American Airlines Pilot Comps Drinks For The Whole Flight

The captain of an American Airlines flight comes out into the cabin – into economy, no less – to talk to passengers about their flight delay. He explains what happened, that the aircraft had arrived late from Puerto Vallarta, and he offered that they planned to make up a few minutes in the air if they could. He even offered to take passenger questions.

He could have made the same announcement from the cockpit. Hearing from the captain carries more weight than hearing from cabin crew. But hearing from the captain in person shows that someone in authority (of the aircraft) cares and respects you and your time. That diffuses the tensions in the cabin.

But talking to passengers in person isn’t all that the captain did.

This American Airlines captain offered to “provide free drinks” on the airline. I’ve heard of pilots ordering pizza during a long delay, and that turns around the mood of an aircraft. But it sounds like they wouldn’t be on board on the ground long enough. (Small kindnesses go a long way. And because who doesn’t love pizza?) Instead the captain made a different gesture, according to a passenger on the flight: booze.

Now, a decision to order pizza to a plane is entirely driven by the captain of the aircraft. There’s no formal “airline pizza policy,” but pilots can actually get reimbursed by the carrier when they do something like this. This isn’t something they ask permission for, and they do sometimes just come out of pocket without filing for an expense reimbursement (in which case the airline might not even know about it). Then again, you probably don’t like your employer’s expense reimbursement process, either! Here the captain doesn’t need to buy pizza, just offer what’s already been loaded onto the galley carts.

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. No good deed goes unpunished. Pizza is not inclusive to the lactose intolerant. Booze is not inclusive to non drinkers. Best to say nothing and just fly the plane when you can.

    A flight delay is never the fault of the pilot who wants to get home as quickly as we do. None of us should ever apologize for something that is not our fault.

  2. You think I party? I spend my life in airports, hotels, Ubers, and boardrooms.

  3. @UA GS @SFO

    Just STFU the pilot went out of his was to explain things in person and ordered drinks which is extremely nice and considerate. And you have a problem with that?

  4. As I said it’s inconsiderate to non drinkers. The pilot should just shut up and fly.

  5. Usta be fairly common to comp drinks on a company sponsored delay, just had to tell coach folk individualy so’s not to make 1st class peeps upset.

  6. Yep.. they just got a great agreement in place… it’s time for them to show compassion suddenly. Alcohol solves everything… he’s better off flying the airplane.

  7. Those who don’t drink alcohol can drink something else. (i.e. soda) Too bad one cannot please everyone. That’s life!

  8. So, @ UA_GS_@_SFO by your argument, any gesture of goodwill or provision of complimentary service should not occur because someone may get their panties in a wad. This is EXACTLY what is wrong with America…you can’t do you, because you doing you offends me.

    I’m offended when I walk through airports like ORD that announce Catholic mass being held in the airport chapel (and before you call me anti-religious, I’m Catholic). My being offended by doesn’t mean it should stop. It means I should ignore it and move on. If hearing there is mass provides some level of comfort to someone else why the hell should I care?

    If you don’t drink then don’t take the damn thing when it’s offered to you. If you crap your brains out when you eat cheese then put the Pizza Hut down.

  9. To @UA GS @SFO. It’s the thought that counts, not the act. And extra points to the captain for coming out of the cockpit and speaking with the passengers.

    I bet you also yell at kids to stay off your lawn.

  10. I love it. Panty Twisters make this world more fun. We get to laugh at their ignorance. I am not this Captain but his actions are EXACTLY what I would do. He is a leader and I appreciate him for leading. Too many pansies in this world who would hide in the cockpit behind the interphone mic.

  11. To @UA GS @SFO.
    “You think I party? I spend my life in airports, hotels, Ubers, and boardrooms.”

    Maybe make life the adventure along the way – just sayin!!

  12. Back when I was a very frequent flyer (think 80’s) the FA’s would, when a flight was delayed significantly, not take any money for drinks. It seemed to be policy at that time.

  13. @Jim M, it wasn’t policy but we did it a lot more frequently than we do now. We also have the authority to offer free drinks now but we just don’t do it as often as we used to. In fact, we rarely do it now. It seems as if the World has become more aggressive than when I first started flying 40+ yrs ago. I think a lot of it has to do with social media. I’ve been fortunate on my flights and haven’t had to experience all the fighting we see weekly now onboard planes. Makes me sad.

  14. I guarantee you that AA is cracking down on this as we speak. This is a great example of a good deed with unforseen consequences. It is very possible that they run out of drinks as a result plus policy doesn’t allow pilots to comp drinks.

  15. I wonder if the pilot was usually this nice or was it because the pilots union is threatening a strike and are trying to get the public on their side. The pilots need a raise, it’s not easy to support their families on poverty wages. Why doesn’t the union publish their salaries and how much of a raise they need.

  16. @UA GS @ SFO, you sound like an old and bitter person, life must not have been kind to you.

  17. A gesture of kindness should be acknowledged with politeness if nothing else. He offered to take questions too! This was an above and beyond consideration. Good job

  18. To @UA GS @SFO. There is always someone who make something that is good and special into a negative! And you are that person. Maybe next time shut up and move on just as you believe the pilot should have done.

  19. That Captain went above and beyond, and for that I think he was outstanding!

  20. Brings back a memory of flying during the UA pilots’ slowdown, summer 2008 IIRC. More than once we were comp’ed a freebie after a moderate delay (great way to stick it to the company), and one time when JFK ops were a disaster due to storms, cancellations, etc. (people had been camping out by the gates after flights taxied out, couldn’t depart, and were cancelled), the entire flight JFK-SFO was comp’ed each round of beverage service on the packed 767.
    Ah, the good old days.

