American Airlines Reminds Flight Attendants Not To Provide Better Service To Coach Passengers

American Airlines has sent a reminder to flight attendants not to go above and beyond for passengers in economy, as first revealed by aviation watchdog JonNYC. The airline told cabin crew that they shouldn’t give economy passengers blankets, pillows, or treats from business class. American framed this as consistency, which is to say making sure that there are no occasional surprise and delight moments in the coach cabin.

As part of our commitment to ensuring a consistent customer experience, please refrain from offering Premium Cabin amenities/service items (i.e. pillows, blankets, amenity kits, and certain food items) to customers who are not seated in a Premium Cabin.

No meaningful effort is being made, of course, to ensure a consistent customer experience in premium cabins – such as that predeparture beverages are provided consistently.

Since there’s little actual enforcement of service standards – aside from telling flight attendants not to go above and beyond using company resources – some cabin crew feel emboldened to create their own makeshift barriers that ensure they aren’t approached by passengers.

While American Airlines is telling flight attendants not to offer amenity kits to passengers in economy, prior to the pandemic Delta actually made that a standard for their international coach product along with a welcome cocktail, hot towels, and mixing and matching choice of appetizer and entrees with dessert served as a separate course.

Delta hasn’t returned to this. Indeed, Delta’s operation overall isn’t as good as it was prior to 2020. But they repeat the mantra of ‘premium’ over and over while American – with an equally high cost base and need to for customers to pay more – is telling crew not to do little extras when warranted to make passengers more comfortable. Indeed, a year ago American told flight attendants to keep passengers from moving to otherwise-empty seats that have extra legroom. And this isn’t even The Onion.

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. Korean Air is by far the best airline I’ve ever flown. In all my years of military service from deployments to leisure travel, I’ve flown just about every domestic airline, and none of them even came close to the level of service Korean Air had.

  2. Even for you Gary, this is a completely ridiculous and pathetic excuse to once again try to STAB American Airlines and their employees. You are increasingly less relevant and find this kind of extrapolation on a company memo your only hope.

    You are wrong. Passengers pay for now for things like more leg room, enhanced amenities, better meals and more service. All international airlines do it.

    Your constant bias against AA is so transparent and immature.

    Bet you this never sees light of day on your blog…

    You once told me you, face to face on a flight that you were a “famous airline expert”. I rolled my eyes then…and still do now.

  3. Remember when our wonderful, AMERICAN run airlines told us that allowing them to merge would result in lower fares and better customer service???

  4. Having lived abroad in 3 different countries, we’ve flown many foreign carriers. (Still try to when we’re flying internationally.)
    The best thing that could happen on behalf of the AMERICAN flying public would be to allow foreign flagged carriers to fly domestic routes within the U.S.
    You would see U.S. owned & operated airlines change the way they currently do business overnight!!!

  5. Allowing people to move to an empty row or the like is only par for the course! It costs the airline zero! F@%# the airlines for being senselessly punitive for enforcing that retarded policy…oh yeah they will claim it unbalances the plane…I call bull ship!

  6. It’s pathetic how flights attendants treat economy class travelers. We can understand that they paid more for more comfortable seat and better meal but the service and treatment should be the same.

  7. It’s OK, let them keep on working ways to make travelers pay more. The true of the fact is that, there are still more airline companies, trying to do business, and offering better choices, price and service wise for travelers

  8. AA will definitely be seeing less revenue if passengers are paying a lot of money these days to not even get a full meal and pillow? That’s why JAL and Qatar International Airlines are THE BEST because when customers are flying very distantly, such as overseas, it is up to the airlines to ensure the comfort of all passengers.Its a ploy to get ppl TO pay more post-pandemic and not everyone wants to pay $4-5k+ ridiculously. Lol!

  9. Flew Delta long haul international economy class from Seoul/ICN to Atlanta (part of 3 segment itinerary MNL-ICN-ATL-RDU) and it was an huge disappointment.

    Flight attendants: a few exceptional; most robotic & unremarkable; a couple surly & unpleasant.

    Seats in Comfort+ bulkhead row aboard Airbus A350-900 (DL config; NOT ex-LATAM) were OK – with emphasis on bulkhead row 30.

    Perhaps the nicest surprise is the lavatory near door R2 (ahead of Premium Select cabin).

    That was among the nicer lavatories aboard an airplane experienced in a long time.

    Not the biggest or widest lav, but brightly lit, nice mirror & best of all, a nice size sink one can actually wash their hands in (yay!).

    But the food was AWFUL.

