Food Returns To American Airlines First Class

Filed Under: American

Airlines around the world have temporarily adjusted onboard service in light of coronavirus. American Airlines is among those, and back in March eliminated virtually all service on flights of under 2,200 miles.

Well, American Airlines is now bringing back some food service in first class on shorter flights.

American Airlines restoring limited meal service

Starting Wednesday, August 26, 2020, American Airlines will be restoring first class food service on flights between 900 and 2,200 miles. This applies on both domestic and short haul international flights of at least 900 miles, which typically equates to a block time of around 2.5 hours.

Before the pandemic, American Airlines served food in first class on flights of 900 miles or more, which means that all flights that previously had meal services will once again offer at least some food. However, don’t expect the same quantity of food as before.

Note that these new meal options will be individually wrapped and served with a cutlery set. Drinks, including alcohol, will continue to be offered by request only (though in practice I find service is generally more proactive than just “on request”).

This new food service will be in addition to the snack bags that have been offered upon boarding for the past few months.

Contents of American Airlines’ “snack bag”

What should you expect from this new meal service?

American Airlines’ new first class breakfast

On flights departing between 5AM and 9:45AM, first class passengers will have the choice of either a continental breakfast box or a turkey & swiss croissant.

American Airlines’ new first class breakfast

American Airlines’ new first class breakfast

American Airlines’ new first class lunch & dinner

On flights departing between 9:46AM and 9PM, first class passengers will have the choice of either a fruit & cheese plate or a turkey & havarti sandwich.

American Airlines’ new first class lunch & dinner

American Airlines’ new first class lunch & dinner

What’s the logic for this type of service?

Back in March, American Airlines suspended most onboard service, in order to minimize interaction between passengers and crew, and that makes sense to me.

Personally I have no problem at this point with airlines offering very limited service:

  • The less contact there is between passengers and crew, the better
  • The less service there is, the more time people spend with their masks on

On the surface a limited meal service makes sense, since there will be less interaction between passengers and the crew than with a standard meal service.

However, at this point it’s apparent that there’s also an element of cost cutting here, and that long term we should expect airline meals to never be the same, at least on some airlines.

American Airlines’ SVP of Flight Service has even made it clear that the airline doesn’t plan to restore the same meal service in the future, but rather plans to “bring back something that still has a premium feel but is different and more modern.”

Personally I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, since the meal service wasn’t great previously. But still, this does suggest that the primary motivation is cost cutting.

Bottom line

American Airlines is restoring some first class meal service on flights of 900 to 2,200 miles. While there won’t be full meals, passengers will instead get pre-packaged “fresh” snacks. This means that American will once again offer some food on all flights that previously had a meal.

I suppose this is a nice middle ground approach for the airline to take, as it minimizes contact between the crew and passengers, while still providing some food. It seems like American is basically serving buy on board food from economy in first class here.

What do you make of American Airlines’ new first class meal service?

  1. Ben, do you know what its going to be like for Economy as far as onboard service goes?
    I have a flight from Salt Lake to Charlotte on AA in a few weeks in Economy and I’m wondering if they will offer us any sort of soft drink service, albeit even if it’s just on demand.

    I know that in the past that flights of this length would qualify for the purchase of prepackaged food onboard in their monthly menu.
    Did AA suspend the buy onboard service as well? If so, are there any plans to reinstate it?

  2. I don’t know you can possibly call that a meal service. They would be better off giving customers a voucher to redeem at the airport or a grab-and-go sandwich or salad from the Admirals club.

  3. No meal service has been total cost cutting from the word go. Let’s stop fooling ourselves it was ever for our safety. Better airlines (QR, LX, SQ, LH, EK) never stopped serving food but just adapted the service.

  4. Do we know about exception markets? For example, LGA-> ORD which is 720 miles always received meals. Will exception markets continue?

  5. both of these pictures look more like snacks than meals IMO.

    only the sandwich could get by as a meal

  6. @Brian
    I was served a cheese plate on DFW-ORD which is on the exception list. So it seems that exception markets will continue.

