American Airlines: Nothing But Soup for You!

I’m old enough to remember when domestic first class meals consisted of high quality expensive fare. In business class twenty years ago you might get shrimp as a starter and then a steak at lunch. In 2001 lunch started seeing cuts, and it was a controversial move when United Airlines started offering a ‘gourmet cheeseburger’ instead of steak and calling it first class. It was a good burger back then, though.

Now I’m not a fan of what someone over at American Airlines must think of as ‘comfort food’. For instance, this barbecue beef cheese toastie particularly gross and any airline based in Texas darned well ought to know that. Texans should be proud of barbecue.

Over the summer Lucky shared a particularly disgusting American Airlines meal. He ordered a lobster roll, but was actually given a “lobster grilled cheese with tomato soup.”

Credit: One Mile at a Time

It turns out that American Airlines meals can be worse than this. What if all you were served was the soup?

A reader shares this American Airlines lunch, noting that it was the only choice offered on his 1100 mile Boeing 737 flight from Aruba to Miami.

Let’s have a closer look, shall we?

Wait… what?

It’s like a passenger ordered soup and a sandwich but American was only willing to pay for soup.. that had already been digested by another passenger.

I don’t even think it matters how “tasty” it is, this reader notes that he “ended up with red stains on [his] white shirt” despite there not even being any turbulence which American might want to consider does sometimes happen. On an airplane.

So it isn’t just about the aesthetics of the meal. It’s about the functionality. Soups are great in international premium cabins where there’s plenty of space, a little turbulence and it spills on the tablecloth. In short haul premium cabins however, it spills on you. Especially given their choice of dish. Presentation and dishware matter, even on an airline.

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. Yeah, the catering on the AA island flights is always a bit of an issue. For the AM flights they cater ex-MIA the previous day and so everything has to be shelf-stable. I’ve had some pretty nasty breakfasts coming back from the islands myself as a result. Guessing that was probably the case here. Looking at the schedule it seem like the first departure AUA-MIA is a 10 AM, probably the lunch flight we see here, but nothing get in from MIA before then, so it must be an aircraft held over from the night before. Not the tastiest thing but I’m not sure how comprehensive the local catering options are.

  2. American Airlines is a worldwide disgrace
    Who knew Peanut Butter and Jelly could be fine dining by comparison
    Shrinking seats in every cabin including First, outrageous over pricing ,dreadful disgusting dining that translates to slop & dribble, unempowered agents to assist customers
    Stingy award availability violations against disabled passengers and a CEO determined to destroy the greatness of what this solid carrier once tried to stand for
    While it was never a perfect company it ran the worlds greatest and first loyalty program and a reasonable if not fair enough experience
    Today it’s simply depressing to pay and fly American and I do everything I can to avoid suppprting this anti customer airline who hates customers and only thinks of how they can screw us over and discriminate against and treat poorly their own employees
    Thank god for their competition like the outstanding Alaska Airlines who has respect for their customers where I pay for full fare tickets and or business/ First Class
    American is laughable if they weren’t such a sad excuse of an airline
    To say I dislike what Parker has done to
    ruin American in its constant downward spiral is an understatement
    Folks you do have a choice in carrriers
    I’ll connect almost anywhere to avoid flying American wherever possible
    I short segment on a 20 minute flight in 2017 that’s my former Executive Platinum status up in smoke!
    Yes loyalty is a two way street and making satisfied customers reasonably where they trust you
    No more getting stranded in cities due to mechanical issues and holes through my luggage while I wait 90 days for a response by post card
    Now free and clear of American after 20 plus years
    The flying Titanic Good Riddance !

  3. @Dwondermeant – Couldn’t have said it better! Would love to fly more Alaska/Virgin America, but they don’t fly the routes I need. So Delta it is – far from perfect but they get me where I need to be without delays, cancellations, waiting on the tarmac for gates to open up and all the other American Airlines annoyances.

  4. Well, I wouldn’t know. I’ve been trying to use some of my 25+ upgrades and ever since the US Air merger I’ve been left in the dark. Upgrade list for a 9:30 am flight from PHX-DEN and I’m number 16, wth? It’s ridiculous and then their exit row seats are crap. I flew Delta a few weeks ago and they offered a few choices as a snack and the flight attendants were much more friendly. I will have to consider them and Southwest even though I might have to pay for a checked bag. American is just getting so crappy and their status is worth what it used to be. As someone else said, loyalty should be a two way street.

  5. Talk about diving to the bottom! My first flight was in April, 1959, on an American 707 Astrojet in first class between O’Hare-Idlewild.

    How many of us soon-to-be former loyal American flyers miss even the days of bankruptcy, when during the holidays, we received shrimp cocktail appetizers, and hot, eatable entrees?

    I would bet that the (now former) Director of Pilot Scheduling could do a better job managing catering! Last month, how does a ORD-LAX first class lunch translate into a skimpy “Greek salad” with a side of dried-up roadkill chicken? Returning after Thanksgiving, the first class dinner flight, LAX-ORD, offered cheese enchiladas, apparently catered from DFW on former flight. That meal almost put me in the ER that night-food poisoning? (anybody else?)

    Our only hope is to embrace Alaska and Jet Blue. However, in Chicago, American and United own ORD–and City Hall; thus, no major expansion of gates to accommodate Alaska and Jet Blue. Perhaps Southwest out of Midway will be the answer?

