American Airlines Brings Back Food On Flights Under 4 Hours

When American Airlines announced the suspension of most meal service in late March, it made sense. This substantially reduced interactions between customers and flight attendants.

At the time the airline said this suspension would last through April 30. I assumed it would be suspended indefinitely. However it turns out that American is bringing back some catering on flights less than 2200 miles effective May 1. As American shared internally,

It’s been more than a month since we suspended food and beverage service on flights under 2200 miles. Effective May 1, on flights 900-2199 miles (typically 2.5 – 4.5 hours), we are excited to begin offering customers a snack bag containing a bottle of water and a snack as they board the aircraft. Over the past several weeks, we’ve tested this procedure with flight attendants from 8 different bases to make sure we are keeping the number of customer touchpoints to a minimum, and to allow opportunity for continued social distancing.

Each bag includes a bottle of water and a snack for the entire aircraft regardless of cabin. The bags will all contain the same snack.

This is food for everyone whether in coach or first class. And it’s just a snack. But it’s something.

Two years ago coach breakfast service became a brown paper bag on international Boeing 757 flights. American said at the time that they were looking for “additional routes where we could use this packaging too.” Little did they know!

Years ago American gave out food to coach passengers in bags as they boarded the aircraft. The quality of what was in the bag varied over time, in the 90s you might have gotten a chicken sandwich with cheddar, lettuce and tomato along with a bag of chips and a cookie. At one point American Airlines did a deal with America Online to include their startup CDs in the bistro bags.

These “bistro bags” were sometimes referred to as “beastly bags” — and they easily doubled as an air sickness bag. Bistro bags were initially eliminated from flights under 3 hours, and then free meals in coach on American officially ended February 1, 2005.

Unlike bistro bags, they won’t be distributed to passengers as they enter the jetway. Instead they’ll be served from the galley as passengers board. They’ll be set up there and customers will be told to take a bag as they board.

This snack won’t likely be substantial. But if you think about cross country flights that aren’t quite coast-to-coast some food makes a big difference. And if you think about connecting flights right now, with airport food options limited (with many places shuttered) this will help.

While this is obvious if you think about it, because the snack bags are being provided by the airline, they actually have to be “stowed under a seat, or in an overhead bin prior to aircraft movement.” You can’t keep the snack bag in your lap!

Ultimately they’ll have to find a way to improve offerings in first class, to differentiate the product more, because they are going to want to sell it again. Right now you’re more likely to be able to social distance in economy than first class.

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. TSA needs to suspend the liquids ban – let people bring their filled water bottles with them through the checkpoint

  2. Oh, give me a break! Despite my accrued miles, the last AA flight I took was in September, 2018.

    Despite flying FC, AA manipulated the flight as “lunch,” despite leaving at 250 pm PST (450pm CST). What was served was total crap! Just some strands of lettuce and skinny pieces of chicken. Referred to as “Vietnamese Chicken Salad,” nobody in Vietnam ever ate such garbage!

    Therefore, I would never get excited over any news re AA announcement on F&B services.

  3. Oh stop with the “They are copying DL crap”. I can say the same about DL copying AA in some areas or both AA and DL copying JetBlue or Frontier when it comes to masks ( Note UA is just an island and has no idea what to do). All the airlines are trying to make changes and announce them when they are logistically ready. AA was testing this BEFORE DL announced it BTW.

    Give them all a break, they are thinking creatively and I who still has to travel will be glad to get a snack!


  4. @nsx at FlyerTalk – the airlines are saying you can take the mask off for meals. To me this defeats the purpose of wearing them but I guess they are trying to be all things to all people

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