American Airlines Continental Breakfast: A First For Me

American Airlines Continental Breakfast: A First For Me

46

This is of absolutely no consequence (at least to me), though curiosity is getting the best of me…

American’s continental breakfast quirk

I fly American a lot domestically, given that I live in Miami, and the airline dominates the airport. I know American’s first class meal service all too well, as there really isn’t much variety. There’s the short rib, the grains bowl, the golden chicken, blah, blah, blah.

Anyway, I just returned from Salt Lake City to Miami in American first class. This is quite a long domestic flight, at 2,088 miles — it departs at 7:59AM and arrives at 2:42PM, and it’s blocked at 4hr43min. Prior to the flight I went online to pre-order my meal (as American typically allows within 30 days of departure), but that wasn’t an option for this particular flight.

I found that to be strange, since in my experience that’s possible on all meal flights, and American serves meals on all mealtime flights of over 900 miles. So I went to look at the flight description, and noticed that the flight was listed as serving continental breakfast in first class, rather than the typical full breakfast.

American Airlines “continental breakfast” service

I was curious if this was a glitch. Well, it wasn’t. Once onboard, there was no choice of breakfast, with the “continental breakfast” consisting of an oatmeal container, some grapes, cheese, and crackers, a banana, and a lemon berry chia loaf slice.

American Airlines continental breakfast
American Airlines continental breakfast

Does anyone know the logic for this?

As I said at the beginning of the post, I’m purely asking about this out of curiosity, as I don’t fly American first class for the food. When there is a choice, I typically select the more “continental” option anyway, as I avoid American’s egg dishes, which are typically not great.

But in all my years of flying American, I think this is the first time I’ve ever had a flight where the only meal was continental breakfast. Does anyone know why that is?

My best theory is that it has something to do with outstation catering at Salt Lake City Airport. The plane sits overnight in Salt Lake City, and the way the meal is prepared suggests to me that this was all catered in Miami the day before, and American simply doesn’t want to pay to cater the aircraft in Salt Lake City. After all, everything was in containers, and didn’t require refrigeration.

But what I’m curious about is why American seems to specifically do this in Salt Lake City? There are plenty of other outstations where the airline serves a full breakfast, even though planes sit overnight. Seattle to Dallas? Breakfast. Tampa to Chicago? Breakfast. Austin to Chicago? Breakfast. Newark to Phoenix? Breakfast. San Antonio to Charlotte? Breakfast. I think y’all get the point. 😉

The only other context in which I’ve seen continental breakfast in a premium cabin on American is on select long haul flights, where it’s served as a pre-landing meal (like Honolulu to Dallas).

The only other time I’ve seen continental breakfast

So I’m curious. Does Salt Lake City just have the highest catering costs in the country for American? Is Delta sabotaging American at its hub, somehow? Are there any other outstations with a similar setup?

Bottom line

I fly American all the time, and I’ve only ever seen the airline serve a full breakfast on flights of over 900 miles. For whatever reason, American doesn’t serve its typical breakfast on flights out of Salt Lake City, but rather just has a continental breakfast, with no options.

It seems that this is because American doesn’t want to cater the aircraft in Salt Lake City, even though the plane sits there overnight. American planes are catered at outstations across the country, so I’m curious what makes Salt Lake City special.

Anyone want to take a stab at this?

Conversations (46)
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  1. STL Guest

    Yuck. What’s even crazier is how many people are saying “better than their egg dish!” It’s giving Stockholm syndrome… Its not a good thing that American’s hot breakfasts are so bad you’re happier being given 7/11 oatmeal cups. Anyway I just flew to LAX on Delta and their eggs Benedict was actually delicious so I’ll keep sticking with them it looks like!

  2. iamhere Guest

    Agree that it is better than the egg dish...

  3. KGM Guest

    I didn't know AA served food in Economy. Oh, this is First Class? Yuck! Oatmeal?

  4. Justin Guest

    You're correct. This is how they cater breakfast for outstations. I've eaten this exact breakfast numerous times on Spokane's AM DFW flight. It comes in from DFW the night before & the oats are warmed up before serving. I would prefer a full breakfast, but this is completely adequate based upon the circumstances.

  5. Arthur V. Guest

    They’ve been serving that Continental menu out of Managua for months. I enjoyed it as it provided an essentially hot breakfast through its oatmeal cup better than other options like eggs. Obviously operationally it enables the morning flight back to Miami to have been catered at origin in Miami the night before.

  6. JP Guest

    Enjoy that vending mAAchine Continental Breakfast SLC to MIA! That wretched cheese product is the icing on the cake- Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride on usAAirways.

  7. Golfingboy Guest

    AA can get creative and offer proper breakfast meals that do not require refrigeration and wouldn’t spoil overnight.

