American’s LAX Catering Is A MESS, And I’m Hangry

Filed Under: American, Travel

At the beginning of the month American cut ties with Gate Gourmet at LAX, which was the contractor they used to cater their flights. This was due to a listeria outbreak. Obviously this was completely outside of American’s control, though at the same time it inconvenienced passengers.

It was my understanding that American was proactively reaching out to customers to offer them compensation, and was doing everything they could to make the experience as pleasant as possible. It goes without saying that there are going to be some disruptions due to this, though, given the scale of the issue.

I haven’t been following this situation all that closely, given that it’s fluid and changing by the day. American also isn’t publishing much information about it. The way I see it, it’s on American to communicate with their passengers as to what’s going on. Given that it has been weeks, my assumption was that things are mostly back to normal.

Well, today I’m flying from Los Angeles to Toronto on American in Main Cabin Extra. As an Executive Platinum member I get a complimentary food item, and typically I find American’s buy on board food to be better than what they serve in first class.

The flight departed at 8:30AM, so I didn’t have breakfast before boarding. I had a couple of cups of coffee in the Admirals Club, but was saving my appetite for onboard. Well, I’m now airborne, and the crew has informed us that they have no food of any sort. No pretzels, no food for purchase, nothing. Not for economy, and not for first class.

If this is part of the catering problem I totally get it, but my issue is the lack of communication. I wasn’t sent an email prior to my flight, there was no announcement in the gate area about this, there was no cart in the jet bridge with snacks, etc. If they had communicated this at the gate passengers could have purchased something, but that wasn’t even an option here.

It’ll be around 5PM ET before I’m through immigration, so I guess I’ll get my first food of the day then. What a disappointing lack of communication on American’s part. Like I said, I get stuff happens, and I’d have no issues if they had just given people a heads up in the gate area (and as an economy passenger I don’t think I’d be due anything), but that didn’t even happen.

So this is a warning to anyone flying American out of LAX. While I know some/most flights are getting catering, it seems like not all flights are, so be sure you bring a snack just in case.

  1. We walked to the delta sky club in T3. Took some food from grab and go station expecting to not have food on flight to chicago

  2. Thanks rebooked on Jet blue mint to New York and got a nice fat refund on my refundable First Class fare
    The food is crappy even on a good at American
    Happy Holidays

  3. And why would you expect anything better from an airline run by Doug Parker – the guy who wanted to charge for water when he ran America West/USAirways?

  4. I flew Virgin Australia out of LAX a week ago in business class and the catering was maybe 75% normal even though I was told it had been resolved.

    I’m guessing it is hit or miss depending on the day since these airlines are relying on supplemental catering from elsewhere

  5. Kind of surprised you didn’t get anything in your e-mail. As an AA Platinum, received $100 e-voucher for a flight earlier this month from LAX-SYD (the flight was catered, but the food was really, really bad and the flight attendants said it was much worse in quality and quantity than normal for that flight), and a $50 e-voucher earlier this week for LAX-JFK (cheese plate instead of breakfast). On the LAX-SYD flight, an Executive Platinum I spoke with received a voucher for $200. In each case we were sitting in Main Cabin Extra, so they are compensating economy passengers.

  6. There’s a guest services admirals club at gate 42A where you can grab food to go for your flight. I was in there last week before my flight and stocked up.

  7. As a Quality expert and consultan I can say that American is responsible even if it’s a vendor or supplier. They should have systems in place to know, understand and control food safety end to end. So they should be in control of their contractors and have a back up plan.

  8. Well, we know the US-3 deal with their profound laziness and lack of professionalism the best way they know how:

    Making a long propaganda video about the meanies at the ME-3 airlines.

    Let’s get this market deregulated. Let America, Delta and United go really, really bankrupt and don’t save them. Something new will take their place and provide jobs, it just won’t be cushy do-nothing jobs like they have now.

  9. I always carry a few snacks with me on any flight of more than four hours not necessarily because they have no food onboard but because the food is often not edible (at least in my opinion). I never take it in faith that food and air travel will work out satisfactorily.

  10. Flew from LAX to AKL November 14th in biz and the dinner was inedible. They explained the caterer had to be switched. I am not sure why they couldn’t use this caterer for your flight, Ben. On the same flight the sandwich mid service was okay, but I imagine the rest of the plan got the same thing. The breakfast was a bit better than the dinner, but not much. Overall, I find the food on American in first and biz to be really bad compared to other airlines. This has been going on for nearly a month now from LAX…I cannot understand why they can’t fix it? They did give me a $200 credit the day of my flight, which I had not solicited them for, and I do appreciate that, but overall, I just think American is a lousy airline to fly in premium cabins.

  11. Eat on the ground. Go on a liquid diet. Go to the grab and go section near gate 42. Take a deep breath and relax. It’s not the end of the world. Now, if the catering was this bad on a consistent basis, then you should worry. If it’s a one off, let it be.

  12. I flew AA business class LAX to Hong Kong on Nov 11,and the food was barely economy grade. The flight attendants were very apologetic and mentioned that communication and vouchers should have gone out. I was on a partner award ticket and have received nothing, so I’m going to be following up with customer service now.

  13. Given how often you travel (i.e. not a newbie) and that you were aware of the catering issues prior to flight, I’m shocked that you didn’t follow up on this and/or prepare with snacks just in case.

    Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

    I always carry a full bottle of water with me and a small selection of snacks in case catering is bad, broken, or unavailable due to turbulence or crew laziness.

  14. Since you were made aware of issues with AA catering at LAX, did you consider asking regarding your specific flight before you boarded?

