American Airlines Serves Hot Dogs as International First Class Meals

London Heathrow is the most premium air market in the world. International first class is a step beyond business class, the most premium commercial airline product in the world.

American Airlines is the only U.S. airline that still offers international first class. Delta and United have business as their top product.

I’ve written recently about how expensive international first class can be. For instance here’s a sample on the Los Angeles – London Heathrow route pricing at more than $16,500 roundtrip.

American’s service doesn’t really compete well in that cabin. But what about the meals?

American isn’t known for its inflight cuisine. I find their first class meals to be very business class. However I’m still shocked at what they’re offering as second meal service departing London Heathrow: a chorizo hot dog.

Credit: American Airlines

Here’s detail on the two second meal choices for London Heathrow Westbound flights in first class where the hot dog is offered (‘cycle 1’), and how the service is provided:

Air New Zealand was well known for hot dogs in business class lounges, it’s a certain comfort food and kitsch. But that’s one option of many on the ground, for business class passengers. This is international first class, not a ballpark.

Air New Zealand Lounge Hot Dogs, Sydney

I asked American Airlines about the decision to serve a hot dog in international first class, and spokesperson Susannah Wesley-Ahlschwede shared,

This has been flying onboard since 2017 and is popular with our First Class customers, consistently receiving high marks. This was designed by one of our former celebrity Chefs, Mark Seargeant, created around the time BubbleDogs in LHR was a craze.

When United Airlines replace steak with a gourmet cheeseburger at lunch on domestic cross country flights a couple of decades ago, that was controversial. It was a pretty good cheeseburger. And it was domestic. How far have we fallen that American Airlines considers a hot dog to be a meal in international first class rather than the top off to a good Costco run?

And if it’s “consistently receiving high marks” that seems the ultimate example of what George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

I often can’t figure out whether American Airlines is trying. On the one hand they serve food that may be fine in business class as Flagship First.

At the same time they are trialing using two jet bridges to board their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft at Hong Kong, with the L1 door just for crew and first class. Do they want first class to be exclusive and special, or a ballpark experience? It seems to me they need to decide.

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. The use of L1 to board Boeing 777-300ER aircraft at Hong Kong is to keep pilots and non-revenue passengers in F (who else would choose AA F because of mediocre food and service!) from paying public.

  2. Amulican Hairlines something truly special in the air
    No wonder why folks fly any carrier but American if they can
    AA wouldn’t know what Premium cabin is if it smacked them in the head

  3. But Gary…those buns are giant pretzel rolls! The pretzel roll is absolutely the best thing AA serves.

  4. Gary –

    There’s a long tradition of this on the second meal westbound from Europe, for instance with TWA (back when TWA was still good). That said, it was one of multiple choices, and the lamb salad does not look good.

    Lufthansa still serves sausages in F during Oktoberfest, too.

  5. In general, it just doesn’t seem well thought-out to serve potentially messy hand-held food in a shaking metal tube with limited sink space for washing up. But, then, I genuinely struggle to understand who would pay 5 figures for the opportunity to fly AA in F. If we’re talking about “upgrade class” or “nonrev class,” then costco cafeteria might be a smart move.

  6. I know it ruins the fantasy people have that they’re high class because they’re sitting in a premium cabin for a few hours, but it probably tastes better than most of the mediocre food served in those cabins!

  7. It looks like a pretty good hotdog. Pretzel bun, pretty good garnishing, chorizo. It’s definitely a step above the hot dogs you’re comparing it to.

    If anything, I think that salad is more ridiculous to serve in international first class.

  8. Why do we care? The only people who fly AA F are non-rev employees. No sane person is going to pay $10K for their crap product or spend 200K points one way.

  9. Aren’t hot dogs some sort of novelty pleasure for the affluent? One can only tolerate so much filet mignon and caviar. Also, when else can you chase a hot dog with mediocre champagne?

    In all seriousness though… this has got to be a joke.

  10. and if you want an an award one way it would cost you a cool 210k miles! Well, cause there is never SAAVer award availability.

