Thoughts On Recent Domestic First Class Meals

Thoughts On Recent Domestic First Class Meals

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Most airlines are currently in a transitionary period when it comes to inflight service & catering. At the start of the pandemic airlines greatly reduced service to minimize contact between passengers and crews. Now airlines have started to bring back service, though gradually, with different airlines having different policies.

In this post I wanted to share three domestic first class meal service experiences on recent flights. In no particular order:

Delta first class dinner from New York to Tampa

The first thing that was remarkable about this flight is that Ford and I both cleared our upgrades to first class as SkyMiles Silver Medallion members. I would have outright paid for first class (it was an extra $120 or so, and that’s less than what I value first class at), but the upgrade seemed like a slam dunk (when I booked a week out, no first class seats were taken, and there were very few passengers in Comfort+ or the exit rows). Sure enough, it worked out.

I wasn’t expecting to get anything other than a snack basket or maybe a snackbox, so I was quite impressed to be served something more substantial. There were three dinner options — a chicken salad sandwich, a prosciutto sandwich, and a superfood bowl. All the meals were served in boxes.

I ordered the chicken salad sandwich, which was served with packaged sea salt chips and a packaged chocolate chip cookie. The sandwich was surprisingly okay. The bread wasn’t hard as a rock, so that was a treat.

Delta Air Lines first class dinner snack

The better of the two things we ordered was definitely the superfood bowl, which was served with sourdough flatbread (I would have ordered this as well, but I wanted to get pictures of two different meal options).

Delta Air Lines first class dinner snack

I don’t want to give airlines any ideas here that they can use for “enhancements,” but why can’t airlines usually serve something this simple and healthy(ish)? Like, instead of cheese ravioli with a cheese plate as a side, I far prefer something like this, ideally plated properly. Kudos to Delta on the superfood bowl…

American Airlines first class breakfast from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas

American Airlines was serving “bistro boxes” for a while, and recently brought back food on trays. The current rendition of this is a joke, if you ask me. As described, the options were either “fruit and yogurt or salmon and some other stuff.”

The one option consisted of strawberry yogurt, some granola, some grapes, berries, and one strawberry, a whole banana, a hard-as-rock room temperature pretzel roll, and cream cheese.

American Airlines first class breakfast snack

The other option consisted of strawberry yogurt, a sliced egg, some smoked salmon, grapes, berries, and one strawberry, a room temperature pretzel roll, and cream cheese. I’m not sure what exactly the thought process is here? Am I supposed to make a stale pretzel bread sandwich with salmon, egg, and cream cheese?

American Airlines first class breakfast snack

The whole thing kind of just felt like someone at the catering facility went to the supermarket, saw what was on sale, purchased it, and put it all on one tray.

American Airlines first class breakfast from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale

While the breakfast left a lot to be desired, dinner in the other direction was much better. The two options were either a fruit and grain salad or a turkey sandwich.

The fruit and grain salad was legitimately pretty decent and heathy. It was served with a side of grapes, berries, and strawberries, some hummus with crudites, air popped chips, and a brownie bar.

American Airlines first class dinner snack

Personally I preferred this to what American served pre-pandemic, and I’d be happy to see something like this stick around (ideally with fewer plastic containers).

The other dish was a different story. There was a turkey and cheese sandwich on a stale pretzel roll, with a side of potato salad, as well as a side salad with cheese. Much like the breakfast, it very much gave off “what’s on final clearance at the supermarket” vibes.

American Airlines first class dinner snack

Bottom line

Many airlines are progressively bringing back inflight service, and my last few domestic first class flights have had more domestic airplane food than I’ve otherwise seen in the past 18 months.

In all cases these seem like interim solutions, so I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions based on what’s being offered at this very moment. I do have to give both American and Delta credit for the unique salads they served, which in both cases I enjoyed more than pre-coronavirus catering on either airline. I’d love to see those stick around, ideally with real plates.

Airlines love to take a “champagne lifestyle on a beer budget” approach to catering, especially on a domestic flight. If your catering budget is a few dollars per passenger, I’d prefer that you don’t serve lobster, wagyu-anything, etc. How about just trying to do something simple well?

As far as the rest of the food goes, it was certainly less inspiring. I’m not sure why airlines aren’t heating bread rolls, but I think they should be reminded that room temperature airline bread rolls aren’t good. Period.

If you’ve flown domestic first class within the United States recently, what was your experience like?

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  1. SO_CAL_RETAIL_SLUT

    I get it, nobody likes AA's domestic meals/catering in First. However, the LAX-MIA-LAX trans-cons on the 777's in business have been great! Full meal service with choices - sometimes a menu, sometimes not - so instead the f/a comes around and offers a choice. Full drink service. Some snacks up in the galley area.

