American Is Introducing Special Meals On Domestic Flights

Filed Under: American

American’s catering in domestic first-class has deteriorated greatly in the past several years. I don’t want to say the food is inedible, because that would be a bit dramatic, but it’s maybe just a notch or two above that. My general strategy nowadays is to eat before my domestic American flights whenever possible, because even mediocre airport food is better than what American serves.

That’s why I’m really excited about a change that American is making to their domestic catering. Per The Forward Cabin, as of January 10, 2018, American will let first-class passengers on domestic flights pre-order special meals. Presently American only allows passengers to order special meals on longhaul flights, so that’s not something you can presently do domestically.

While American does let you pre-order meals on domestic flights, they only allow you to select between the choices that would otherwise be available onboard, and they recently added the option of also ordering a cheese plate in place of a meal.

While American lets you choose from 14 types of special meals on longer flights, for domestic flights they’ll let you choose from seven special meal choices, including:

  • Asian Vegetarian
  • Diabetic
  • Gluten Intolerant
  • Hindu
  • Kosher
  • Muslim
  • Vegan

Flights operated by regional jets, as well as non-meal flights, won’t be eligible for special meals.

For anyone wondering what exactly all of these meals consist of, here’s American’s brief description of their special meals (though this includes all 14 options that are available on longhaul flights):

So why am I excited about this development? Well, American’s current catering is bad , and personally I feel like an Asian Vegetarian or Hindu meal might taste significantly better than the current options. I feel like there’s less that can go wrong with those kinds of meals than what American serves.

My issue with American’s current domestic meal service is threefold:

  • Most of the options are super unhealthy
  • They use really low quality meat
  • They have some really random dishes that seem like they shouldn’t be served on planes

I feel like anything that could be served as an Asian Vegetarian dish would be less offensive in all those categories. I’ll most definitely be requesting a special meal on my next domestic American flight.

Anyone else plan to order a special meal on their next domestic first class flight on American?

  1. Unfortunately a low lactose meal isn’t one of the options, so I’ll be eating before departure and will avoid the crap they serve on board. I gotta agree with you Ben, there’s no AAdvantage to AA’s catering. I’m getting tired of the cookies, too. Can’t they mix things up a bit?

  2. I’d imagine the special meals would be garbage as well, though I’m definitely interested in what they’re actually like, so please report back once you’ve had a chance. I’m in F for a flight in late Feb, so if it’s worth it, I’ll definitely request a special meal.

  3. I doubt the special meals will be rotated often; it will be the same asian vegetables every time. This provides a fallback if the main options suck, but nothing more than that.

  4. These meals must be pre-reserved at least 24hrs in advance. That means the option won’t be available to most upgraders.

    It would actually be a good strategy for AA to have quality meals that you must pre-reserve, and the usual take-it-or-leave-it slop if you don’t pre-reserve. This would walk the tightrope AA wants: a quality first class experience for those paying for it, and corner-cutting for the upgraders.

  5. I’m a vegetarian and a multi-year AA EXP who preorders when possible, and…while this all sounds good in theory, one huge problem with AA’s implementation: they use the SAME DAMN DISH for a bunch of the special meals, which leads to a horrendous least-common-denominator approach!

    For example the AVML, VGML, and VLML are the exact same thing, and frequently overlap with the BLML. Every time I’ve preordered the AVML in TATL/TPAC business class (whether departing the US or Europe/Asia) it winds up being an inedible pile of flavorless boiled vegetables on somewhat-overcooked rice. Always vegan, never with flavor. I’ve had to ask FAs on multiple occasions to remove the entree and just bring me a Y meal or one of the mid-flight snacks (e.g. I ate the instant noodles on ICN-DFW). I now just preorder from the standard options, always selecting the veg option. Tastes much better.

    Contrast this with Delta (or BA, or anyone else really), where the “special” meals are ACTUALLY different across types…

  6. Pat,

    I’ve always believed that if I pre-order a special meal then I won’t get upgraded.

    And also that, in premium cabins, the special meals are not as good as the regular premium meals, just presented in a nicer way than the same thing in economy

  7. @Gregg
    I’m curious why you can’t eat the non-lactose meal.

    Or is it that you need a teeny-tiny bit of lactose, but not too much?

    Looks to me like a good spread of categories. But who knows what the quality will be like? I’m not holding my breath.

  8. This is great news as I am Gluten Free and usually have a 50/50 shot at being able to eat on Domestic First Class flights, even when I do have the ability to pre-order.

    I did just check for a flight where I used a Systemwide Upgrade (MIA-DCA) on 1/16 and I still don’t see any special meal options. I guess I will call…

    I’ll give my two cents on the special meal options (GFML) offered by AA in Economy, Business, and First:

    Economy to and from Paris in 2015 was great
    Business to Paris in 2016 was great (chicken w/risotto and omelette)
    First from Paris in 2016 was not great, as it was the same meal I had previously received flying from Paris in 2015 in Economy
    First to London in 2016 was great and was the same set of dishes as what was received in Business from PHL, just plated differently
    Business SFO-JFK was good – same GFML breakfast dish served on the international premium cabin flights

  9. Totally agree with AR. The biggest irritation has always been that (1) the same VGML is offered regardless of cabin and (2) the options never ever change. I can’t tell you how tired I was of receiving the same tasteless VGML snack on the DFW-ICN flight, and how amused I was by the fact that in C and F (when they had F on this flight) it was the same tasteless snack served on a plate. One side perk of being a “free agent” lately has been the comparatively amazing VGML on DL domestic F.

  10. I’ve had a vegeratian meal on LAX-MIA in August (flight was operated by a 77W, maybe that’s why I was able to choose it?).

    Meal was absolutely disgusting and made me wish I hadn’t ordered it.

  11. American is providing this for some time now. I have been ordering special hindu meal from (almost 4 – 5 months now) for my flight to clt and phl though its only there for domestic longhaul routes (i think more than 2000 or 2200 miles). Actually special meals are far better and huge portions. For hindu meal they are providing Indian non veg meal out of sfo and indian veg meal out of clt and phl (with dessert as 3 gullab jamuns with strawberries)

  12. RE introducing. Ridiculous that it was ever eliminated to the detriment of so many with dietary restrictions.

  13. This whole food thing is laughable. Twenty years ago in American economy my wife and I ordered Shrimp Coctails, in advance, and they excellent. At that time American had a number of special meals you could order.

  14. I’m really happy that I can finally get a vegan meal on a domestic D fare, but I hope it’s actually a vegan one. Although I ordered a VGML (vegan vegetarian meal) on my Finnair flight from MIA to HEL, I was served a meal with honey and dairy in it. Although it didn’t happen on my return flight to JFK!! I’m excited about this, because now I can buy a first-class ticket and get the full experience. Can’t wait to try it!

  15. Special meals are especially terrible on AA. Even in first class transatlantic. The FA proactively offered something from the standard menu.

  16. Oh no! I see ‘Bland’ has been left off the new Special Meals list. Since this popular item had comprised 95% of what AA thinks we should eat, is this just an unfortunate oversight?

  17. @ glenn t

    No, “Bland” is clearly still on the list.

    What is it with people who have the user name “Glenn”?

  18. Special meals?!? I’ve been trying to submit an order for two upcoming (First Class) flights for over a week…the link says it’s temporarily unavailable. Anyone know what gives with that?

  19. anyone having any luck ordering a special meal for domestic flights yet? haven’t been able to for my flights…

  20. good news for anyone trying. AA finally fixed the glitch that didn’t allow the special meals to be saved after selecting it…finally working! yay!

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