    Steel cut oats used to be a formal breakfast menu item - bring it back rather than the current setup.

  8. Speedbird Guest

    Surprised this is the first time you've experienced this Ben. I had this same breakfast on a 6am flight from Latin America back to Miami. I know that AA doesn't use the catering services at the airport so they probably load up these quick meals in MIA the day before, keep it on the plane overnight and it's ready for the morning flight. They probably do this for flights that don't have catering contracts at...

    Surprised this is the first time you've experienced this Ben. I had this same breakfast on a 6am flight from Latin America back to Miami. I know that AA doesn't use the catering services at the airport so they probably load up these quick meals in MIA the day before, keep it on the plane overnight and it's ready for the morning flight. They probably do this for flights that don't have catering contracts at certain airports and that the plane has to stay overnight for the return flight in the morning.

  9. Miguel Guest

    Happens at stations where there's no catering (or contracts), so the outbound's catered for both flights and everything needs to be shelf-stable.

    I've had it in OKC to CLT flights on AA.

  10. Walt Guest

    Wondering if they can’t guarantee an aircraft with ovens on the route ?
    Perhaps coffee and hot water is all they can manage. Is it the same on other SLC long hauls ? to ORD/NYC/WAS ?

  11. Al K Guest

    I recently flew from PHX to Kona, KOA, and back. The flights were over 7 hours. There was no meal or snack in Coach, and nothing other than a few skimpy options for purchase. I know that Covid put an end to meals for purchase, but this was longer than my flight from Boston to London and back, where a meal was provided.

  12. Noel Philips Guest

    I had this on a POS-MIA flight recently. Not what I expected, but was surprisingly nice and a relatively healthy breakfast. It’s hard to screw up oatmeal.

  13. PDS Guest

    It’s round trip catered from MIA; no local catering agreement. So everything has to be shelf stable as not temp controlled

  14. frank Guest

    AA has gotten from bad to worse. Sometimes you dont even get a meal on flights over 900 miles. Sometimes you only get a biscoff cookie. Sometimes they dont even load meals. Its an s show.

  15. Mjonis Guest

    They also do continental breakfast from ALB-DFW. Except AA didn’t cater the DFW flight to ALB. So not only didn’t we have breakfast but no snacks either. AA refused compensation as it’s not a service but an option apparently

    1. Extraordinary1 Member

      The flight is only 580 miles, so I don't see why you would be guaranteed a meal.

    2. Walt Guest

      DFW to ALBany, NY is 1400 miles
      I think you made a wrong turn at
      Albuquerque.

    3. Josh Guest

      Are we talking about Albany or Albuquerque? ALB is Albany NY so definitely over 900 miles, though I was not aware there was a DFW-ALB route.

    4. S00 Guest

      AA does fly DFW to major cities in upstate NY year round except ROC

    5. S00 Guest

      ALB-DFW is 1435 miles, First class on this flight should get a meal as it is greater than 900 miles.

  16. AirBrit Guest

    This same situation occurred on my 7a departure BUR to DFW. I chatted with the FA after the service, who explained that BUR is entirely catered out of hubs. So for early morning departures, they use the shelf-stable breakfasts that are catered the night before. He was a bit incredulous about it, because ONT and SNA are both catered out of the flight kitchen at LAX (they send trucks to those airports from LAX.) Apparently...

    This same situation occurred on my 7a departure BUR to DFW. I chatted with the FA after the service, who explained that BUR is entirely catered out of hubs. So for early morning departures, they use the shelf-stable breakfasts that are catered the night before. He was a bit incredulous about it, because ONT and SNA are both catered out of the flight kitchen at LAX (they send trucks to those airports from LAX.) Apparently BUR is not a priority, though, so gets the shelf-stable option.

    1. Speedbird Guest

      Thats interesting, Airline Videos Live recently made a video of them at the SkyChefs kitchen at LAX and they mentioned in their video that they do indeed cater ONT SNA and BUR as well. I was surprised to hear about BUR because I personally have never seen a catering truck driving around BUR.

    2. Yiannis93117 Guest

      The same is true for SBA. The early morning trip to DFW is continental breakfast. Years ago Santa Barbara had a local restaurant set for catering both AA and UA, but that’s long gone. Anyway, it’s oatmeal on the 530a trip to Dallas.

  17. MrsB Guest

    We had the same meal served in 1st class back in October; it was either the leg out of GDL or BOS. The only issue I found was the flight attendant was asking "would you like oatmeal this morning?" to which many (including my husband) said no thank you. Many were surprised to see the whole tray of items being served as they thought it was going to be just oatmeal.

    1. S00 Guest

      Probably the shelf stable meal is out of GDL as AA does have catering in BOS as BOS is one of the biggest non hub station for AA.

