American Airlines Has An RFP Out For A New Inflight Meal Partner

Before the pandemic American Airlines had partnered with Zoës Kitchen on branded meals. That partnership has expired. I’m not sure any restaurant chain would be interested in putting their name on an American Airlines Turkey Pastrami sandwich.

During a Crew News question and answer session with employees this week, an executive in onboard dining shared that they’re looking to replace Zoës Kitchen with another brand – but it might not be a brick and mortar chain.

We are in an active RFP at the moment to help get a partner. And with you know Uber Eats and things like that, the marketplace has really changed. And there’s a few more options out there than just your regular brick and mortar type items. So we’re looking at a few things like that and a few partnerships that will hopefully give our customers more variety than we were able to do on the ground. We think pre-order was something that we used a little bit pre-Covid, we’d love to bring that back.

Having a partner’s food items, or at least a version of them, may at least replace the need for American Airlines executives to pick what goes on the tray from scratch. They don’t appear to be very good at it.

The Number Of Salads On A Tray Is American’s Decision, Not The Caterer’s, credit: D.J.

It sounds like American Airlines is open to cobranding their meals with non-traditional food businesses, perhaps ghost kitchens, or maybe a meal kit delivery service like HelloFresh?

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. Had the “Turkey Pastrami” in 1st class a few weeks ago. It tasted like a thick piece of rubber. After one bite I sent it back (as others). Even the flight attendants were embarrassed serving this “sandwich”.

  2. There are travel situations (like tight connections) where you are starving and wound up in 2B feeling like you on a deserted island. Whatever appears inside that wrap/box you will thank the Lord Almighty. (Of course the double mini of Woodford helps too)

  3. I don’t understand why what seems to be a fairly simple-to-offer amenity on most airlines is so difficult for AA.

  4. I assume they dropped Zoe over cost. For a short time, but on board was good (and sometimes better than the F meal).

    The F sandwiches are revolting these days, nothing short.

  5. AA: “Hello, Uber Eats? I’d like to order twelve thousand airline meals for this afternoon at DFW. No, no tip.”

  6. I had the sandwich pictured with the two sides on an 8:10 pm transcon from Charlotte to San Francisco in first class. The service was described as “refreshments” so I was pleased that it was more than just pretzels. And even more pleased because everything was incredibly tasty.

  7. Amtrak and American share a common problem that inhibits customer experience-a Board lacking the requisite experience to provide competent stewardship and oversight.

    American’s management issues are as obvious as a sunburn on a fair-skinned person–wasting time on nickel & dime issues distracting management’s time and energy. Complimenting the worst seats in air travel, American now searches for a caterer a cut above Air North Korea, rather than simply figuring out who caters Delta and United, pick one, and than focusing on the bigger issues.

  8. I wish American would take a look at their newish Oneworld partner Alaska. After years flying out of Ohare and for some reason building a fanbase with American, I was blown away when I switched to Alaska when I moved to Seattle pre-covid. The service and food were so much better consistently on Alaska I was embarrassed for all of my previous posts on FlyerTalk promoting American. Check out the 2020 posts for meals from both airlines below:

  9. AA is truly abysmal these days….ripped out IFE, can’t stream due to issues, food is awful….I’d love to know who the Managing Director is for inflight service these days….this airline can’t figure things out….it’s so sad because I loved AA before the unions let US Airways takeover.

  10. @Ron that’s terrible. I’d be pissed if they subbed the snack basket (which is decent) with these horrendous “sandwiches”

  11. Bring back those chicken and parmasean salads with dressing and condiments on side. Never put mayo or condiments on sandwiches. It doesn’t travel well and is not ideal for all customers.

  12. Delta is not much better. They have been worse than AA during Covid. Food is not edible and nothing hot. Just spent 3k for a first class ticket to Liberia and the sandwich looked worse than this

  13. Lots of laughs and giggles in the post, thank you guys. First I would have to point out that a catering company isnt putting their name on an AA meal but its the other way around. Its amazing the first paragraph puts AA in the wrong (there are plenty of other opportunities).
    Second, it would seem very “simple” to find a meal vendor if their were many choices out there but the reality is there isnt due to the volume AA would need. Those catering for UA or DL may not have the manpower for another large partner. Hell, fast food restaurants cant even keep up with the volume they have with walk in/ drive through traffic these days.
    All of this is to say, these business partners find the contracts appealing but its a challenge for them to provide staff and put out a good product that ends up on your plate in first class. When they cant fulfill their obligation, its seen as AA is putting out less than tasty meals. AA will respond by finding another business partner which takes lots of time.

  14. American is in final negotiations with meals on wheels and Corrections Corp of America for catering

  15. Prior to the virus, American Airlines food was horrible for the premium cabin. At least it was something. I fly ORD to DFW often and I have to beg for a cocktail and a small bag of pretzels. Zoes was the best option. I feel that American is using the virus to save money and avoid any level of service.
    And keep that sandwich. A hungry cat would sniff it and walk away.

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