American Airlines Eliminates Meals On Many Flights Over 2200 Miles

American Airlines suspended meal service on most flights in mid-March, retaining first class meals only on flights over 2200 miles (basically 4.5 hours). This was primarily cost cutting and it’s a decision the airline’s CEO didn’t even know about.

In what seemed like gradual good news, American recently introduced a fruit and cheese on flights in first class over 900 miles. However the latest change is that aside from premium cross country flights (New York – Los Angeles, San Francisco) and longer Hawaii flights (like Dallas – Honolulu) domestic flights over 2200 miles will no longer receive meal service and the same applies to close-in international flights, too. Long haul international premium cabins will still receive meals.

Flights like Philadelphia – Los Angeles and Seattle – Miami on American Airlines will no longer have meals in first class. An American Airlines spokesperson confirms,

There will be a small amount of flights, some Domestic and short-haul international flights over 2200 miles, that will receive the fruit & cheese plate in place of tray meal service. These flights will also have a follow on snack basket service before landing.

A strong inflight experience is even more important than ever. So few concessions are open in airports. Airlines are going to have to compete for business, with fewer passengers than there have been in recent years.

Times are tough for airlines. Upgrades are prevalent because business travelers aren’t flying. There are routes where they’re the only non-stop offering and meals aren’t likely to be the reason customers select the airline, but on routes like Washington National – Los Angeles American Airlines they have to compete.

American Airlines should consider following Spirit’s lead and renaming their domestic product the Big Front Seat.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Apart from straight up cost-cutting, how does this make any competitive sense? The hard product for impacted flights is already sub-standard (especially if flying out of an old USAirways hub). Aircraft are “densified,” seatback IFE (where it existed) is ripped out, many planes STILL don’t have charging capability at each seat and now AA’s taking away meals on long-haul domestic flights? What (besides for those who are unlucky enough to be hub captives) is the argument for flying AA metal?

  2. Now we have to pack a lunch to fly cross-country? Wow. AA is really trying to dump their loyal passengers. I will now only fly them as a last resort.

  3. Amazing how American and Amtrak track in parallel how the customer experience is devolved without regard to any competitive environmental impact.

    Given AA’s latest assault against catering in total disregard to the customer experience, why would anybody in their right mind voluntarily book AA, unless they use the rare domestic airport served only by AA, or, they are traveling ‘back to the future’ chasing their imaginary miles. After experiencing AA’s dismal, defeatist approach to the market, as compared to Lufthansa, SWISS, and now Air France, who in their right mind would ever select AA for a trans-Atlantic flight, unless it would be cheaper than a visit to the proctologist.

    Amtrak is still a step ahead of AA in their race to the bottom, by utilizing dining cars were meals once were prepared in the galley simply now to store and heat meals in a bowl, as if sleeping car customers longed for that Pyongyang prison experience for up to a three day one-way trip. (Facing reality, Amtrak years ago stopped any reference to “first class” on its long distance trains.)

    Rather than pushing more taxpayer funds to broken business models like AA, the U.S. DOT should be analyzing which air carriers will just not make it, no matter how many tax dollars are infused into them, starting with American. As for Amtrak, it is a self-fulling prophesy to marginalize itself by persistently failing to differentiate its model in the marketplace.

  4. AA dumped a bunch of low fares though. Last week UA and AA fares were identical. Now AA is half the price. Maybe they should just change their branding to be a low cost carrier, at least domestically, and buy ads so their website shows up on Google searches for “Spirit Airlines.”

  5. There are some who will only do cross country in first class, and with no meal that makes some even less likely to book. Penny wise pound foolish move by AA, following DL.

  6. Is DL serving meals in F on any domestic flights? I thought it was just a prepackaged snack box, including on JFK-SFO/LAX

  7. Airlines take billions from tax payers the will not serve them something eat on a 6 hour flight. This is not due to safety…I call bull crap.

  8. Just returned today from MIA to LAX in F class on 777W. Meals were in biz and first. Not great, but still nice.

  9. You all complain how bad the food is and now you complain when they take the food away. Which is it?

  10. I can tell you, for this AA EXP, pre-COVID 150K+ yearly butt-in-seat mile traveler: the question/issue of whether or not a flight has a meal has precisely zero to do with the factors that will get me flying again; and will have zero to do with what airline I choose when I do resume flying again.

  11. Err is everyone missing the fact that it’ll also passively discourage the removal of masks (in addition to being an obvious cost saving measure)?

  12. If you look at the the paint swoosh at the front of the airplane It looks very similar to an old Greyhound Bus logo. Google ‘old Greyhound bus logos and you will see it.
    Maybe they are doing what Greyhound does …get on, sit down and we will get you there. Nothing more..

