U.S. airlines generally eliminated meals on most domestic first class flights. That wasn’t about eliminating touch points with customers. That’s an argument for dropping food for sale (to get rid of payments). But they kept serving food on longer flights and there are great ways to present food safely, as airlines have always done with kosher meals.
Eliminating domestic first class food service is all about cost-cutting. At American Airlines it was a quick decision the CEO says he didn’t even know about in advance.
When people (1) fly because they have to, and (2) don’t have many competitive options because of reduced schedules, inflight product doesn’t drive business. And airlines are looking to conserve cash. Even when business turns around, it’ll take time for product to recover as carriers try to manage their debt burdens.
In the near-term, airlines are restoring their schedules (somewhat) on domestic routes and there are (some) more passengers willing to travel. That means competition starts to matter. Delta is again serving alcohol where it was previously free, no payment transactions.
Now American Airlines says internally that they’re restoring a little bit of food to first class on flights between 2.5 and 4.5 hours, as a competitive response to improved product elsewhere. Per JonNYC:
..to be prepackaged in plastic just like previous FFS flights
(from on-going downhill RE: flight services)
— JonNYC (@xJonNYC) July 2, 2020
It’s not much but it makes very clear that the lack of food is about money, not safety. Packaged snacks didn’t suddenly become safe on 2.5 hour flights when they were unsafe (with less virus spread than there is today in American hubs Dallas, Miami, and Phoenix!) a few weeks ago.