    Among the worst inflight meals ever.

    The first meal, dinner (based on 6:45pm departure time) chicken breast smothered (more like drenched) in a cream sauce, was so bad, my partner’s 90 years old father took one bite of the, hard, dry, bland chicken, pushed it away & said “I can’t eat this.”

    Then came the mid flight snack, a mozzarella & artichoke flavored “Mediterranean Pizza Twist” was also awful.

    My partner’s dad took a bites or two & that was enough for him despite passing on most of the (horrible) dinner earlier.

    Then came the pre-arrival meal, something that’s best described as melted Cheez Whiz on a hamburger bun, along with a seaweed salad & tofu cubes & a fruit salad, which actually tasted the best, but yowza, the presentation was about as awful as it gets.

    Oh, and those cheap, tacky wooden utensils.

    Awful. Awful. Awful.

    But, all that awfulness aside, as noted, at least it was edible – unlike the prior two catering fails.

    It was incredibly disappointing.

    And I certainly would not fly Delta in long haul economy if possible.

    Apart from the nice loo, the subset of truly exceptional, “Old School Delta” flight attendants, the pretty loo with the functional sized sink, the other noteworthy element was the free (for T-Mobile customers as I am; other SkyMiles members $21.95 for full flight) & fairly zippy inflight WiFi from the time it came on after climb out all the way to the gate at ATL except for the occasional outage closer to Asia, especially between northern Japan & Alaska.

    That’s the general paxex “trip report” for that flight (DL26).

    There **HORRENDOUS** treatment (as in being several Passengers with Reduced Mobility [PRM] abandoned aboard a golf cart with no driver in a remote/isolated section of the terminal halfway between the transfer screening & the gate for our flight for at least 20 mins in Seoul/ICN & then required to walk, yep, walk up a steeply inclined jetbridge from the aircraft to a vestibule inside of the terminal before being seated in the wheelchair upon arrival in Atlanta) experienced in both Seoul/ICN and again upon arrival in Atlanta is an altogether different horror story I will discuss elsewhere in the coming days.

    It was truly heartbreaking & absolutely shameful.

    The Seoul/ICN incident is a shared responsibility among Korean Air, Delta (which began boarding the flight before the stranded PRM arrived at the gate) & the airport authority.

    But the despicable, borderline cruel “no
    wheelchairs allowed on the jetbridge for gate E in Atlanta” is Delta’s to own.

    And it’s wholly unacceptable.

    For long haul economy, for sure, Delta is best avoided.

    And if one is PRM, beware of Delta now at several of its biggest hubs at gateways:

    ATL, JFK, DTW, ICN – all of which have been horrible for PRM in recent months, personally witnessed at ATL, ICN & JFK; as reported by trusted family member I booked itinerary for at DTW.

    For sure, “D” is for disappointing when it comes to Delta in so many ways of late – especially its long haul economy if DL26 earlier this week is any indication.

  10. That’s gate E2 in Atlanta.

    Plz forgive typos & other editing errors in above comments.

    Still recovering from jet lag! 🙂

  11. I’m so sorry I thought the flight attendants were bunch of arrogant and lazy idiots but now I know they were told to do so. I will, at all costs, fly foreign carriers when flying internationally because the food and service are horrible plus the seats are tiny compared to other airlines.

  12. Oh, one more thing!

    The “don’t be nice to the pee-ons in steerage/3rd class” also applies at Delta.

    Case in point:

    When I saw a bunch of the exact same bright red ramen cups I had aboard Korean Air (JFK-ICN) last week in Economy class (btw, the difference between Korean Air & Delta’s catering, inflight paxex & flight attendants is JARRING) & asked if my partner’s dad could have one since he found the food served thus far inedible, the initial reply was the ramen is only available for pax in premium cabins.

    However, after explaining that it was for my partner’s 90 years old dad who hadn’t eaten since our earlier, midday flight aboard Korean Airlines when we had a very good lunch, they said they’d make an exception to the screw the pee-ons in the back rule.

    I said I’d check with him & get back to that exceptional, old school Delta FA.

    He declined the offer – but big props to that FA, whose care & compassion & willingness to go above & beyond for a beloved family member was probably the saving grace for otherwise mostly abysmal paxex on that flight & by Delta upon arrival in Atlanta with it’s “no wheelchairs allowed on the gate E3 jetbridge” to meet PRM at the aircraft door upon deplaning.

    As noted above, I won’t fly Delta long haul economy again anytime soon if at all possible.

  13. @Howard Miller, why did you fly Delta across the Pacific instead of Korean Air? I ask because I last flew Korean Air five months ago and I thought that the food was fine. I do not trust Delta and Delta usually costs more but I am flying out of LAX so I don’t know the situation of flying through Atlanta.

  14. The truth us that there are snack available in each class of service on AA. The snacks are usually on Transcons or International Flight between the USA and Europe, South America and Asia. But the airline receives a limited amount of snack. And there are snack in first, business and coach! But often people never walk around the cabin or inquire from the crew. So on your next AA flight after the meal service is complete. Take a walk back to read or aft portion of the aircraft and you will find the snacks! Also there is a ice cream service on daytime flight! And snack are still provided in the back galley area!

  15. I travel an average of twenty flights a year on AA, in all classes. First class, business class, etc., have all provided exceptional service. Coach class has been good. Maybe I’ve just been lucky.
    Many European carriers offer no amenities in coach. If you want water or a soft drink, it’s a purchase.

  16. Was disappointed with the whole experience with their airlines. Wouldn’t recommend anyone flying on this airline

  17. So basically first class,business class people pay entire cost of flight. The economy is actually burden for them.but when shit goes south but they ask help from economy;) I m glad that I don’t use ur service at all.

  18. I will soon be flying with my daughter from Birmingham to Orlando! We will have a group of girls and parents with us. I am definitely going to let the group know how A Airlines are treating their passengers now. This is also going on my 45000 followers on my web page. I’m asking all of them to spread the word on how AA is now treating their passengers, which is a disgrace to your airlines and should be made known to everyone before holiday travels begin! Disgusting and disgraceful!

  19. Yet another reason that I will not ever fly American Airlines again. BTW – AA, you still owe me a free plane ticket for stranding me in Dallas!

  20. @jns,

    The purpose of the trip was to accompany my partner’s 90 years old father who can no longer travel alone back from Manila to Raleigh/Durham, which is a difficult itinerary (mostly 3 flights/double connection at very large gateways) for anyone, but especially so for someone his age and/or Passengers with Reduced Mobility (PRM).

    [His niece accompanied him for itinerary to Manila this past July; they connected in Detroit, where a wheelchair was not provided to her despite being requested at time of booking; she has limited mobility in both legs due to polio she had as a child]

    I wholeheartedly agree – flying Korean Air is the much better option, when possible, especially in Economy class.

    And I flew JFK (live in NYC) to MNL via ICN aboard KE86/KE621.

    KE86 was as good a flight as any taken in quite some time, even in economy.

    In fact, although obviously the Y seats are not as comfy as Premium Economy, the other elements of paxex were comparable to, or perhaps even better than PE on some of the world’s leading airlines, including Singapore Air’s nonstops to/from NYC, United’s PE EWR-LAX-EWR & ANA’s inflight PE (it’s lounge access for PE pax is very nice, though!)

    KE’s food was plentiful & excellent on the 3 flights I took, including the mid-flight ramen available to all Y-pax upon request aboard KE86 from JFK to ICN.

    And the flight attendants, virtually all of them, were excellent, too, on all 3 KE flights I took over the span of 5 days.

    The two negatives for flights on KE was boarding the ICN-MNL flight when they knew the plane had a mechanical issue before boarding that not only ended up being delayed 2 hours 21 mins, but became incredibly hot & filled with jet fuel fumes when the power went completely out & there was no lighting or ANY ventilation for a portion of that delay.

    The KE flight attendants handled the delay well, but being stuck aboard a very hot, jet fuel fume-y filled plane at the gate was unpleasant (even for an AvGeek who kinda likes the smell of jet fuel, albeit it in a much less concentrated amount).

    Plus the absolutely awful treatment the PRM aboard the abandoned golf cart experienced at ICN as they arrived on a KE operated flight, so KE is technically responsible for their transfer to the gate for their connecting flight.

    My complaint about Delta for the abandoned golf cart with PRM at ICN is that they began general boarding before the PRM arrived to preboard, and the Delta rep, when questioned, instead of seeking details like where is the golf cart stranded (etc.) in a proactive fashion to remedy the situation, instead blamed shifted by stating the problem was Korean Air’s responsibility to solve, not Delta’s.

    With a family member aboard that stranded PRM golf cart, I found the Delta rep’s initial attitude & lack of action seriously lacking.

    For the way back accompanying our family’s beloved elder, we took Delta/Korean Air because he has a co-branded Delta Amex card & used to fly Northwest regularly to/from Manila before Delta took over that airline, except for last year, when I booked him aboard Philippine Airlines as Delta/Korean Air had limited (or no) service on his RDU-MNL itinerary, and I was able to meet him at JFK to assist with the connection to/from Manila that was nonstop, thereby eliminating a need to change planes at an Asian gateway as he was still flying solo last year & the plan was to assist him for the connections in NYC where his son & I live while eliminating the connection in Asia.

    While Philippine Airlines served its purpose last year, there were some glitches that made it less desirable to book again for this trip, namely a last minute (as in a day or two before departure) schedule change that shifted his layover at JFK from around 4 hours to overnight (we booked a room at TWA Hotel), plus Philippine Airlines’ nonstop back from Manila arrives JFK too late at night for onward connections to RDU & he did not like the overnight stopover in NYC with the driving from JFK on the arrival & to EWR the next day for the onward flight to RDU.

    Delta “metal” was chosen for the return for two reasons:

    1) the KE itineraries had 4-5 hour layovers at ICN T2, mostly overnight when virtually all shops & restaurants are closed, which he asked to avoid, if possible.

    2) the fare on the nighttime departure from MNL connecting to the KE operated 747-8i flight to ATL with the 4-5 hour layover was much, much higher than the KE midday departure from MNL that connects with DL26, where the layovers were 80 & 99 mins, respectively.

    If he/we take another trip to/from MNL in the coming months (after New Year’s) it most definitely will NOT be aboard Delta “metal”, even if the fare is higher for flights on KE.

    But, as widely discussed by one of Delta’s biggest cheerleaders, Delta likes to view itself as a premium airline.

    So, while I certainly did not expect it to be on a par with the foreign airlines I try to book for international travel (ANA, China Airlines, Singapore Air, Virgin Atlantic & Korean Air for outbound segments this trip among them), I also was surprised at just how bad Delta’s paxex was for international long-haul economy.

    Truly disappointing & most definitely NOT something most rational minds would agree as fitting the description of “premium.”

    As noted previously, the zippy WiFi was good, allowing me to get work done & be in touch with family inflight.

    I did like that.

    By contrast, KE’s long haul fleet has no WiFi yet, even the frustratingly tedious & slow kind.

    And Delta’s Airbus A350-900 was also good.

    But the food on Delta was atrocious & mostly inedible.

    All the more so when compared to the food served on Korean Air!

    And perhaps worst of all was Delta’s “no wheelchairs allowed on the ATL gate E3 (the correct gate) jetbridge.”

    I mean, where does one even begin describing how insensitive & borderline cruel that is.

  21. The instructions were black and white. You have to be consistent. If you give 1 coach passenger special treatment that could alleviate issues against other passengers..i get it some other FA wantef to do extra mile but it could do more damage than good. Plus, if you bought coach tix then expect coach service. This article is totally bias against AA.

  22. Military affiliated people are put in economy right away. This is not a way to treat people that fight for your freedom.

  23. @Howard Miller, thank you for the extra details. I also used to fly Northwest across the Pacific many years ago, on flights between LAX and BKK. They weren’t perfect but they were reasonable. When Delta took over, I started using EVA as my airline of choice. Since Covid-19, I have flown Korean Air, Singapore Airlines and Asiana Airlines because I have not found a good price on EVA flights. I am quite cost conscious but I also take note of what aircraft I am flying on, the baggage allowances and passenger reports about the flights including the service. I could probably fly Philippine Airlines a bit cheaper but they get a lot of bad marks from passengers. I will take more note of how airlines handle mobility challenged passengers in the future. I could need to use those services in the future.

  24. I wouldn’t fly on one of their pieces of garbage airplanes at all. Not since they knew our connecting flight from Houston to San Antonio was about to leave and they couldn’t let that last flight out stay ten minutes longer until we could demoed our plane to get to the next. They are a trash company that will day hopefully soon go down in flames.

  25. @jns,

    Yes, with LAX your gateway, like us in NYC (JFK), we not just have several options to choose from for USA-Asia/Pacific travel, we’re blessed with some GOOD airlines to choose from, too.

    Like Korean Airlines (KE; which I took & booked thru despite the more restrictive, non-refundable, penalty laden fare rules vs. Delta, “006” issued tickets, which while non-refundable (or actually for a nominal difference originally was refundable when I was scheduled to depart LAX after Cranky Dorkfest on KE “metal”, but found DL’s customer service so bad, I switched to a KE, “180” issued ticket when Lolo extended his visit until earlier this week to be in PH for All Souls Day).