  18. KyleEP Guest

    Saw the same thing for a morning flight from CVG to PHX a few months back. Your theory seems to be correct in that they don't want to pay for catering at that small of scale at an outstation so they preload these meals from the hub, which have to be shelf stable, more or less... It's a shame but at least it only happens on a few routes.

  19. Bob Guest

    Ben - you need to get out more.

    This is a fairly common occurrence. Happens at outstations where AA doesn't have a catering vendor or hasn't negotiated a catering contract (for whatever reason). ALB, JAX, PWM are other flights where I've encountered this. And there are more examples.

    And in general, I'll take some oatmeal and packaged baked goods over yet another re-constituted egg dish that is the typical AA domestic breakfast.

  20. Cbchicago Guest

    It’s called double catering. It was catered from wherever the plane comes in from the night before and sits overnight. It happens a lot and to save money.

  21. NedsKid Diamond

    I know the inclination is to pile on American as if it's something they did or failed to do like get a caterer... But the more likely case is that the flip side is true: The caterer on field doesn't have capacity or time to slot in American during launch flights.

    Whoever is on field may not have the trucks/manpower/time/etc during portions of the day. I've seen it happen many other places. I know...

    I know the inclination is to pile on American as if it's something they did or failed to do like get a caterer... But the more likely case is that the flip side is true: The caterer on field doesn't have capacity or time to slot in American during launch flights.

    Whoever is on field may not have the trucks/manpower/time/etc during portions of the day. I've seen it happen many other places. I know of a certain American (mainline staffed) station where they have 1 catering truck as a holdover from US Airways days and a catering team who drives the truck to Gate Gourmet, picks up the carts, and puts them on the plane, and this lasted after the original CBA-related reasons for retaining this because Gate didn't have the capacity to add 3-4 launch flights during the busiest part of the day. The incremental cost for Gate of adding delivery for those flights would be astronomical in comparison.

    Keep in mind too that there's also a security component and that's yet another vendor involved with each catering delivery, or act each time a truck enters the field (most catering kitchens are off airport - it is far easier that way for them to receive deliveries of raw goods and supplies).

    So put it to a combination of catering companies having same staffing issues as everyone else (I had a caterer at one of the largest airports in the US refuse to service an Asian carrier I was assisting start service there because they didn't have the capacity, so that airline had to start by trucking Business Class meals from another station 4 hours away for every flight), and already being fully scheduled during certain parts of the day. Even an airline like American can't just walk in and magically conjure catering service (heck, I know another place where the terminal Applebee's does the First Class catering for AA and they roll the carts through the concourse). Of course given an unlimited amount of money almost anything can happen, but is it worth it for a few flights a day? Or for the caterer to purchase additional trucks, or expand cold storage facilities or holding areas (they usually segregate each airline's stuff) for just a couple flights, and then get stuck with owning the infrastructure in a schedule change?

  22. JohnHam Member

    As un-premium as this is, I'd be perfectly happy with this than some salty omelette.

    1. Robert Fahr Guest

      Agree 100%. A nice addition would be a warm breakfast bread basket. That touch would premium up that breakfast and those items are shelf stable.

  23. Jimmy’s Travel Report Diamond

    Flew Delta MCI-SEA in F a couple weeks ago and breakfast was a cheese snack box. Felt like a “cost” issue in regards to SEA (from a delta perspective).

  24. Sam Guest

    Not SEA. OW partner outstation. They can piggy back AS catering. AS provides a better U class meal but I digress.

  25. Adam L Guest

    It's likely a time/cost issue. As Jerry noted, the first three DFW flights all have continental then they start with meal service. I bet it has to do with costs and not wanting to pay the premium due to caterers for early-morning loads.

  26. John Guest

    This could well do with DL having an exclusivity clause with the catering company in SLC.

  27. AT Guest

    No catering at SLC as you correctly assume - launch flight meals are shelf stable as they sit on the aircraft overnight. Compared to the other stations you mention (TPA, SEA, EWR) which do have catering, SLC is 1) a very small outstation for AA in comparison and 2) features an even smaller number of flights which qualify for meals (2x ORD, 1x MIA, 2x CLT - versus 5/6x to each of PHX/DFW which do not get meals)

    1. AT Guest

      Actually I take that back - looks like DFW does get meals from SLC (thought it was closer) - so yeah odd I guess AA hasn't contracted with a caterer on the field

    2. Jerry Diamond

      DFW is a meal flight, and the first three of the morning have continental breakfast.

  28. Matt Guest

    This is a "shelf-stable" meal similar to the ones we have on American Eagle flights. SLC is an outstation for AA and they don't have (or don't want the added cost) of having meals catered there so it is done in an AA hub with downline meals for the morning flight.