  13. Gary and his fake outrage. Hilarious. DL suspended meal service even on flights over 2200 miles and I dont hear any crying about that

  14. Gary . You really like to bash AA don’t you ? Are you still mad you were fired from AA? Get over it .

  15. On July 5th We flew first class from xna (northwest Arkansas) to Atlanta then to San Diego. We were offered room temperature wine beer, and a zip lock baggy with mini bottles of water and crackers in it)
    From Atlanta to San Diego we were offered more crackers and water. They had one type of beer( it was gross) and wine. It was cold. But there was no soda or real food offered in first class. Friends of mine flew Allegiant from Arkansas to Florida in June, and they served cold drinks with ice and you could buy snacks! I would have bought food on Delta!

  16. “American Airlines should consider following Spirit’s lead and renaming their domestic product the Big Front Seat.”

    Somewhat ironically, though, AA’s seat isn’t even as comfortable as Spirit’s Big Front Seat.

    AA and UA are in a neck-to-neck race to the bottom. My prediction is that Delta is going to emerge, post-COVID, as the real winner among the legacy carriers.

  17. So weird, I post a factual change in what customers should expect on American Airlines flights and people think I’m out to get them, or that I used to work there? (I did not)

  18. Delta now uses a 737-800 on its DCA-LAX flight. It no longer has the Delta One lie flat seat. It has a normal crappy first class seat. The day I’m flying from LAX-DCA in August Delta is trying to charge $1100 one way for it. And it’s only serving snacks. AA is $480 one way. Guess which I’m choosing? Do your homework when you make posts like this

  19. Delta isn’t serving meals either. Just a snack basket and drinks.

    You are so irrelevant. It’ll be a happy day when people stop paying attention to you and your rants.

  20. Delta only serves water and a snack basket. I don’t see your fake outrage about that. You are so desperate to be relevant. It’ll be a happy day when nobody reads your ridiculous rants anymore.

  21. Gary: You don’t post anything negative about Delta (and there is plenty of negative there).

    You are seriously either in need of a life or seriously in need of getting laid.

  22. Worked on SFO-CLT in April, full meal service in FC, nobody wanted anything, all the meals gone waste, what do you want airlines to do?!
    Snack bags (water and snack) are provided on some flights, when we collect the trash, a lot of them didn’t even touch it, if you don’t want it don’t take it! If you don’t like the snack that airline provides, pack your own snack from home, airlines are trying to cut down the cost, they need to survive.
    People complain about not many restaurants open at the airport, pack your own food!
    Besides, why is it so hard to pack your own food?!

    Kudos to Jr, thank you

  23. Seriously people. In the middle of the worst hit to the travel industry , worse than 9-11, and all you people bitch about is a meal. Take some responsibility and pack a lunch. How hard is that? And to whine like spoiled children. Let’s see you all complain when one or more of the carriers goes under, and then what travels will you have left? Good luck supporting your childish habits then .

  24. AA’s strategy is simple. If you want a meal on a long distance domestic flight, fly with our partners B6 or AS. If you want a Spirit like experience fly with us.

  25. @King –

    “when we collect the trash, a lot of them didn’t even touch it, if you don’t want it don’t take it!”

    when you get the bag you don’t know ex ante what’s in it, you also may take it as a hedge against needing it – at the time it’s offered you don’t know how hungry you might get three hours in the future

    “why is it so hard to pack your own food?!”

    carry on limits, lack of refrigeration, TSA limits and remember the passenger may be taking a connecting flight – consider PHL-LAX-HNL with no meal and most shops closed in the terminals, you’re talking about a passenger providing for their own food at the end of the HNL segment.

  26. Why is it unrealistic to complain about service being reduced after months, especially when other airlines (UA, B6) are starting to bring more service back to the front of the plane? I have flown AA since the pandemic and have some more flights scheduled this year, paying to be up front and getting some semblance of service for the cash outlay was one reason I stuck with AA. If they are also going to cut service, I might as well just buy coach flights on Delta or B6 who are blocking middle seats.

  27. @jenny: Delta is doing a huge cost cutting push guised as COVID theater. They have claimed repeatedly that customers want and ask for the snack bags, water and crackers, because it reduces ‘touch points.’ Nonsense, it’s cost cutting guised as slick marketing! In reality they, have under utilized flight attendants on TDY packing the snack bags instead of the contract caterers.

  28. Do you ACTUALLY fly an airline for the food? REALLY? What a trivial issue to raise!

    Please focus on something a little more important or just go away!

  29. Wow, people can be so mean with their comments.

    Gary, you are providing a service to those of us who read your blog, and that is to provide information about current travel. I appreciate the information, so we can make an informed decision about which airline to support. I’m an EXP with AA so until I quit working in another year or so, I’m kind of stuck with them in order to get any customer service at all, which of course, is decreasing rapidly, even before COVID. But after I retire, I will go with whoever provides the best service for the price.

  30. Hey Brain. Suggest you start using yours. Food is not a trivial matter at least to me on a long flight! I simply won’t fly AA on those flights. Are you listening AA? Probably not! I have several other choices where I can get a meal. STOP using the Coronavirus as an excuse for service cut backs.