  11. I flew LHR to JFK in AA F yesterday and I had the hot dog. It was fine as far as hot dogs go but I give them credit for having a real grainy mustard to go with it. I don’t have an issue with this, I found after sitting on a plane for 6 hours a hot dog and potato chips was a nice bit of comfort food before we landed.

    And on the subject of the food, I had a braised pork belly entree with some kind of a bean cassoulet that was one of the best dishes I’ve had on a plane. They also served a lobster appetizer and had a great Ridge red zinfandel (that goes for $50+ per bottle on the ground) so I didn’t feel at all like they were skimping.

  12. Let’s take a closer look.
    Hamburger in J, Hot Dog in F.
    Pretzels in Y.
    All we need now is the popcorn, ice cold beer and 85” flat screens with a football game.

  13. Am I the only one noticing that it’s called “The Spaniard”? Not sure if that’s just (further extending the) terrible marketing or mildly offensive/racist. Or maybe Spain is known for its pretzel buns.

  14. Just over a year ago I flew AA First class from LHR to MIA. The service was impeccable and the food was quite good. The second meal was a steak and cheese sandwich. That does not sound that great and my expectation was low, but it was off the charts incredible. I still remember it to this day. The portions were very generous. The wine was ‘ok’, and normally I like wine while flying, but in Flagship First it wasn’t much better in business which wasn’t all that great in the first place. It was ok though, just not off the charts.

    The food though we all thought was great. The service was truly incredible. Had a flight attendant who lived not far from me, based in Miami.

    And no I didn’t pay for it, there were three saver awards available on the same flight non stop. That was likely some error somewhere, but couldn’t pass up the chance to experience it. The seats while offering little to no privacy were very comfortable.

    I wouldn’t pay substantial amounts to fly in their first, but if it were reasonable in price I’d pay for it again.

    Crazy about them offering hot dogs, but the thought of a steak and cheese sandwich would have turned me away initially as well until I had it.

    DEFINITELY not defending these guys though. I would happily lead a march on Washington for Doug Parker to get booted from this once great airline (and now mostly rubbish).

  15. Now that I can afford it any flights over 2 hours duration I pay up for biz or 1st class. I am a retired military guy with over 31 years on active duty; so food doesn’t have to be out of this world to make me happy. The closest airport to my rural Texas ranch is served by AA so that’s who I fly for better or worse. They’ve had their challenges lately but I can’t fault them for food. Now, yes I have eaten some garbage in my day but nothing they have served qualifies as such. Going to Italy in October and am expecting an excellent experience in business class on American. Hope it makes up for the miserable experience I had in May flying to the East coast.

  16. A couple of years ago travelling from the States to Japan on American we were subjected to the worst BC experience in our travelling life. Over two meals the excuse was we ran out of food and the only choice was breakfast pizzas. Overall an appalling airline. Can’t wait to see what the new Qantas / American alliance will bring to Qantas passengers

  17. I think the very, very rich like simple things like that because they wouldn’t go to places where hot dogs are sold. Also they don’t care about calculating the price of a ticket and a frankfurter.

  18. Which is why we opt for travel on AA partner BA for flights between the 2 continents. They have a proper 1st class, proper service and excellent wines. Also 1st check in at LHR is in a completely separate area at LHR with a separate security area that deposits you directly into the Concorde lounge. AA’s Flagship lounge at LHR is substandard compared to those at LAX/JFK, offers no Flagship dining and the last time we flew AA between the US & LHR they had better wines in business than in 1st. Give me the BA 380 anyday and ever their 747, while a bit old and dated is preferable to the AA 777

  19. I would be ok with it as long as it was a foot long. At least give me my money’s worth. Pretzel bread is my favorite. Let’s face it, the size of steak on most flights is tiny.

  20. I lost my appetite for a day just looking at it.
    Times have changed. First class used to mean sophisticated passengers eating caviar and drinking champagne grand cru, appelation controlee. Today it just means you got money.

  21. Always thought hot dogs in the NZ Sydney lounge were for the departing UA flight just as they were available in FRA for UA’s flights.

    At least in domestic F I recall CO made quite a hit with hamburgers and had one on an AA F domestic flight a couple of weeks ago.

    Certainly for a mid-flight snack on Intercontinental F they’d be a fine novelty.

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