American Airlines Domestic First Class Gets All New Meals Starting Wednesday, Here’s What’s Served

American Airlines is rolling out new menus for domestic first class lunches and dinners this week, and will be flying starting Wednesday. New breakfasts follow next year.

As always you can pre-order your meal if you’re seated in the first class cabin at least 24 hours prior to departure. That just ensures you have your first choice meal available — it doesn’t get you a choice of main courses that differs from what the airline otherwise serves on board.

However pre-order selections are more extensive in two ways. You can order a fruit and cheese plate, more akin to a snack, or you can order a ‘special meal’ like Asian Vegetarian, Muslim, or Kosher. And I’ve found many of American’s special meals to be quite good.

Here’s what’s for lunch and dinner starting tomorrow — we can expect these meals, designed by chef Julian Barsotti, to be standard fare for the next year. That should give me plenty of time to try the new lunch cheeseburger.

American Airlines Lunch

American offers a choice of an entree or a salad at lunch. There are (4) salads and (4) entrées, so that customers have a pick of each on the four different meal rotations American runs.

All of the salads come with grilled chicken breast on the side (so that vegetarians can choose to eat the non-chicken).

  • American Chopped Salad
  • TexMex Salad
  • Mezze Trio Plate
  • Chinese Chicken Salad

And here are the four new entrées:

  • Spinach Ricotta Raviolini
  • Chow Mein Noodle Bowl
  • Cheese Enchiladas
  • Classic Cheesburger

Each of the entrées is going to be paired with an appetizer that is consistent with vegetarian preferences, in other words vegetarian meal with vegetarian appetizer.

  • Caponata, Mozzarella and Salami
  • Blackened Shrimp and Pineapple Salsa
  • Pesto Vegetables and Feta
  • Cold Smoked Salmon and Cucumber
  • Ricotta, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Mache
  • Haricot Vert, Cucumber, Tomato, Sesame Seeds and Dill
  • Broccoli Salad

Chow Mein Noodle Bowl, credit: American Airlines

American Airlines Dinner

There are 8 entrées, since each of four meal rotations offer a choice of two.

  • Grilled Chicken Breast with Lemon Artichoke Risotto, Asparagus and Herb Butter
  • Short Rib with Hatch Chili Mac and Cheese and Haricot Vert
  • Grilled Chicken with Shitake Mushroom Sauce and Twice Baked Potato
  • Beef Filet with Cauliflower Mash and Broccolini
  • Lasagnette Pasta with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Kale Ragu
  • Falafel Plate with Orzo and Quinoa
  • Three Bean Chili with Polenta Cake
  • Southwest Lasagna

Zucchini Falafel over Baba Ghanoush, toasted orzo/quinoa blend with feta crumbles, credit: American Airlines

And these are accompanied by the following appetizers:

  • Hot Smoked Salmon and Everything Potato Salad
  • Old Bay Shrimp with Horseradish Slaw
  • Prosciutto, Tomato Straccetti, Cherry Tomato and Arugula
  • Curried Chicken Salad with Endive
  • Asparagus, Piquillo Pepper, Manchego and Spicy Olives
  • Burrata with Spicy Olives
  • Mexican Street Corn Salad
  • Burrata with Pepperonata and Mache

Short Rib with Chili Mac, Old Bay Shrimp Appetizer, credit: American Airlines

Pre-Order Cheese Plate

American offers some flights more more limited (“Lite Bites”) service and those will have similar cheese options to the fruit and cheese plates you can choose in lieu of a full meal.

Some of the cheeses that we selected for the Lite Bites (launched Sep 12, 2018) will also be used on the Pre-Order Fruit & Cheese Entrees they include:

  • Cracked Black Pepper Cheddar
  • Krystal Pure Cave Aged Cheddar
  • Appalachian Tomme
  • EMMI ROTH Cheese
  • Monterey Jack
  • Smoked Gouda

I have to applaud American for introducing an Emmi cheese because — while I bet the people making these decisions have no idea — one of the best frequent flyer deals of all time was earning AAdvantage miles for purchase of Emmi cheeses, in late 2006.

