American Airlines Meal Service Really Is Back In Domestic First Class

I’m a frequent critic of American Airlines but I was very impressed with their domestic catering earlier this week. I wrote separately about breakfast on a 1500 mile flight. I’m now returning to talk about dinner on the way back.

First class passengers received a hot towel a the start of service on my outbound (breakfast) flight, but not on my return (dinner) flight. Predeparture beverages were also offered on the outbound but not on the return, though in fairness we boarded late.

Pre-dinner service was a ramekin of mixed nuts to accompany drinks. It’s nice to have ‘real’ nuts (not packaged) back. These are popular with customers, though they aren’t an interesting enough mix where I’ll generally eat them.

For dinner there was a choice of a vegetarian pasta dish and chicken piccata. I chose the chicken and it came accompanied by a salad, breaded shrimp appetizer, and choice of bread.

This isn’t a meal I’d have been happy with in a restaurant, but it was better than the median TV dinner. Put another way, it’s not as nice a meal as I generally get in first class on Alaska Airlines but it’s both competitive in the market otherwise and a huge step up from what American has been serving.

The chicken was good, lemon butter sauce good, and potatoes tasty. I do wish American offered a choice of salad dressings, as used to be common in domestic first class years ago. But there was an actual bread plate! Things like that matter.

I’m actually looking forward to trying the bundt cake dessert but this flight was over 1500 miles and we were given ice cream.

It was a small container of Häagen-Dazs chocolate. Single serving size ice cream containers is something I’ve gotten several times on Cathay Pacific, for instance. On the one hand I’d love a true sundae with toppings. On the other hand when American has done sundaes on non-premium domestic flights it’s been pre-made and with lower-quality ice cream than this. Net net I was happy.

Overall I’d rate this meal as marginally an improvement over pre-pandemic American Airlines. It’s not nearly as good as pre-merger American, and I’d pay an upcharge for a better meal. But I’m genuinely thrilled to know that I won’t go hungry on a flight if I don’t have time to eat running to the airport or running between connections.

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. United is now firmly back to dead last in domestic F meal service after bringing back a reasonable level of service before anyone else… and proceeding to sit on their hands for nearly a year while competition passes them by.

  2. So what kind of dressing do they serve?
    Because for me, that’s a deal breaker…..

  3. I learned from flying throughout the pandemic that we can get along just fine on a 4 hour flight ✈ with a 4 Oz bottle of water and a nice little cookie.
    With dozens of restaurants in the airports and the length of most domestic flights I think that full meals are ridiculous.
    We got along fine without having rubber chicken and weird salad.
    I’ll have a real Coke and a cookie, please.

  4. Has Hel# Frozen over?
    The Global Guru Gleff saying something positive about Americans catering lol
    I haven’t seen Hagen Daz on American Airlines since 2000 some 22 years ago love it though!
    Def a step in the right direction as its a premium product
    As for the rest of the meal I’ll soon find out first hand as I received Emerald status again complimentary 3 years in a row now and was blown away to get it again this years without flying
    No systemwide confirmable upgrades though being I didn’t earn it but still generous of them
    Maybe I should complain now that I’m more likely to fly them again 😉 hah hah

  5. Reminds me of the old Northwest airlines catering – is Hector Adler still at AA

    Nice to see the improvement

  6. NO matter how many brands I have sampled, I still continue to believe the HD vanilla or any other flavor surpasses them. Love the little single serves. And as a wise FA once told me when I was treating myself to flying F one time….watch out for those little dressing cups that can burst forth under the cabin pressure and make a mess on you! SHe also taught me why there was a button hole on the napkin!

  7. It’s hot, which is great, but that “main course” is the same size as the salad, which is distinctly not great

  8. Just flew MIA-FDF which at 1,468 miles got nothing but a pass of the snack basket up front.

  9. I do not fly a particular airline for the food and free drinks. I was recently on an AA flight food was marginal who cares. I will eat when I get home. The crew was fantastic and the flight was on time. Two things I really care about! Report on theses things Eat your gourmet meal on the ground

  10. I am by no means a fan of AA Management but Gary you tend to go overboard with your criticism of the Airline and any attempt they do to provide any level of service. (I can only imagine what pops up when You even check In with a Gate Agent……they probably loathe You as much as You despise AA and couldn’t give a rat’s what you think). State the Facts, limit the cheap shots and the relentless diatribes criticizing everything they do…..would make your analysis have more credibility. *Everyone knows You Hate AA.

  11. The food and service on AA over the past 12 months has been improving (Yes, I did save food as I’ve flown FC a number of times and seen the transition through the months). I am excited to see hot meals return and looking forward to free snacks and buy on board food in coach once again. The hold up on the latter is that AA is getting a new partner since the previous one (which wasn’t bad for coach) went pretty much out of business. I hope they partner with someone like Panera, they that I won’t mind paying for on the plan. Bear Claw and Coffee. . the perfect breakfast.

    Glad to see life returning to normal, normal. . .let’s hope we keep heading that way.

    Thanks for an objective and positive review of AA Gary.

  12. no beef with AA. I have been at the executive platinum level for 20 years. Yes they have their ups and down.But overall ok with them . My “beef” is with you as well as other so called evaluators. I wish the you would focus and stuff that really matters, quality of overall service on time record the ability to work and sleep..

  13. I’ll continue to enjoy my +2 hour business class flights on LH. Great meal service morning, noon and evening. Continued even during the height of Covid. They even recently upgraded it from its already super meal service. Why is it so difficult to do it in the States. All I hear are bitching and moaning about service in U.S.

  14. @Alan — I also love LH biz class. If I’m not interested in the catered meal, I can just gnaw on one of my knees that died from the luxurious LH seat pitch…

  15. This meal does not look appetizing. I’ve given up on the ability of US carriers to provide memorable food, because they’ll never provide it. To this end, I have a hard time determining whether flying first has any value whatsoever. You can’t lie back with your feet up, the Wi-Fi is never free, and the seats are only moderately comfier than economy seats. The only value that remains is free alcohol worth around $20 and not being forced to cuddle with a stranger (or two), which I’d value at $15. So if first is $40 or less per segment, I’ll upgrade. Otherwise, I’ll leave the gimmick to those required to fly all the time.

  16. I am fortunate that my first class ticket the lowest one available is paid for, For short fights you are correct .International worth it if I can sleep,. will eat something before I take off

  17. They need to bring back hot meals to flights over 3 hrs. Any flight that long certainly goes through a meal time and I’m sorry but a snack basket doesn’t cut it.

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