  15. United evidently hasn’t cleared their listeria problems at Denver. Den BDL Nov 24 had overcooked cheeseburgers and UNO pizza in first class……no vouchers or email regarding this. Executive platinum lifetime here

  16. They stopped selling food on that route. Now they just give every passenger in coach a sandwich or cheese plate.

  17. Flew in first LAX-DCA in mid-November and received an email beforehand about the catering issues. Email stated IF your flight is affected, you’ll receive an electronic travel voucher.

    The flight did have pre-packaged snacks and drinks (not the typical buy-on-board food) for first class, but I brought my own hot dinner from the terminal since I’ve been following along on the blogs regarding the catering issue.

    After the flight, I didn’t receive a travel voucher. I contacted customer service with a copy of the original email. As a show of “goodwill”, they gave me a $100 travel voucher.

    If I hadn’t been following along on the blogs, I would have never known to bring my own food or to ask for the voucher. I will just assume that things are still a mess until I’m told otherwise. I agree that it’s on AA to set expectations … you can’t leave people without food on a long-haul flight. It’s just not right!

  18. On November 19, 2017 we flew from LAX to MIA in their first class seat (not a lie flat seat but reasonably comfortable for a day flight). The food on the flight was surprisingly good, so I asked the flight attendant and she said it was because AA is using another caterer for the time being. We suggested that they continue with this substitute caterer as the food was better than any food I’ve had on American before, domestically or internationally. Unfortunately I neglected to ask the name of the caterer.

  19. I flew LAX-PEK in J on American on November 18 and didn’t have any issues. Flight was fully catered and quality was about normal as well (aka middle-of-the-road, even in J.) Sounds like maybe I got lucky.

    On a side note, would it kill American to vary their menus maybe once a year? J menus were exactly the same as they’ve been in business class for YEARS (steak with green beans, vegetarian option, or an Asian dish.) There hasn’t been any variety for more than a decade.

  20. I transferred last week for the first time ever at DFW. Was amazed by the shabbiness of the Admirals Club. Was astounded by the clownish lack of professionalism I observed by some employees hanging around the bar and chatting very loudly — you could hear them all the way across the lounge. Was astounded at how gross the showers were; after a 10-hour flight from Europe I really wanted a shower. This shower was like being in the worst unrenovated 24-hour fitness club.

    So this catering snafu doesn’t surprise me. Kind of glad my AA Platinum status expires in two months as I’ve found it just didn’t measure up — too many program devaluations and too many situations like what Ben just encountered and what I’ve experienced over the past year.

  21. Just flew the turnaround flight from PVR to LAX last night. I assume the catering was boarded in LAX for the return flight from Mexico. Regardless, the FA’s ran out of fresh food items after the 5th row of economy. I watched them hand out no more than 6 sandwiches in that first couple of rows. Nothing like boarding just 6 sandwiches for 120 passengers on a 3 hour flight that departs over the dinner hour. FA just shrugged her shoulders when I asked. Could have cared less.

  22. First rule even when flying First or Business under 6 Hours…. DON’T EAT! it’s amazing for your health.. Give that body a rest.

  23. Catering restoration:

    LAX-MIA. LAX-JFK as of last week (by LSG) LSG also doing Hawaii.
    NRT, AKL from last week (Flying Food Group) FFG to do: NRT, HND, SYD, AKL, HKG
    HND and SYD starting tomorrow.
    HKG starting this wednesday.
    PVG/PEK/GRU/LHR were never impacted, catered by AirFayre

  24. My wife and few LAX-SYD in business on Nov. 21. They sent us ecerts for $200 with an apology the day before and I thought, well, I can bring something on board if I have to. But then they had decent food on the flight–a choice of chicken or tortellini and both were good.

  25. Lucky,
    You are telling me you skipped breakfast to save your appetite for the stale disgusting sandwiches (served cold) on board. Im not buying it. But you are correct, its ridiculous they couldn’t figure something else out. They should just pay the big bucks to get another caterer in the meantime.

  26. @ Ryan — I wasn’t “saving” my hunger in the sense that I was hungry before the flight but decided to wait in anticipation of American’s incredible onboard catering. Instead I’m someone who usually likes to have coffee for the first few hours of the day, and then has breakfast mid-morning. So I wasn’t saving my appetite, as much as I was just following my usual routine and wasn’t going out of my way to eat prior to the flight.

  27. @ AA Plat – It should not be an issue about whether you are a newbie or not. If you pay for a certain product, you would expect a certain standard of service. As far as I am aware, AA nor any of the other US legacy carriers are what you would deem budget airlines. Mind you, not all who travel on US airlines are aware of their awful standards unlike most US travellers. And concomitantly, not everyone is going to be packing a meal or even snacks when travelling on an almost 5 hour journey.

    I have travelled on the crappiest airlines in South Asia, Central and Southeast Asia, and Europe, and catering has never been an issue, especially if I am aware that I need to buy on board.

    Poor planning on the part of the airline and poor staff attitude/response to the passengers’ (or customers’) needs on a flight should not be tolerated. This is the US for god’s sake. Not some tin pot little country.

  28. I flew LAX-PVG two days after the outbreak occurred and didn’t experience any issues. I did get an e-mail after my flight, though, which was actually the first time I heard about the issue. I guess it makes sense now, since PVG flights were never affected. Thanks, @JonNYC.

  29. As of 12/22 this problem was ongoing. Some kind of soggy wrap and a choice of 2 wines in first, nothing in steerage. No one in First had been notified beforehand. An email complaint did get me my $75 upgrade penalty fee refunded. Whoo whoo.

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