Special Meals

American’s special meals are worth ordering. I don’t want to flag for the Executive Branch that I’m a possible terrorist, but I order the Muslim meal because it’s usually quite flavorful and the desserts are excellent.

For Passover you can’t pass up a Kosher meal. It was downright delicious.

If you are booked into first class more than 24 hours out, and you don’t fancy what’s on offer, you have some pretty good standby options.

But What About the Cheeseburger?

A really great burger starts with quality beef. It should have processed cheese that melts well. And it should be inside of a potato bun, sesame seed if you must.

Don’t use ciabatta bread or a kaiser roll. As good as brioche can be, it’s not well-matched to a burger. The bun is a delivery vehicle for the burger. It needs to be big enough to contain the burger, but shouldn’t be so large that it overwhelms the contents – especially the meat.

Everything you put on the burger needs to fit inside of the bun. You don’t want the burger to fall apart when you eat it, and it shouldn’t be overstuffed. The goal is a balance of flavors inside, getting a combination of everything with each bite rather than winding up with pieces of meat or pieces of bun leftover at the end.

American Airlines has staked its reputation on the burger and is introducing a burger as a lunch option in first class. There’s no way it will be as good as what’s offered in Flagship Dining both because:

  1. That’s for international first class passengers, and domestic first won’t get that level of investment
  2. That’s on the ground, not in the air

Still it’s really quite possible to do a good burger in the sky. Delta has served Shake Shack on board. United Airlines used to serve McDonald’s, and specially fitted galley carts to keep the cold items cold and keep the burgers warm while they were being distributed to passengers in economy.

More recently this is what Untied’s cheeseburger has looked like:

United’s Cheeseburger

And American has certainly done cheeseburgers in domestic first class before.

American Airlines Cheeseburger, 2010

I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve come up with. I’m strangely fascinated by the idea. If any of you try it — or any of these new items — before I do, let me know what you think.

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. Its just the same garbage with different chemicals in the sauces. Im surprised anyone eats that junk. Why would you?

  2. Do they still have the crazy cut off of 8pm where they don’t serve meals for first passengers on flights under 4 hours!?!? I paid $600 for a day return Naples Florida to Philadelphia (outbound 06:00am ish) returning from Philadelphia on a flight just past 8pm and got offered a cocktail and the choice of packet of chips or a cookie! FFS! No hot meal!?!? Most others in First were upgrades so they LOVED copious booze ( I was driving upon arrival in Naples so couldn’t partake!). You can have all the chef curated meals up the wazoo but if they ain’t getting served after 8pm except trans continental and you’re being ripped off for $600 then it’s a disgrace.

  3. These don’t sound half bad, but don’t understand why they must follow certain themes. For example, everything here is tex-mex. The meals seem good, but certainly will become tiring quickly. They need more meals in rotation and more frequent rotations.

  4. @brian – they don’t rotate meals or offer much variety because they’re AA. This is just another example of poor customer care/service in the guise of caring. AA is clearly in a race against itself to the bottom…and it’s so hard to watch.

    @alan – great use of a one-word comment!

  5. Let ya know after I have the cheeseburger 20 Nov ORD-BOS. AA also used to offer a decent burger in First Class between 2008-2010, ORD-LGA.

    Frankly, anything would be better than what AA served as a First Class luncheon leaving San Diego almost 5pm CDT for ORD in early October–Vietnamese Salad with roadkill chicken from I-405; a totally tasteless salad that would never see the inside of Gitmo.

    Funny re the Muslim and Kosher meals, as I’ve heard that’s how knowledgeable travelers beat Amtrak’s game of foisting cold boxed meals after eliminating the diner between Chicago-NYC (“Lake Shore Ltd”) and Chicago-Washington, DC (“Capitol Ltd”).

    On that note, perhaps if Richard Branson is looking for a new gig after selling off Virgin America and most of Virgin Atlantic, he might be interested in teaching Amtrak about customer experience and food/beverage services..?

  6. @Johhny Don’t know if you were kidding, but Operations just told me we could cut 1 FA from First if we served all meals using a ladle.