    Believe it or not, the service on all my flights this year on that route have been.....very good. The f/a's...

    I get it, nobody likes AA's domestic meals/catering in First. However, the LAX-MIA-LAX trans-cons on the 777's in business have been great! Full meal service with choices - sometimes a menu, sometimes not - so instead the f/a comes around and offers a choice. Full drink service. Some snacks up in the galley area.

    Believe it or not, the service on all my flights this year on that route have been.....very good. The f/a's have been nice, and I haven't been on a flight...yet this year where we've had mayhem or fights in the cabin in regard to mask's or other problems.

    Now, as far as being on-time, that's been more of a problem departing LAX. Leaving MIA is usually pretty good.

    Admirals Club seems to be getting better with more food choices available.

    Flying the "T" in early October from SNA to JFK in J, I'm expecting the meal service in J will be the same as LAX-JFK-LAX "T" service.

    SO_CAL_RETAIL_SLUT

  2. Chris

    I was pleasantly surprised with Delta enhancing their meal options! Took a few months off of flying and returned to the skies last week. Before I took that break, it was 2 different snack box options. Meh.

    Last week I finally got back in the air, and when we leveled off, meal service between Seattle and Los Angeles started. I opted to try the tomato and mozzarella sandwich. Actually, it sounded bland and boring....

    I was pleasantly surprised with Delta enhancing their meal options! Took a few months off of flying and returned to the skies last week. Before I took that break, it was 2 different snack box options. Meh.

    Last week I finally got back in the air, and when we leveled off, meal service between Seattle and Los Angeles started. I opted to try the tomato and mozzarella sandwich. Actually, it sounded bland and boring. But I was absolutely shocked at how darned good it was! It was so good, I ordered one on my flight home later that evening.

    Alaska has their fruit and cheese platter which is my go to when I fly Alaska.

  3. Nancy

    I flew 1st class American from Milwaukee to Dallas 9/18 and only received 2 snacks. The same day I flew Alaska from Austin to San Diego and had a delicious steak salad.

  4. Debbie

    It was only a 90 minute American flight, however it was a 5:45 am flight. The only food purchase in the airport that early was coffee, no juice or even a pastry. So we were a bit hungry to say the least. Our very early morning snack was a diet coke and a Biscoff cookie. I don't drink coffee and wasn't quick enough to think about juice. My husband and I looked at each other...

    It was only a 90 minute American flight, however it was a 5:45 am flight. The only food purchase in the airport that early was coffee, no juice or even a pastry. So we were a bit hungry to say the least. Our very early morning snack was a diet coke and a Biscoff cookie. I don't drink coffee and wasn't quick enough to think about juice. My husband and I looked at each other with the look of `why bother`. Surely something simple should have been easy; there were only 6 first class flyers. Some yogurt with a fresh fruit dish or a nice egg with toast points and jam would have been nice. If I had to plan this AA snack, I would be totally embarrassed for the airline. By the way, we passed on the Biscoff.

  5. Bobo

    Had 3 delicious and well-presented meals on Alaska last week: miso cod, salad with marinated beef slices, and a chicken breast plate that wasn't dried out. Just head and shoulders above what American is offering these days, served by consistently nice flight attendants. Also they make it easy to reserve your choice in advance.

  6. Adrian

    Maybe I am eating healthier now, which change my thought about inflight meal. I agree mostly with you now and the new Delta's bistro box actually looks decent. For a two to four hours medium haul flight, I really don't mind a hearty salad like Chicken soba noodle salad or Cobb salad or a healthy sandwich like Turkey and cheese on whole wheat bread or a nice Vegetarian wrap. For the past decades, the hot...

    Maybe I am eating healthier now, which change my thought about inflight meal. I agree mostly with you now and the new Delta's bistro box actually looks decent. For a two to four hours medium haul flight, I really don't mind a hearty salad like Chicken soba noodle salad or Cobb salad or a healthy sandwich like Turkey and cheese on whole wheat bread or a nice Vegetarian wrap. For the past decades, the hot meals served on most American airlines are just unhealthy. I know the limitation with warmed food but they can do better. The trend is to serve healthier and lighter entree with less cheese and less cream sauce. I hope airlines will be more creative soon.

    Most importantly I really want the option of pre-ordering entree and maybe pre-ordering food in economy. I really don't mind paying for food if I can somehow pre-order them and no need to worry about not getting anything from the cart.