  21. @UA GS @ SF

    Dude either your daddy slapped you too
    Many times or NOT ENOUGH

  22. A $600k+ salaried top 1%er who actually cares about us back in cattle class and puts his money where his mouth is! Nice! The Golden Age of Travel occasionally bubbles up out of the murky past!

    I just completed an ultra-long-haul AA flight today, in cattle class, and it actually was alright.

    My first flight on AA in twenty years. There is hope. Western civilization is not yet all lost to QR and EK.

  23. To @ua gs@sfo, Did you see the movie Steve Martin did many years ago called THE JERK? That’s your first and last name.

  24. @John Little Did you forget the /S ? The pilots are making more than 99% of the passengers on the plane- hardly poverty wages. If anything, the airline should publish how much the pilots are making so the public can see they are just being greedy.

  25. This PILOT did’nt spend his money! show me the receipt! I guarantee he didnt pay! Did he ask the crew if it was ok? Big deal!

  26. Kindness, concern, making himself available…bravo!

    I say “Welcome Aboard!”

    Let’s hope we’ve made a positive step in the direction of great customer service!

  27. I think that man deserves credit, not negative comments. Well done sir.

  28. This happened to me some years ago at DFW on AA when strong thunderstorms over the airport forced a ground stop. The “traffic jam” at active runways was estimated at 1 hour. The Captain opened both the drink and meal service until we were 2nd in line to take off. Passengers mellowed out immediately

  29. He is one of our great pilots. Always pleasant and has talked to pax before. It is always great when a pilot helps diffuse. Good job Captain!

  30. As a Captain on a major airline I have comped drinks after a delay, but don’t announce it. The F/A hate it when you do that because EVERYONE wants a drink and they don’t have enough alcohol for that. Plus giving free drinks to folks that have already probably had a few too many will lead to big problems later. I just tell the F/A’s if someone wants a drink, it’s free. But don’t advertise it.

  31. If you drink, don’t fly.. if you fly, don’t drink…

    ooh, I thought it was just turbulence the ups and downs… it turns out he haid airpods listening to Rock music….

    And all the masks fall off as we were landing…

  32. @US GS is actually Bobby Isom, folks.

    The America West carpetbagger is everywhere, bringing misery and frustration to all alike, whether you flying air-jalpopy or not.

  33. As to the question “Who doesn’t love pizza?” I for one think pizza is the ultimate in junk food. A lot of work just to produce crap. I don’t care for pizza. Though I may still eat it if it’s put in front of me, I would never order it – unless maybe I’m really hungry and the only other thing on the menu is menudo.

  34. Alcohol needs to be kept off the aircraft. We’ve all seen too many regrettable incidents over the last few years that could have been prevented. The Captain meant well, but his face to face talk with the passengers would have been more than enough.

  35. I wonder if the 3-month-old baby in row 37 ordered Vodka or Gin. Smartass comments aside, it was very nice of the pilot to speak with the passengers directly. I imagine that the passengers received the drink of their choice…. soda, alcohol, coffee, etc.

    UA GS @ SFO you come across as a royal jerk. I’m lactose intolerant, can’t stand the way alcohol tastes and am addicted to Coca Cola. Yet, I think the pilot’s offer was a nice gesture.

  36. I fly AA consistently for work and have status to always get free drinks. I laugh at the comments about those I could not take advantage of this generous offer. You are probably the same person that stopped me from getting peanuts on my flights. If you don’t get the benefit, feel sorry for yourself, but move on. If you expected him to provide gluten free, lactose free, vegan pizzas to everyone on the plane, it probably was not going to happen.

  37. I had an interview with Alaska airlines when I was in my mid 20’s, now 65. My 3rd and final interview to b hired or not was, “”what would u do if the door to the food cart came open on take off?””. I told the interviewer I would notify lead flight attendant of incident, make on board announcement that there would b a delay in the onboard food service then hand out free drink’s,””.

  38. Give the guy a break! Tried to do something nice. Years ago. I waited tables and our baked potato oven went out in the middle of dinner rush! The manager came out and offered everybody a discount on their meal and as new people came in she greeted them in the doorway and told them the situation and offered to give a discount to anybody that was still willing to have dinner there. So whether or not it’s something you personally like or enjoy or can’t enjoy. Consider the fact that he was being kind and trying to make up for the fact that they were running behind

  39. “Hearing from the captain carriers more weight…”

    Proofread much?

  40. As a 30year + former Airline employee, not all CA’s do this, I saw it rarely (although always!! from flight deck). But In person, this is simply what you call “going above and beyond”, period. And I’m wondering how long of a delay it was, assuming a substantial one and not a weather delay. And I’m sure! soft drinks were offered to those who chose not to have an alcohol drink. And yes great way to diffuse any tension, finally a good story about a flight, instead of a story of fists flying! Kudos!!

  41. He looks like a fool. totally out of line. His job is in the cockpit not the cabin.

  42. Unless the free alcohol is served to an already drunk passenger who goes on to assault you and others….which happened to me on a recent flight

  43. In my experience as a retired FA usually when a Captain came out of the FD to do this it was all about him and his big ego. Hopefully that’s Not the case here!
    I’d have more respect if he’d do it and have the Lead make the announcement.

  44. People who don’t have problems drinking enjoy this. It has nothing to do with the others.

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