  7. MIA actually does fish well, and now ZERO fish options? There was a fish and a shrimp in the rotation. And they were always the first to run out.

    And for the last couple of months the we’re playing a large salad (rectangular plate) instead of the tiny square plate. Seems back to tiny.

    This menu clearly costs less per meal than the current offerings.

    I fo appreciate the consistent vegetarian meals.

    Is this the same menu as LAX-JFK?

  8. Do we need the lecture about the hamburger every time? Even more so than the lecture, does it have to be written as if your opinion is the definitive way to prepare a hamburger? Plenty of places manage to do just fine with brioche buns on hamburger.

  9. WTF does this mean?!?! — “I don’t want to flag for the Executive Branch that I’m a possible terrorist, but I order the Muslim meal.”

  10. “Its just the same garbage with different chemicals in the sauces. Im surprised anyone eats that junk. Why would you?”


  11. @Dug Parker
    Ladle schmadle.
    Once the FA is eliminated we are changing the galley name to Mess Hall. When the seat belt sign is turned off everyone grabs a tray and lines up for chow. (Picture SOS)

  12. The importance of in-flight food on a domestic flight is in inverse proportion to the roll-out of Priority Pass restaurants in the cities you fly to. Like if you have a free steakhouse at your airport, for instance, the Timberline in DEN, you don’t really need/want any food on board.

  13. I think food on most it not all domestic airlines is of poor quality.
    On a United first flights I have been served a hard biscuit a muffin and not much else, i have been a mileage plus member for over 35 years and watching this decline of a formerly great airline is difficult.

  14. I have noted with dismay how many American meals have cheese embedded within them or sprinkled on top (for example, on sides and salads). It makes it difficult for those of us who just don’t like cheese in any form to enjoy a full meal. It seems to be happening more and more often in the past few years.

  15. Just had the spinach ravioli on flight from PDX to DFW. Really, really good sauce/taste. Small bit of a spicy kick. Kudos. Would love to have the recipe.

  16. Alison, you are so right about the cheese issue! It is used to excess because it is an unimaginative way to add flavor to meals. For the lactose intolerant and for those who just can’t stand the stuff, choices are very limited with American’s luncheon entrees.

  17. Jamie, the cheese is not lacking imagination from the bean counters who figured out it was a cheaper way to get protein into a meal. Lol

  18. I was so excited to hear that you could reserve meals on American. We chose first class for this reason among others. We are all vegetarian and it is always a bit disappointing when a vegetarian option is not available. In addition my wife cannot eat dairy so we wanted to make sure that wasn’t a problem. Form what I had read I thought it would not be.

    I was just told by American Airlines that my flight would not offer special meals and that I should pack a meal for my family just to be sure. We usually don’t fly first class but thought we would splurge. Now that I know I have to pack my own meals (which is going to be interesting on the return flight) I am rethinking the whole thing.

    I cannot even imagine learning this if I had other dietary restriction-medical or otherwise.

  19. Jamesay:

    If you only paid $600 for a 4 hour first class flight then there’s your answer. $600 is ultra cheap for first class, and if that’s what they charge on that flight they have to cut corners somewhere.

  20. I have flown AA first class for the past 10 years. Last year we were looking forward to our meal, television & the other amenities only to be very disappointed. Instead of a straight through flight they bumped us around the US so we did not meet the required time in the air for a meal. Our staff told us the flight has to be over 2:45 hours to serve a meal. We were around 21/2 so all we got was beef jerky & liquor. I paid $817 for 1st class for nothing. As soon as I use my air miles up I will be flying Southwest.

  21. Just flew AA first class from SNA to ORD and special ordered a Kosher breakfast after reading about how good they were. Never again. While others enjoyed their scrambled eggs Benedict we spent 10 minutes unwrapping our meals which were so hot we could barely unwrap them. Once opened, the smell was foul. The omelette was scorched and served with sides of bland over cooked mushrooms and over cooked potatoes that almost disintegrated they were so done. The fruit cup was canned fruit, the sweet roll and croissant weren’t even worth the effort to chew. I immediately cancelled the Kosher meals for the trip back and will opt for non-special meals in the future. Lesson learned.

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