An American Airlines Website Hack to Let You Pre-Select Your Inflight Meal

Three years ago American Airlines introduced pre-order meals.

Premium cabin customers can pre-select their meal choice either online or over the phone within 30 days of (and up to 24 hours prior to) travel.

This isn’t the same thing as “book the cook” — the idea of choosing from an extensive menu of meals that the airline will then have onboard for you (as offered by airlines like Singapore, Thai, and EVA). Instead it’s a way of making sure you get your preferred meal choice — that the airline doesn’t run out of your selection by the time a flight attendant takes your order.

Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad

Beef Filet with Lobster Mac and Cheese

In mid-September American took this functionality down off their website — 30 days prior to the US Airways integration. Since the meal selection window is also 30 days from travel, it seemed related to pre-order functionality with legacy US Airways flights. Pre-ordering was expected to return to the website in November, though in the meantime you could call and some folks had the American Airlines twitter team let them know meal choices for their flight and register a selection.

You’re still offered the option to pre-order during the booking process if you’re buying first class and you’re within 30 days of travel. But it’s no longer available on the reservation page (and American no longer sends you an email reminding you to pre-order online).

I’ve simply forgotten to make selections for my own flights since the functionality has been off the website. I usually get my first choice anyway, but have missed out on it since the functionality went away. C’est la vie.

It turns out there’s a website ‘hack’ to let you pre-order your meal.

    1) go to the reservation page on The url should look something like this:…Locator=XXXXXX

    2) once on the page, paste the following link into the URL box and hit enter:

    3) the page will reload and ask you if you are travelling with infants. Ignore the error message. Just click “no” and then “continue”.

    4) On the next page, scroll down and select your meals. Even though you can’t check in yet, your meal selection will be saved.

Indeed, I can choose from the two options for my next flight that’s within 30 days of travel and has been upgraded.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Value added post! (Yes, exclamation point.)

    Thrilled this isn’t a post about how a crazy cross dresser being stripped searched by TSA and how TSA let the person through with a gun…blah blah blah…which heads to a quote from you in any XYZ newspaper.

  2. Thanks. It doesn’t happen often, but it can be annoying to get a menu on-board and then find out they’ve “run out” of what you planned to order.

    I’ve got a transatlantic AA biz flight next month, slightly outside of the 30-day window. I’ll certainly try the hack when my flight goes into the window. Does AA have the same menu on all their transatlantic flights? And how often are the selections changed?

  3. Thanks for the tip.Guess it would work if an EP ever got UG’d at 100 hour mark. Would it work under 24 hours…say an UG comes thru at 4 hours when flight goes to airport control?

  4. @iahphx different destinations will involve different menus, and American also cycles their menus.

    For domestic American breaks the country up into 4 regions and assigns meals to each region for a month. So the meals from Dallas to Miami are different than Dallas to Los Angeles. Each month the meals cycle so that for instance Miami might get one month what Los Angeles had the previous month. The full menu only gets replaced once a year.

  5. This is nice. But why would we have to hack to get the page? Maybe the funcionality to order is staged and set to go, but does the airline have everything in place to actually process the order? Maybe that’s why it’s not available as a general link as yet. Just sayin’

  6. @dr boice yes they process the order, they even take the order during the booking process for paid tickets if you’re buying first class within 30 days of travel.

  7. Sam — American meals were:

    * Pretty good before September 2014
    * Really awful September 2014 – April 2015
    * A bit better with the re-introduction of entree salads in May 2015
    * Better still with new domestic meals August 2014 onward.

    American’s meal service isn’t as good as it was prior to September 2014 (when they adopted legacy US Airways meal service). But it’s better than it’s been since that time. And people do have preferences amongst the choices given!

  8. Thanks Gary!

    On my recent ICN-DFW flight I found that they were out of Bibimbap and was disappointed. They said that on the DFW-ICN route most of the passengers pre-order but none on ICN-DFW. I didn’t even know that they offered pre-ordering and certainly didn’t know how to place the order.

    Just used your hack and will enjoy Bibimbap on DFW-ICN next week.


  9. While this is a good tip beware: I reserved vegan meals for 2 flights via phone within the past month- CLT-SXM and SXM-CLT neither flight had my special meal in first class. The FAs were dumfounded.

    I am sick of eating lettuce sandwiches, and the 2,000 miles I received for the inconvenience are not worth it.

    Good thing they had plenty of wine. Be advised: bring a backup supply of food!

  10. I feel like I’m missing something here, I’ve flown a bunch of times and always had the chance to select my meal, from the same screen that you review your reservation or change your seats, whether it was award, revenue or complimentary domestic upgrade.

    It seems like it hasn’t really changed, despite the short blackout period. That said, I do miss the reminder email.

  11. @Trevor you must be the only one. It’s been available at booking. And it’s been available at check-in (eg if you’re checking in for a trip and upgraded on the return at the same time). but for pretty much everyone else in the world it hasn’t been available otherwise since September 17!

  12. @Gary thanks I was just able to select my entree for my flight on Dec 23 but it wouldn’t let me select it for the return flight on Dec 28.

  13. Why does AA keep reducing web functionality? Ability to rename itineraries is gone, ability to pre-order meals is gone. Itineraries with overnight flights show the wrong date. Itinerary no longer shows fare booking code (e.g., Q, N, I, D, A). There are hacks such as this that let you work around some of it, but why doesn’t AA restore this for everyone?

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