American Airlines has a plan for first class meals. They are going to be smaller, with fewer items heated. And expect the bread to be served room temperature, though I’m not sure how they expect you to spread butter on rolls that haven’t been warmed. That’s according to explanations that were given to employees at question and answer sessions held last week by airline President Robert Isom, recordings of which were reviewed by View From The Wing.
Jodi Spicer, American’s Managing Director of Onboard Dining and Service explained that “for the longer term…let’s not just bring back everything that we had prior. This is a unique opportunity for us to look at what do our customers value, and what’s easiest for [flight attendants]?”
Here are some more of the explanations she offered around what to expect for first class meals going forward,
- “The team is looking at ways where we can introduce a cold service on shorter flights with maybe only one hot component and other options that bread that maybe doesn’t need to be warmed.”
- “We were thinking about during the pandemic, how can we come up with something that our customers value but that [flight attendants who want to limit contact with customers] feel comfortable serving? This is our fresh bites if you haven’t flown a 2200 mile flight, that’s where these are flying now, and later this summer we’ll be expanding to other mileage bands…we have 16 versions of these boxes.”
- “The idea here is: easy to serve, value, quality maybe not as much quantity. Making it look a little bit different in our delivery methods.”
- “Our customers’ expectations have just changed entirely…you’re gonna see in the fall..it might be a little lighter fare and only at those longer distances will you see those traditional stay setup meals. Doesn’t mean that we’re going to go on the cheap side, but just change the look make it more valuable and quality versus quantity…hopefully later this year.”
Vice President of Flight Service Brady Byrnes explained their focus has been to “greatly reduce our customer touch points inflight, some of our major competitors continued beverage services even in main cabin, we didn’t think that was right for our colleagues or our customers.” He also offered that “when we re-introduce elements of our service moving forward, will it be different? Yes. Should it be different? Absolutely.”
Talking to pilots about crew meals – and crew meals generally track first class passenger meals – they noted that “later this summer…some other things on the docket that will come forward for some shorter flights in the 900 mile range.”
The head of inflight service head at the time, who made the decision to eliminate inflight meals in the first place, stated that the airline wouldn’t ever bring back the old first class meals and instead would offer something that still “has a premium feel but is different and more modern.” We’re now getting of an inkling of how that works out in practice.
They seem to think that customers want less interaction with crew and that translates as reduced meal service. However,
- Cold food doesn’t mean less contact with passengers than hot food. Ovens haven’t been shown to be a vector of spread for Covid-19.
- Less food means more contact, not less, for customers. That’s because passengers still need to eat, they just have to forage in the crowded airport instead of having it brought to them on board.
Ultimately for passengers and crew who are vaccinated there’s limited concern about the pandemic. And quality hot meals don’t involve more contact than delivering better meals on a single tray. When the person delivering the message about the plan for future meals has to proactively offer that this isn’t about being “on the cheap side” you know that this is about being on the cheap side.
United Airlines just announced that they’re bringing some meals back to domestic flight class, focusing on flights over 1500 miles and flights between the airline’s hubs that are 800 miles or more. These comments from American Airlines about inflight meals were made right as United was making their announcement on Wednesday. I have to think American will respond competitively, albeit with a little less, at a minimum they need to match meals on routes where both United and American offer non-stop service.