    One can only think that American gets its marketing out of a box of Trix, considering why would anybody fly AA international when its domestic service is such total crap that even the Russian Aeroflot sneers at how customers are treated?

  6. @SomeDutchguy
    I hear you! Luckily I live on the West Coast I’ve learned to make Alaska work for the most part
    The good news is I hear from the good folks @ Alaska
    new routes will be busting out all over in 2018 and beyond
    At least I’m hoping
    Alaska covers 70% of my needs and I fill in with Jet blue Mint trans cons
    and on short hops with Southwest and the rare rainy day United
    Without elite status at Southwest or lifetime elite status SW policies are superb for all of the flying public
    Southwest was not something in my vocabulary just 3 years ago
    At least they are fair and aren’t corrupt and treat most with respect
    After Doug Parker destroyed American and it’s reasonably solid customer relationships
    he forced me into their hands of other airlines to escape his poor decision making across the board
    I’d bring back the worst of Americans CEO in history to replace him if I could
    I knew there would be some negatives going down at AA but what they have done is simply shocking
    Gary Leff is my favorite blogger of all time and he probably has to sugar coat how bad. American is really doing in or out of their catering dept
    I’d love to hear his uncensored version.Id pay to read it lol
    It’s sad for all the flying public and their frontline employees who know what American could have become if not for the greedy selfish hostile leadership thinking he is in war with customers and the folks he should be counting on to Make American Greater than it has ever been
    Lost opportunity of a lifetime killing their Golden Goose their once acclaimed FF program that was the wind beneath our wings on a good or bad day
    Not one positive tangible improvement since he took over
    Cheers Happy Holidays!

  7. Man, seeing that disgusting bowl of slop, served in first class, no less, really drives home the point that in lacking meaningful competition at all, and now having become an oligopoly, our airlines, and again, THIS IS FIRST CLASS, SUCK MORE…WAAAYYYY MORE than airlines of the past that died because in their time, when competition DID EXIST, their service, was viewed as terrible enough, that enough passengers chose other airlines instead.

    Of course, with ZERO fear of competition, this is what passes for service.

    Indeed, how ironic is it now, that in a capitalist enconomy, our airlines, now that they lack competition are not just bad and abusive, but have become so horribly bad and abusive they’re beginning the resemble Aeroflot, circa 1975.

    Oh, and just to illustrate just how horrible our airlines are becoming when compared to the dead airlines that failed because they were bad in their day, and passengers chose other airlines:

    When Eastern Airlines was in its years of decline during the late 1980s, anyone around then probably remembers the soups and half sandwiches they served in coach on NYC-Florida flights, which were served in those rubber like bowls, that actually weren’t half bad, and I bet the first class passengers who recieved that bowl of disgusting red slop shown above would’ve viewed as if having been prepared by Wolfgang Puck instead…

    Whatever that vile bowl of red slop was, it speaks volumes about just how little American Airlines values its passengers, and how much disdain and contempt it really does have instead.

    That bowl is a slap in the face. If there was real competition in this industry, there’s NOT a chance they could get away with serving something like that.

    But there’s no competition, and they know it. And there’s none likely to emerge anytime soon given the $100+ million minimum it takes to have any realistic chance to get started…

    …and that’s long before the first revenue flight takes off…assuming one can find pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, airplanes, and perhaps hardest barrier of them all to overcome, gates, facilities, and take-off/landing slots at fortress hub airports and at the airports where slots are so hard to come by like LGA, DCA & JFK that even “pay to play” is so costly, it’s probably cheaper to just buy one of the existing monopolists/oligopolists anyway since they sure as heck ain’t gonna sell a mew entrant their slots…

    The airlines, or shall I say, their real overlords on Wall Street know this (the CEOs & CFOs are just the hired help…) know this…

    …just like Wall Street knows they’d have to be the ones willing to fund anyone seeking to start a new airline…

    …so who’s gonna wanna fund a new competitors, when the RACKET you’ve fought decades to create since deregulation is now in place and doing just fine, thank you very much?!?!

    Like I’ve said here, or elsewhere, back when we had meaningful competition, airlines that were considered “bad” in their era, like Pan Am, Eastern, or TWA were still WAAAAYYYYY BETTER THAN THIS…

    Perhaps the time has indeed come to either break apart the current oligopolists, say in a manner echoing Trust Busting Teddy Roosevelt did in his time when corporate abuses were in conflict with the public interest…or failing that, when our country finally gets over its “moment” of INSANITY (as it surely will…eventually), when responsible adults return to government and our departments are restaffed with properly trained and qualified professionals, common sense legislation and/or proper consumer protection regulations will, out of necessity, be implemented.

    When our airlines resemble Aeroflot at the height of the Cold War, or offer service worse than even the worst of long ago failed airlines and know they can get away with it…

    …something’s wrong…terribly, terribly wrong…and it doesn’t take a genius to know that.

  8. For an 1,100 mile flight, eat something ahead of time and pack a bag or two of trail mix. Why even have airlines deal with heating up meals.

  9. @Dwondermeant – Thanks for the info, looking forward to Alaska’s routes expansion.
    Happy Holidays!

  10. I got cold croissant this morning with hard boiled egg slices and cold cooked bacon. LGA-DFW. Disgusting.

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