  7. Tim

    Why do airlines serve food that’s prone to food prone bacteria? Potato salad doesn’t belong on planes and probably not smoked salmon either. If it’s not recommended for pregnant women probably should serve on a plane. Pretty sure I got ill from tuna on AA DFW-HNL, I should have known better.

  8. Azamaraal

    The general consensus seems to be that people believe that plant-based "meat" is healthy.

    My wife is an analytical chemist and suggests you take a look at the chemicals that have to be added to the plant base to make it taste like "meat". The result in simplified words is that the "meat" has significantly more calories and is significantly less healthy that real meat.

    If you shop at all you should also be aware...

    The general consensus seems to be that people believe that plant-based "meat" is healthy.

    My wife is an analytical chemist and suggests you take a look at the chemicals that have to be added to the plant base to make it taste like "meat". The result in simplified words is that the "meat" has significantly more calories and is significantly less healthy that real meat.

    If you shop at all you should also be aware that plant based "meat" is at least twice the cost of the real thing. People have been led down the garden path and actually believe that the extra cost is justified by a healthy "meat" rather than an unhealthy real thing. Sadly, the opposite is true.

    More virtue signalling without any basis in fact.

    1. David

      They're not more unhealthy than real meat, but they're also not less unhealthy. Nutrition wise, they're roughly the same. The only reason I buy them is because I want the meat taste, but I rather not have animals die because of my dietary preference. I am under no delusion that they are "healthy" in any way.

  9. Edward

    Flew AlaskaAir first class Palm Springs to Seattle and received their famous fruit & cheese plate. It was plated nicely on china, with real flatware and cloth napkins. My partner had a really nice Thai-seasoned steak salad, again plated nicely. The second flight Seattle to Fairbanks was a redeye so just the usual drinks and snacks.

    On the Delta flight Anchorage to Salt Lake City, all we received was the infamous "Bistro Box" of bland...

    Flew AlaskaAir first class Palm Springs to Seattle and received their famous fruit & cheese plate. It was plated nicely on china, with real flatware and cloth napkins. My partner had a really nice Thai-seasoned steak salad, again plated nicely. The second flight Seattle to Fairbanks was a redeye so just the usual drinks and snacks.

    On the Delta flight Anchorage to Salt Lake City, all we received was the infamous "Bistro Box" of bland hummus and tepid crackers. It was obvious that we got a lot more for our money on Alaska than Delta.

  10. Karrie

    American serving shrimp or in fact any seafood should be banned.

    Fyi have to share this-
    American internal served pasta lasagna rolls loaded with pine nuts all over it was about the weirdest and worst meals ever.
    Putting nuts on pasta is just wrong. I wish I can show y’all a picture of it.

  11. Alison

    Flew Mint to Boston and had one of our best airplane meals ever--breakfast with cranberry orange scone, espresso, avocado toast, plums and a surprisingly good quiche. Rivaled my previous favorite meal on Austrian. Flew home AA biz class and did get a hot meal, but very "meh"..chicken teriyaki stirfry, burrata salad and some kind of cheesecake. Not terrible, not great.

  12. Donna

    My doctor would probably paint a skull and cross bones on half of those pictured snacks and meals. And I agree. Even before the pandemic, I always tried to avoid boarding a flight hungry, opting instead to eat at home, at the hotel or in the lounges or terminals in spite of the fact that these days I fly F and J and am getting offered meals. On long haul flights, I pack a few...

    My doctor would probably paint a skull and cross bones on half of those pictured snacks and meals. And I agree. Even before the pandemic, I always tried to avoid boarding a flight hungry, opting instead to eat at home, at the hotel or in the lounges or terminals in spite of the fact that these days I fly F and J and am getting offered meals. On long haul flights, I pack a few snacks just in case the meals are a total bust. All my pandemic flights have been on AA and they have been varying degrees of the usual unhealthy offerings.

  13. Sir Walter Raleigh

    Make it a fair comparison and put in the gross United meals you've posted during pandemic

  14. Gregg

    All of that crap, on both carriers, looks absolutely disgusting.

    The perpetual race to the bottom continues. I have low expectations for AA but even still this is not worthy of a first class meal. As for Delta, they’re rapidly burning through what remaining good will they have with their customers. If they don’t step up their game quickly, they will join AA at the bottom of the heap to fight it out amongst themselves while UA takes the top position.

  15. Cindy

    I prefer a meal not some "health" snacks. I want something hot and cooked.

  16. Greg

    Recently flew DFW-OGG and HNL-DFW in F and I thought the meals were pretty good actually. Still not sure why AA can't use glassware though....

