its dining experience?????? this drama runs for a few months and then back to the peanut and pretzel brigade. recently flew cross country in first-class…flight time was 4.35mins, They offered wi-fi but no power outlet????

  24. This is pathetic. On airlines like Aegean, Turkish Airlines or Asian carriers you get a warm meal on 2h flights in Economy. In the US not even on 4h+ flights in First Class.

  25. US airlines are using COVID19 as an excuse to cut costs and discontinue meal service and reap profits for share holders and executives of the airlines. Hot nice meals were served in coach and superb service in first class by crews with a smile as late as 80’s -90’s. Now they walk the aisle with a trash bag once or twice and sit reading or playing games or whatever on their pads and give you the eye if you ask for a drink. The US airline industry could save tons of money by hiring new crews at half what the seniors are getting and take the service level back to the days of good airline service. Many European carriers ate still serving decent and enjoyable meals with great service. Those that don’t want good service ride Greyhound or drive. Some of us would like to see service levels return to how it use to be.
    Keep an eye out on upcoming Breeze and even Jet Blue.

  26. When I first saw the headline, I thought maybe they would start serving cans of natural dog food instead of Alpo.

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