  7. For years First class meals in the USA are simply SHAMEFUL! Now they used Covid to cut cost and of course less contact meaning more less service and food.
    I have learned even when flying in First Class BYO food which you like and edible. If you have the money to pay for a First Class fare, you sure have ones to buy decent food before you fly! Often FAs look at me bewildered but when they see my food, the just nod in approval and smile. Or if they have good lounge food, fill yourself as you you would not have any on board.

  8. If that’s the turkey/havarti that they have been selling in economy pre-Covid, it’s actually better than most of the previous first class food and frankly better than most of the trash sold at airports in general.

  9. This is so dumb. Stop trying to make this seem like this is for health/safety reasons. It’s not. It’s COST CUTTING. PERIOD. An FA could easily put a tray of hot food in front of you with zero contact and with both parties having their masks on. It happens every single day in everyday life. This is complete and utter trash.

  10. Please remind me why I should buy a paid first-class seat when I can buy a row of economy for the same or less? I’ll just fill my Yeti bottle with sparkling wine or champagne from the airport restaurant or frequent flyer lounge and bring it on-board.

  11. @FNT – I’m right there with you. With the current loads, any person with at least mid-tier status should get upgraded easily. That said, most of the trolls in the comments don’t have any status you can’t buy from Amex or Citi.

  12. Seems like AA flips a coin weekly to decide what to do next. Food, yes, no, maybe, no, yes. No consistency at all.

  13. Oh! So AA is doing Lunchables now, how quaint. Not that their offerings in domestic first have ever been that great, but they could at least try to offer something more than what a second grader might tote around to school for snack time.

  14. The food has been a disgrace for years! A simple sandwich is an improvement. I just wish it had a salad or something on the side so it would be a “meal”. As to drinks “by request”, I have almost never gotten a drink without “requesting” it so no loss there.

    I assume….dangerous to do, that International Polaris and its AA J class equal will be a bit more substantial over the water (??)

  15. In essence, this is taking the previous economy buy-on-board food and giving it to first class passengers. That’s not the same, of course, as hot meals that are larger and served on china, but it’s a step in the right direction in a challenging time for the airline, and it’s certainly better than a snack basket full of pre-packaged, processed stuff. I can live with this, for now. I think the question is when and how regular meal service is restored once travel patterns begin a more consistent recovery.

  16. Wow not even worth it. What a significant downgrade from what it was. Clearly a cost cutting measure and really…why bother? Unless they will do something decent, truly what’s the point? What a pathetic excuse for a ‘meal’. The first class experience was faltering before their cost cutting, but now it’s truly not worth it at all. Sad.

  17. I posted here months ago that the US Airlines would use COVID-19 as an excuse to cut amenities and service, even in First Class. Was I right? Of course I was.

  18. This is exactly the BOB food. Nothing wrong with it. Many times it is better than what was being served in F. I have seen F passengers request BOB because they did not like the choices offered in F.

    With lack of upgrades the past few years – I have got used to this offerings when free to EXPs. And then included in the Barclay Silver card $25/flight rebate,

    Although I don’t think AA is offering BOB food in coach, so this at least keeps the food supplier of the BOB in business.

  19. I have always hated commercially farmed turkey in the US, which is about as flavorful as hormone injected styrofoam. Yet here goes AA again, peddling the most tasteless bird on the planet as a primary choice of a “meal.” Alternatives are equally tasteless and unhealthy. Try again, AA. Another reason to stay home.

  20. @BussinessGuy says “If that’s the turkey/havarti that they have been selling in economy pre-Covid, it’s actually better than most of the previous first class food and frankly better than most of the trash sold at airports in general.”

    Exactly. These appear to be the Zoe’s product that they’ve had in the back for a while. It’s certainly better than most of the dreck they’ve been serving as hot food up front in domestic. So thumbs up from this EXP (that is…if I ever see the inside of a plane again)


    As for the “what good is first class now” commentator crowd: When I buy domestic first class (rarely) or get upgraded to it (often), I’m doing it for the legroom, shoulder space, and room to open my laptop. Not for the food.

