American Airlines Moved ‘Free Chili Day’ After Realizing It Was A Big Mistake

American Airlines flight attendants are planning ‘informational picketing’ on Tuesday at all of the airline’s hubs plus Boston and San Francisco (where American is closing its flight attendant base). They are frustrated by the lack of progress on a new contract, which has been open since before the pandemic. Picketing will only go on for two hours, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at each location.

The airline, for its part, announced that free chili would be served to employees during the ticket they’d be picketing. This led to a significant backlash online, and got spun as ‘American is offering us chili instead of raises’ and came, unhelpfully, right as Delta Air Lines announced profit sharing.

American’s impulse makes sense to draw flight attendants away from picketing with free food. But declaring ’employee appreciation day’ on the day of the protests says that they’re appreciated only when protesting (and thus the union has their attention!) and also that the appreciation extends to offering chili but not a favorable contract. That’s not a great narrative.

American reacted by moving up the date of employee appreciation day to yesterday and by adding nachos.

In Los Angeles, they got churros.

The original plan to offer free food during pickets would have been fine if the company had owned it. Message:

You’re out focusing on your contract, and we’re listening! We want you to know that we appreciate your hard work, and we’re working hard to deliver for you, too. So before you head out there, stop by for some free food. And in a couple of our cities like Chicago and Boston it may be extra cold. Enjoy some chili and stay warm!

Telling employees you appreciate them is great. Doing so in advance of their protests is great as well… and since American wasn’t willing to message the chili as being tied to the picketing, this is better.

But is it wrong to say that serving chili to people about to work inside a pressurized aircraft might not be the best idea?

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. It’s annoying to me that they spelled nachos both correctly and incorrectly on the same notice. Other than that I dont care.

  2. I’ve had horrible service from AA in recent trips. From no food in an upgraded seat, not even to purchase on a 5 hour flight to horrible service from ground personnel in a 7 hour equipment delay on Christmas Day. The treatment of customers was horrible. Not the first class experience I expected

  3. I hope the chili they serve is the same recipe and quality as passengers would get on the plane.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *