American Airlines Pilot Orders 40 Pizzas — and Chooses the Right Pizza, Too

Thursday night’s American Airlines flight AA2354 from Los Angeles to Dallas Fort-Worth diverted to Wichita Falls, Texas due to severe thunderstorms.

Everyone is cranky and hungry, the captain ordered 40 Papa John’s pizza to make the ordeal a bit easier on passengers. He ran out front of the terminal to meet the driver and help bring over the pies.

He’s been lauded for it, but says he’s no hero. Everyone was pitching in,

My First Officer was on the telephone with crew tracking / hotel desk arranging for our release and hotels for the entire crew. The Flight Attendants manned a galley cart from the aircraft serving waters, juice, and sodas to all the passengers in the terminal. All while the Envoy SPS Personnel were arranging for a bus, re-booking flights, and answering a flurry of questions from these passengers. Thanks to everyone for your help – there is no “I” in TEAM.

The flight continued on the next morning, and passengers ate pizza. The airline certainly isn’t at fault for weather. They can only circle so long with the fuel they’d have on board. Eventually the crew times out. And everyone just needs to get rest. It’s the perfect time to hit your credit card’s trip delay coverage.

What interests me here is the pilot’s choice of pizza which could cause some controversy. Is it ok to eat Papa John’s again?

By now we’re all familiar with the ex-Chairman and Founder of Papa John’s being taped going through an crisis PR exercise where, as an example of something that would be a Very Big Problem, he said the ‘n word’. Someone with an agenda leaked the tape, and he was ousted from the company.

Philosopher Chrissy Teigen makes this point (she’s referring to another Famous American),

Politics aside Papa John’s is probably the best of the large pizza delivery chains. Thank goodness the pilot didn’t order Domino’s or Pizza Hut, that stuff is just nasty.

So whatever you think about the controversy surrounding the ex-CEO of the chain he’s the ex-CEO of the chain, it’s ok for pilots to order pizza from them in large quantity, there’s no reason to self-immolate with other chains’ cardboard with red paint.

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. Gary, I am going to have to disagree with you for once on this one. Papa John’s is nasty, Domino’s and Pizza Hut taste way better. Pizza hut is the only chain that can get their crusts real crispy, although it can be a bit oily to some people. Domino’s crust is pretty herby compared to the other two and has good flavor. Papa John’s is just bland and you need that weird fake butter garlic sauce in order to make it edible. But hey, free pizza is free pizza even if it’s Papa John’s.

  2. Domino’s was miserable until a few years ago when they listened to the customer and drastically improved their pizza. I hated their product previously, but now admit that they’re the best. Papa John’s would do well to emulate this move. Upgrading to a mediocre crust and sauce that tastes of tomato would bring sales back. Maybe when the current chaos has subsided.

  3. Just to clarify, Domino’s is the best of the big 3. There’s lots of individual places with better pizza.

  4. If airlines only had brand advocates like pizza chains. Maybe it’s because, as Gordon Bethune famously said, ‘you can make basic economy so cheap nobody will buy it.”

  5. I live at the Jersey Shore, and work in North Jersey and Brooklyn.

    With that said: If I were forced via gunpoint to order pizza from a mass-market pizza chain – Papa Johns gets the nod. It’s not even close. However, I will stress – Given a choice, I’d order from none of these. Find a local pizzeria, and get your pie from there.

  6. Love you Gary, but I’m not going out for pizza with you any time soon as you have your rankings exactly backward.

    And let’s not forget Little Caesar’s, which is better then all of them.

  7. Beatles in Bangkok are not bad, a bit like peanut butter. Ant salad tastes like chili lime.

    Dominos Brooklyn style is hands down the best delivered pizza by a chain.

    Though the best pizza is usually the free slice I’ve been given.

  8. Papa John’s pizza sauce and crust are both far better than Domino’s. Domino’s pizza is edible, but just barely.

    New chains like Blaze Pizza and MOD Pizza offer the most amazing selection of toppings, and you can order any or all toppings for a flat price, which is great.

  9. Politics aside. Papa John’s pizza is not good though not as terrible as Domino’s.
    If I had to, I would eat Pizza Hut. But that being said I would have eaten any of them if I was stuck on a plane and I’ll tell you what, the pilot doing such a sweet thing for the passengers would make it one of the best pizzas I ever ate no matter which company made it.
    Nice work AA captain!

  10. And to think I went to Nahm (still one of the best meals of my life) after seeing you blog about it.
    I am never paying any attention to your food recs ever again. Papa John’s is terrible! Their sauce is inedible.

    Pizza Hut is easily the best. Though, I haven’t had Domino’s since they changed their recipe.

  11. Hmmm, hopefully our flight deck crew never considers this tactic as it soils the image of our company.
    We don’t want to raise expectations.

Leave a Reply

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