  31. I’ll be blunt as a multi-million mile flier with PlatPro on American. If I am paying for a seat up front, I expect services commensurate with the cost of the ticket relative to the fare elsewhere on the aircraft. In F, I expect glassware, ice, a variety of options, and some sort of eatable option. The people bashing the author are ignoring his reporting. They are projecting their own opinion in place of taking what he is writing at face value. Yes, American can be bashed for charging 100% more for a wider seat with larger pitch. The distance flown has not changed. The fact that you are on an airplane has not changed. Nothing onboard has changed. The one thing that has changed is that you or the person siting right next to you may be a serious danger to your health… and that cannot be controlled by the flight crew or the airline if they are allowed to board. Limiting interaction with crew members is the goal.. and that’s perfectly fine. I’ll pour my own vodka and soda. Set up a cart and step back… I’d much rather have one person (FA) following proper hygiene practices do the work though. Brown Bag Options or Charcuterie Platter is perfectly fine. Providing or doing nothing is not. We are stuck in the same tube for 4 hours. The risk is already inherent.

  32. All these cry babies need to have their trophie wife get the maid to make them a brown bag to take on the plane. Then they need to quit their jobs because their employer has never provided them a meal while working 6 to 10 hrs a day and some how these wimps survived. Thus if AA OR UA. Goes belly up the can fly WN or Eastern or Trump airlines. In coach with peanuts and the holiday nuts. These are the Wal-Mart flyers

  33. Great reporting Gary! Agree with many others about American’s poor service. As a traveler with over three-million miles mostly in business, I want service commensurate with price. I understand the current pandemic. However, some airlines, including American, are using the pandemic to cut costs. Typical for American! Very sad with the new meal policy! Definitely continuing American management’s long-term slide to diminish on-board meal service especially in business. Now nearing or at the bottom with this further cost-cutting move! Once the pandemic ends, American will be seriously challenged by other forward thinking airlines regarding meal service and a positive flying experience! I have stopped flying American! It’s now in the LCC class!

  34. When visiting my daughter I fly with AA from Heathrow to Raleigh NC, the flight is anywhere between 6.5 and 8 hours. I gather the airport shops are in the main not open and I am not sure if I would be allowed to bring my own food as it is a transatlantic flight. Sounds an awfully long time to exist on biscuits and water and maybe a glass of what sounds like a rather suspect wine.

  35. operating a food service on a plane in the sky may be a bridge too far in a virus pandemic; why expect airlines to do what restaurants largely cannot.
    doing so is problematic on the ground as it is. those little bottles on a plane may be the solution for curbside bar service for any new lockdowns.
    And please return your tray tables to a locked position but wipe them down first with sanitizer will you? Who do you expect to do this for you?

  36. On a 3 hr. 46 minute flight in First, all are offered a handled paper bag upon boarding. In the bag is a small bottle of water and a 1oz. bag of some granola crap mix. Economy are offered the same thing. So basically the ONLY advantage to paying the premium price to sit up front is the slight extra space. I find it insulting that they refer to the 1oz. bag as a snack. WTF

  37. American is dumb to not offer much of anything in First Class. I am EXP PLAT and have been for years but will NOT re-qualify this year and do not care. I am sick of AA doing this crap to us and it began well before the virus. I love the posts about Spirit’s Big Front Seat. I will go to Spirit for the first time whenever I travel again. I am in no rush to travel either. When I do, I will book one of the Spirit’s Big Front Seats and not worry about it and I assume Spirit will allow me to buy things to eat or drink. Just stupid for American to charge for First Class if they are not going to deliver first class service and only give a Big Front Seat. I’m sure the cost to buy a Spirit Big Front Seat is cheaper and less stressful than American’s, Delta’s or United’s.

  38. I booked AA flight from Heathrow to Tucson in January for travel in November. I just want to know if Mr Combover (President Trump) will open the US border before Thanksgiving! Will I also get a meal (there and back)?

  39. There are a lot of senarios where that “meal” is good for, and just enough to stave off hunger pangs…..like running through a terminal to just get to the next gate and probably more that escape me now.plus the fact that once a service is provided,customers come to expect it! It is just poor business practice,especially for those of us who fly up front to arbitratrily discontinue a service,though not a Michilan class offering, that we have come to expect and rely on as part of our travels

  40. What’s incredible is that with this race to the bottom, the airlines (all of them) think we have nowhere else to go, so it’ll all be profitable sooner or later since they’ve now nickel-dimed us into settling for a seat and nothing more. I’ve got news for them: I’ve *never* had to fly 3-4 times a month, and I can probably get away with 6-7 times a year for business and my personal travel. I find being without food for 90 minutes before and an hour after a flight til I reach my destination to make more than a 3 hour flight intolerable without food, even if I grab something when I get in past security.

    I don’t camp anymore. I don’t drink cheap wine. And I won’t be taking cross country first class anymore if this is what it’s come to. It’s simple: provide a decent service, or I’ll just skip the travel. It’s not a hardship for me, it might be a relief given the race to the bottom. And if a legacy carrier bites the dust, I suspect there’ll be somebody who starts a new airline that bests it. Richard Branson, looking at you, again.

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