    Anyhow, most booking for family & the few others (close friends or select referrals) I do to/from PH are either via KE or JAL “metal” for the trans-Pacific & intra-Asia regional segments because KE’s service & Boeing 9-abreast 777s are far better than most others, as well as JAL’s 777s & 787s.

    Flew China Airlines (CI) using hybrid fares (PE JFK-TPE-JFK; Y-class intra-Asia regional, including MNL) in the past & was quite pleased, but would avoid CI’s 10-abreast 777s if Y-class entire itinerary.

    Singapore Air (SQ) is wonderful, even if its “Premium Economy” aboard Airbus A350-900 ULR is more like “Economy++” (8-abreast seating is too tight for 18-19 hours; other service elements also more E++, except “Book the Cook”, which is EXCELLENT) than a true PE.

    And as an AvGeek/seasoned flyer, I’d happily take SQ to/from MNL when the fares are close enough in range to others even if transiting SIN to reach MNL is a wee bit longer than the more direct routings via ICN, HND, TPE (etc.).

    However, I would not recommend taking the “scenic route” via SIN for most VFR pax, especially those with reduced mobility and/or advanced age, as the nonstops from JFK & LAX to/from SIN are exceptionally looooong.

    Have not flown EVA Air yet, but of course, as someone who follows the industry closely, am aware of its good reputation.

    I flew ANA to SIN via HND 1-year ago in PE & am torn about flying them trans-Pacific because the food is mostly the same as Y-class, wasn’t very good JFK-HND & among the worst meals ever HND-SIN (red-eye; breakfast with the worst tasting eggs ever attempted to eat).

    But, ANA offers PE pax lounge access at JFK & HND, which was especially nice when the 3.5 hours layover at HND suddenly became 8 hours 3-weeks before departure date & we ended up stuck at HND much longer than expected with the transit hotel still closed bc of Covid19 & their flight attendants, while not quite as personable as KE’s were, were still very good.

    However, with 10-abreast 777s & 9-abreast 787s, even with 34” row pitch, I’d also avoid ANA for Y-class travel to/from Asia, especially with the meals being pretty bad, too.

    Finally, as you & I agree, Delta trans-Pacific in Y-class is best avoided.

    And if Delta is the “best of the worst” USA carriers for long haul international travel, then needless to say, American & United are best avoided, too!

  26. So you’re an obvious aviation enthusiast and know the ins and outs of traveling by plane. So you’re not ignorant. You’re just trolling, essentially. You seem to have this weird beef with AA. As a former Delta FA, I can say that AA’s policy aligns with Delta’s, but why praise them? We weren’t allowed to give first class amentities, blankets, etc., to give to the main cabin. It’s inconsistent.

    In addition, that open seat with extra leg room costs $80 Minimum. I’m sure if you were sitting in one of those rows in the window and another passenger in the aisle, and someone from the back comes to sit in the middle with extra leg room, you’re going to be OK with it? Or if you’re sitting in first class and the seat next to you isn’t occupied and someone from the back came and set next to you, would you be “mad” at the FA’s for moving that passenger back? Maybe only on AA with your revenge pictures of FA’s taking a break in the galley not wanting a random passenger doing yoga while they try to breath, eat, drink, and prepare for the next service. That’s why there’s two other options: your call button or walking to the back and using your voice to ask for something. They are primarily there to save your ass, not kiss it.

  27. I am an ex FA (16 years) and can’t believe how much AA has changed. My dad calls them ChaChing airlines since every little thing is an extra charge. I don’t typically fly AA because of the price difference, but this year I needed to based on destination. I am saddened by the changes and lack of love the employees have for their jobs. I truly loved my job but had to leave due to a divorce/custody issues. I guess the good thing is that I left when I did and have wonderful memories of what it used to be.

  28. Surprised? How many decades has it been since AA treated Coach Passengers like Human Beings, let aline well.

  29. Why should coach passengers get services/amenities that pax in business/first get?
    They paid for those perks and economy class didn’t. Premium class pax have started complaining, and rightfully so. It wouldn’t even be mass addressed if it was an infrequent occurrence (birthdays, special occasions, compensation for an inconvenience.
    Premium pax have started complaining since it happens frequently.
    This memo obviously doesn’t apply to pax that have been upgraded, since they enjoy the full benefits of the upgraded seat.

  30. Just another clarifying slap in the face to customers, reminding us that AA stands for Absolutely Abysmal. This dumb stunt could potentially affect the safety of passengers if this stupid stunt blocks emergency aft exits of the ac. I know which carrier I won’t be flying any longer.

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