  21. I just flew AA back from CUN in First. They already offered us the cheese plate, but in the box wrapped instead of on a plate. Exactly the same food. FA’s had to be questioned for alcohol, the first told me they had red wine and beer only, the second I questioned admitted they had everything. Flew United First down to CUN, basically the same service as one would expect pre-COVID, except no pre-departure beverage, everyone wearing masks, and the meal was a snack box. FA’s were great. AA really is the pits.

  22. They might as well serve first class passengers a baloney and American cheese sandwich on Wonder Bread with a side of Miracle Whip.

  23. @Jim

    But Wonder Bread is the good stuff though it’s fortified. It would be top value white bread. Common man.

    That purell single looks scrumptious.

  24. Good lord what a bunch of whiners. Clearly, only Aaron above has any recent experience onboard regarding this. The rest of you are just sitting at home with your thumbs up your butts and the seeming inability to not comment on every bad post-Covid travel blogger (who also have no frame of reference currently).

    Let’s see, I’m on my 22nd flight since February and flying is awesome. Heck, even as an AA gold if you were actually flying now you would be guaranteed of an upgrade on every single flight without exception. That said, since the flying environment is so great right now I don’t see how anybody could possibly care about adding some food on some flights.

    I will gladly trade the food for the great inflight atmosphere, quick boarding, shorter block times, gate availability, emptier airports, non existent security lines, unlimited upgrades, et al.

  25. Help me out with their “logic”: how again does handing out a wrapped sandwich vs handing out hot meals on a tray reduce contact? It’s cost cutting, nothing else.

  26. Would love to know what they mean by bring something back that is “… more modern.”
    WTF does that mean?!

  27. LAX MIA return this month on 777-300 catered the best breakfast and dinner I have ever received on AA. I was literally shocked at the quality and quantity. I sense positive changes going forward. This was an F saved redemption with 36,000 miles on the outbound and 30,000 on the return. Great way to get to the Caribbean for us West Coasters.

  28. What’s with the synthetic meat? Can’t AA afford a few slices of actual meat not some byproduct?

  29. If you need further information about your meal ask for an old menu card that used to be in the ECONOMY seat pocket in front of you. It’s the same crap. At this point the ONLY thing you are purchasing when buying a F/C ticket is real estate. Total joke!

  30. I agree with Willy, y’all are a bunch of whiners. If you’re flying AA domestic first for the cuisine, you’re flying first for the wrong reasons. I’m paying for first during the pandemic just to be in a smaller cabin, but won’t do so after there’s a vaccine.

    However, I’d like to know where he’s experiencing empty flights and upgrades as a AAdvantage Gold. I’m also flying regularly on completely packed planes, except maybe the 789 from DFW to ORD or 772 or 773 out of MIA. Every narrowbody I’ve been on has had every seat sold. I was routinely upgraded before the pandemic as Platinum Pro, but not so much now with little planes flying around.

  31. Brandon, I’m flying midwest and mid atlantic connecting flights through CLT, ORD and PHL. CLT is the busiest by far. Then PHL, then ORD. On the sub 500 flights all have been upgradable so far. In some cases 1st class fares have been so cheap that I just purchased those instead. The emptiest flights are without doubt those flights between major cities. Anything into NYC is pretty empty (especially out of ORD). DCA is a complete ghost town.

    From my observations Florida and southern tier flights are busier than up north. Flights into military locations (ORF, PHF, PNS, etc) continue to be well used.

  32. I bought two tickets a long time back and it cost a lot. My flight is from Memphis to Dallas than change planes and Dallas to Santa Fe. I fly first class for the larger seat, more leg room and early boarding. I don’t want a box of food I would never normally eat. I do want an option for a drink. My main complaint is they changed my departure from 9am to 6:30am. That early flight cost less and I didn’t get any compensation. We live in a time when we have to accept inconsistencies and inconvenient. Truthfully I’m reluctant to be on a plane circulating the same air….I’m worried about that not a cold subpar turkey sandwich

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