  17. Ryan R

    Lol, that Turkey Sandwich + Potato Salad + Greens w/ Parmesan is the exactly same food that was in the "Bistro Box" I got in July from Kona to LAX, just plated very differently. I actually thought overall it was pretty good, and the basket of chips/snacks they passed around was better than other domestic airlines.

  18. DCAFrank

    I've stopped flying paid J on American this spring due to the poor offerings up front. I'm going to requalify for PltPro via credit card spend and with crediting a few AS flights. I've been flying United and Delta transcons where the first meals have been solid and where I don't have to deal with Oasis/Kodiak confirmed aircraft.

    Had a solid convo with an American EXP on my last United flight and we both...

    I've stopped flying paid J on American this spring due to the poor offerings up front. I'm going to requalify for PltPro via credit card spend and with crediting a few AS flights. I've been flying United and Delta transcons where the first meals have been solid and where I don't have to deal with Oasis/Kodiak confirmed aircraft.

    Had a solid convo with an American EXP on my last United flight and we both agreed, due to cost-cutting, AA has now put their rivals on our radar.

  19. Alex

    Alaska First hot meals are back and very tasty. SEA-JFK for Labor Day I had Chicken Clementine with Saffron rice and kale on the outbound which was very well seasoned and the chicken was tender and juicy. JFK-SEA I had the Miso Cod with brown rice and assorted greens. Cod was alright (good for fish on a plane) and the assorted greens were well seasoned.

    1. Erica T

      I also had that miso cod over labor day. Agree it was good for the plane, but not for the ground. Here's the full description: Miso Marinated Cod with sesame garlic farro, sauteed yu choy, bell peppers and shitake mushrooms in a sesame-miso butter sauce. It also had a side salad and a roll.

    2. Kyrial

      The new Alaska first class menu looks pretty legit but has Airplane taught us nothing? You never order the fish!

  20. MJT

    Flew United first class from IAD-PDX in August. Choices were chicken with orzo or vegetarian enchiladas. I chose the chicken with orzo. It was decent. Came with a couple cherry tomatoes, a side of southwestern quinoa mix, a warm roll, and a delicious little chocolate chip cookie “pie” that was also served warm. It was nice to have real dishes that didn’t come foil covered.

  21. Andrew B

    My last flight on American, they ran out of the Turkey sandwich in the 3rd row (out for 5 on the A321neo). That’s probably what I would have ordered, but I also was pleasantly surprised by the fruit and grain bowl.

    I also enjoyed the “Southwest salad” (Quinoa and Steak) that I had on another flight.

    I do wish that the fruit and cheese plate was still an option though. Great on flights where I am not particularly hungry.

  22. West Coast Flyer

    If your "first class" meal is that dour, would it be acceptable to purchase some of the buy on board offerings from economy? Would they even allow that?

  23. D3kingg

    I liked the American Airlines domestic first light meal from ord to Iah. 3 plastic containers of salad , hummus , and a sandwich. I also like that they use cheap plastic cups with no AA logo to save money. Good cost cutting. I didn’t like the Barclays Aviator napkins , the inflight credit card pitch 40 minutes before landing when every passenger was sleeping , and the additional credit card pitch while taxiing on...

    I liked the American Airlines domestic first light meal from ord to Iah. 3 plastic containers of salad , hummus , and a sandwich. I also like that they use cheap plastic cups with no AA logo to save money. Good cost cutting. I didn’t like the Barclays Aviator napkins , the inflight credit card pitch 40 minutes before landing when every passenger was sleeping , and the additional credit card pitch while taxiing on the runway. Then some people connecting in DFW get on the sky tram and pass the escalators wrapped with Barclays aviator advertising.

  24. Jaded platinum

    Flew DL from MSP-PDX round trip 2 weeks ago. Got upgraded to the big seats on the way out on a A330, and only got a bistro box, which is more or less a glorified lunchable. Flew a 767 on the return, sat upfront in the older big seats, and had a choice between an Italian Turkey sandwich box or a salad. Went with the sandwich, It was a couple slices of turkey, a slice...

    Flew DL from MSP-PDX round trip 2 weeks ago. Got upgraded to the big seats on the way out on a A330, and only got a bistro box, which is more or less a glorified lunchable. Flew a 767 on the return, sat upfront in the older big seats, and had a choice between an Italian Turkey sandwich box or a salad. Went with the sandwich, It was a couple slices of turkey, a slice of roma tomato, some herbed mayo and some sort of grean leafy substance served on a mealy foccacia roll. Cold. Gave it 3 bites. Glad I had grazed at the Skyclub prior to boarding.....

  25. Terence

    I thought warm bread (pretzel roll) is back on UA last when I checked.

