American Airlines Nailed Domestic First Class Breakfast In A Way Few Airlines Do

American Airlines has food back on board in domestic first class. Thank goodness they’ve gotten themselves past their belief during the pandemic that they wouldn’t need to bring real meals back.

They still put way too many salads on a tray at times but anything is better than the turkey pastrami.

Before the pandemic one of the American Airlines breakfasts on regional jets was a smoked salmon plate. American’s regional jets don’t have ovens in the galleys so it was a perfect meal to serve cold. I always thought that it was a better choice than an egg dish with sausage on mainline.

In the fall I had a smoked salmon plate on my Los Angeles – Honolulu flight. I was thrilled at the choice, but there was no tomato and I was given a miniature bagel. I’ve often criticized American Airlines for failing to pay attention to the details (which, by the way, is how they got themselves into trouble with their Oasis domestic configurations, they didn’t even build a cabin mockup before rolling it out).

So I was genuinely surprised and delighted – and have to give American real kudos – for getting it right on a recent Austin – New York JFK flight. The choices were a vegetarian omelet (the hot item) or the smoked salmon plate. I went with the salmon plate and it was vastly improved.

There was a bagel, cream cheese, tomato, cucumber, sliced hardboiled egg, and chopped red onion – in addition to a copious amount of salmon. This was accompanied by a bowl of fruit. I’d have been happy with this meal on a premium transcon flight out of New York or Los Angeles!

To be sure, there’s always room for improvement. It wasn’t a really gourmet lox platter.

  • It wasn’t the best New York bagel. Out of Austin, as this flight was, their caterer really should source from Rosen’s Bagels. And few bagels would stand up to a flight attendant over-heating it in the galley oven. Still, I give them credit, they’ve figured out what a bagel is!

  • A plate for the bagel would have been nice. A flight attendant brought out the lox platter, sans bagel or cream cheese. I asked whether it came with this? And he mentioned it was still “heating in the oven.” The the bread basket came around and I selected a bagel. Of course there was nowhere to put it, or than… on top of the lox, or directly onto the tray. A plate for the bagel – indeed, just a bread plate! – would have been nice. The crewmember laid it down on top of the lox. Presentation matters.

  • It wasn’t the highest quality salmon. I simply do not expect American Airlines to be purchasing smoked salmon at over $40 a pound, and again credit because they’ve figured out what smoked salmon is!

Still, I really hope this sticks around. It should be a regular option on breakfast flights. U.S. airlines do a very poor job at breakfast overall. The eggs never come out any good, and the sausage is generally not something I can look at let alone eat. And a cup of yogurt doesn’t cut it. This was a really lovely option and I appreciate that American improved upon the last iteration I tried (on a longer flight!) four months back.

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. Gary:

    If American Airlines offers this breakfast item on my flights, I will choose to fly American Airlines more often.

  2. I have long believed that passengers will be more relatively satisfied with cold items when served on an airplane. The limitations of a galley and the convection oven are too overwhelmingand, for example, a substantial green salad with a protein or a shrimp salad with a sophisticated choice of cheeses will always be more pleasant than what is little more substantial to a take and bake grocery store dinner.

    And on the subject of cheeses, may I suggest that real cheese plated – not cheddar and some flabby white stuff be offered as a dessert? Grapes, crackers and small (1 ounce max) portions of 3 or 4 well selected, truly gourmet, chesses should not be cost prohibitive, but would be within the limitations of the galley and would provide a memorable experience.

    Last, my protip – that tub of philly cream cheese is as hard as a rock. Ask for a mug with one inch of hot water and put it in there for a couple of minutes – it will spread much more easily.

  3. Having seen some great looking cold meals served in European short haul business class, I do wish more US airlines would offer high quality (and perhaps slightly healthier) cold meals in F. (And no, I don’t consider DL’s sad boxes to be this.) There is an odd association with a “hot” meal being better here.

  4. Its been said before since Parker is gone things will improve at American Airlines.

  5. I loved the steel cut oatmeal with a proper biscuit and a bowl of fresh fruits. That entire platter probably didn’t even cost them more than $2, but the meal was a simple, tasty, and filling meal for me.

    I know oatmeal isn’t for everyone just like salmon isn’t for me (can’t stand the taste and the oily nature of the fish), but the point is keep things fresh and simple.

  6. Your comments about the quality implied it was a quality lower than you would buy for yourself.

    Too much sodium in lox to squander on inferior lox.

    But maybe it was median?

  7. Out of LAX, the bagels are hockey pucks.

    A fresh bagel is a try amazing improvement, even if isn’t authentic.

  8. Wow. View From the Wing laying on the compliments for American for a change…I honestly thought this was another April Fool’s!!
    Jokes aside, though…this was refreshing. If I were an AA employee (which I’m totally not (…or AM I??]), I’d feel a little swell of pride at my company drawing some positive attention. Of course, that’s irrelevant, since I’m NOT an AA employee…
    Or am I…??

  9. first world problem … war in ukraine vs “American Airlines Nailed Domestic First Class Breakfast In A Way Few Airlines Do”

  10. One uses public transportation to get to a destination; not for a fine dining experience. Quality food be it on a train, plane or chartered bus comes at a cost; a higher cost the transport company will passed on to the traveler. Healthy choices in a meal is my preference. How much more is the traveler willing to pay for an authentic bagel or healthy choices?
    Better air quality onboard a flight is a more worthy subject.

  11. Honestly, I think they gave us that turkey pastrami with the sole intention of using that as the standard for the worst possible outcome forever. For the rest of our lives, we’ll all be saying “Well, that lunch wasn’t good, but at least it wasn’t the turkey pastrami.”

  12. How many Americas actually eat a breakfast like this when not at a hotel or on a plane. I’d rather they just offer normal American-style breakfast items instead.

  13. This looks amazing and is better than the all sugar option of yogurt with fruit and granola, or the greasy eggs and sausage. Well done AA.

  14. Doesn’t look all that impressive – I feel like I’m missing something. Have standards and/or expectations fallen so low?

  15. *crosses fingers* Please let them have this on my MSN-PHX flight tomorrow. Please let them have this on my MSN-PHX flight tomorrow. Please let them have this on my MSN-PHX flight tomorrow …

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