  29. Brian Guest

    I think it’s definitely an outstation catering issue. I’ve seen this before (been a few years) on Guadalajara > dfw 6 am flight. I’m surprised American doesn’t have a catering operation at SLC. I guess they double cater all flights out of SLC?

  30. Kenny Guest

    American likely doesn’t have catering in SLC. So meals are double catered from the hub. In the case of the morning flights they need a meal that won’t spoil overnight

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Kenny -- Yeah, that seems to exactly be the case, but what I don't get is why American doesn't have catering out of SLC? The station isn't smaller than many others that do have catering. So is SLC just more expensive, or...?

    2. Taylor Guest

      There are significant start-up costs associated with opening a catering city (even if you're simply contracting with an established airline caterer -- training, oversight, equipment, etc.), so it's a cost/benefit analysis.

      Assuming all the non-RONs are downline catered with fresh food, AA really only has to solve for the oddball RON. It probably doesn't make sense financially to open a catering city in SLC to solve for 1-2 daily flights, so you get solutions like...

      There are significant start-up costs associated with opening a catering city (even if you're simply contracting with an established airline caterer -- training, oversight, equipment, etc.), so it's a cost/benefit analysis.

      Assuming all the non-RONs are downline catered with fresh food, AA really only has to solve for the oddball RON. It probably doesn't make sense financially to open a catering city in SLC to solve for 1-2 daily flights, so you get solutions like this one.

    3. Todd Guest

      Probably more expensive. There are a few other AA stations that do the same thing, although they are usually smaller airports. GRR-DFW, BOI-DFW, etc. I know DL publishes a list of stations that they have reduced catering.

    4. SubwayNut Guest

      I know at my home airport of South Bend there isn't any catering other than ice, I always see one of the ground agents walk up a bag or a few bags of ice to the regional jet, no catering trucks. Our longest flight except the Football game extras is to DFW (which is just slightly shorter than GRR), on Football games we've had nonstops as far as LAX which I assume were just double catered.

  31. Grey Diamond

    Typo in first sentence.

    But yeah, that looks better than any cooked breakfast option I have had on a US carrier. Kind of actually seems decent. But I don't mind oats generally...

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NedsKid Diamond

I know the inclination is to pile on American as if it's something they did or failed to do like get a caterer... But the more likely case is that the flip side is true: The caterer on field doesn't have capacity or time to slot in American during launch flights. Whoever is on field may not have the trucks/manpower/time/etc during portions of the day. I've seen it happen many other places. I know of a certain American (mainline staffed) station where they have 1 catering truck as a holdover from US Airways days and a catering team who drives the truck to Gate Gourmet, picks up the carts, and puts them on the plane, and this lasted after the original CBA-related reasons for retaining this because Gate didn't have the capacity to add 3-4 launch flights during the busiest part of the day. The incremental cost for Gate of adding delivery for those flights would be astronomical in comparison. Keep in mind too that there's also a security component and that's yet another vendor involved with each catering delivery, or act each time a truck enters the field (most catering kitchens are off airport - it is far easier that way for them to receive deliveries of raw goods and supplies). So put it to a combination of catering companies having same staffing issues as everyone else (I had a caterer at one of the largest airports in the US refuse to service an Asian carrier I was assisting start service there because they didn't have the capacity, so that airline had to start by trucking Business Class meals from another station 4 hours away for every flight), and already being fully scheduled during certain parts of the day. Even an airline like American can't just walk in and magically conjure catering service (heck, I know another place where the terminal Applebee's does the First Class catering for AA and they roll the carts through the concourse). Of course given an unlimited amount of money almost anything can happen, but is it worth it for a few flights a day? Or for the caterer to purchase additional trucks, or expand cold storage facilities or holding areas (they usually segregate each airline's stuff) for just a couple flights, and then get stuck with owning the infrastructure in a schedule change?

4
Bob Guest

Ben - you need to get out more. This is a fairly common occurrence. Happens at outstations where AA doesn't have a catering vendor or hasn't negotiated a catering contract (for whatever reason). ALB, JAX, PWM are other flights where I've encountered this. And there are more examples. And in general, I'll take some oatmeal and packaged baked goods over yet another re-constituted egg dish that is the typical AA domestic breakfast.

2
Taylor Guest

There are significant start-up costs associated with opening a catering city (even if you're simply contracting with an established airline caterer -- training, oversight, equipment, etc.), so it's a cost/benefit analysis. Assuming all the non-RONs are downline catered with fresh food, AA really only has to solve for the oddball RON. It probably doesn't make sense financially to open a catering city in SLC to solve for 1-2 daily flights, so you get solutions like this one.

2
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