  26. Thomas

    Alaska's meals are suprisingly good. And hot meals are available on midcons as well.

    1. FMLAX

      Indeed! Writing from AS 5 right now, excellent kale, egg potato, and bacon breakfast bowl was served.

  27. ryan

    "The sandwich was surprisingly okay. The bread wasn’t hard as a rock, so that was a treat." -- What a sad state of affairs when not having a rock for a roll is now a treat :/

  28. SQ51

    United served a full (delicious) hot breakfast JFK-LAX in Polaris mid august. Full crockery and cutlery, but plastic cups.

  29. Steve

    Alaska Airlines has brought back hot meals on transcon flights.

  30. KevinL

    Wow, all three of these pale in comparison to the well-plated, delicious bananas Foster Belgian waffle I was served on my DEN-TPA United flight a couple of weeks ago. It's not

    1. jetset

      Haven't had the waffles on United but I did have the plant-based chorizo egg scramble and found it to be the best meal I've had in domestic first class in several years and importantly, it did not feel disgustingly unhealthy. No excess oils and the plant-based chorizo was tasty.

      Only issue is that United found 4 (2 breakfast 2 lunch/dinner) domestic meals that work for them and has yet to change them since restarting...

      Haven't had the waffles on United but I did have the plant-based chorizo egg scramble and found it to be the best meal I've had in domestic first class in several years and importantly, it did not feel disgustingly unhealthy. No excess oils and the plant-based chorizo was tasty.

      Only issue is that United found 4 (2 breakfast 2 lunch/dinner) domestic meals that work for them and has yet to change them since restarting meal service... Fine for most who aren't traveling regularly but does get tiring if you have any frequency these days.

  31. Alonzo

    This is what people asked for. To prevent extended mask removal in-flight, people wanted a shorter meal service and reduced beverage service. Airlines responded by giving less substantial food offerings. You get what your deserve.

    1. Mike

      Who asked for this?! I don't know a single person who wanted or enjoyed the trimmed down meal service and less drinks on flights during Covid. Airlines only used Covid as an excuse to cut costs, nothing more. Just like how hotels have cut services citing Covid even though Covid has no real effect on any of it. They just want to justify cutting costs and diminishing the customer experience.

    2. Never In Doubt

      No one asked for this.

      Are you a fool or an airline exec?

      Those are the only two options I can come up with.

  32. jak

    Your American meals seem much better than the ones I got two weeks ago on roundtrip between DFW and LAX. The outbound was breakfast and the options were turkey sandwich or egg salad sandwich, both served with yoghurt. The return was lunch and even worse - by the time they got to me the only available option was a pimento cheese sandwich. Who comes up with this?!

    1. Bill n DC

      Flew RT DCA-DEN. Got the same very cheesy sandwich both ways on United. Hubby can’t eat cheese so on way back he had the trembling vendor Cuban (w/out cheese) WTF your comment window doesn’t seem to allow edits without back spacing to the edit.

  33. Gravelly Point Guy

    The last two options/pictures don’t look bad at all. Seems to me all is missing now is real cutlery and glassware!

Featured Comments Load all 43 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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SO_CAL_RETAIL_SLUT

I get it, nobody likes AA's domestic meals/catering in First. However, the LAX-MIA-LAX trans-cons on the 777's in business have been great! Full meal service with choices - sometimes a menu, sometimes not - so instead the f/a comes around and offers a choice. Full drink service. Some snacks up in the galley area. Believe it or not, the service on all my flights this year on that route have been.....very good. The f/a's have been nice, and I haven't been on a flight...yet this year where we've had mayhem or fights in the cabin in regard to mask's or other problems. Now, as far as being on-time, that's been more of a problem departing LAX. Leaving MIA is usually pretty good. Admirals Club seems to be getting better with more food choices available. Flying the "T" in early October from SNA to JFK in J, I'm expecting the meal service in J will be the same as LAX-JFK-LAX "T" service. SO_CAL_RETAIL_SLUT

Chris

I was pleasantly surprised with Delta enhancing their meal options! Took a few months off of flying and returned to the skies last week. Before I took that break, it was 2 different snack box options. Meh. Last week I finally got back in the air, and when we leveled off, meal service between Seattle and Los Angeles started. I opted to try the tomato and mozzarella sandwich. Actually, it sounded bland and boring. But I was absolutely shocked at how darned good it was! It was so good, I ordered one on my flight home later that evening. Alaska has their fruit and cheese platter which is my go to when I fly Alaska.

Nancy

I flew 1st class American from Milwaukee to Dallas 9/18 and only received 2 snacks. The same day I flew Alaska from Austin to San Diego and had a delicious steak salad.

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