On Friday American Airlines confirmed they were removing espresso machines from their Airbus A321T, Boeing 777 and Boeing 787 aircraft. A spokesperson explained this was intended to “help conserve fuel and prevent confusion about what services are currently offered.”
This decision generated a surprising amount of comment and interest. However American now says that the machines will actually stay. They have removed supplies, but expect the espresso service to eventually return to premium cabins where the machines are offered,
[W]e are certain the machines will stay on the aircraft and this is temporary as service is modified on these flights and the expresso offering is currently not available. The removal of equipment for the machine will help prevent confusion among flight attendants and conserve fuel.
According to the spokesperson it’s only “frothing wands, cups, saucers, brewing pods” that are being taken off of planes.
With business travel still grounded, there’s little high yield demand, and American has adjusted its service levels downward. The espresso option, such as in first class on New York JFK – Los Angeles and San Francisco flights, was even more valuable given the inferior coffee that American has used compared to Delta and United. (At one point American did at least used a stronger brew of their coffee on Sydney flights.)
The biggest problem with inflight coffee, though, is the water at least on airlines that aren’t using bottled water for their coffee. Coffee is a serious investment, with major US airlines spending $5 to $10 million a year.
The espresso machines tended to be used more by employees themselves, rather than by customers who often didn’t realize the option existed. However investing in better company for employees has a business case.
- Improved operational efficiency and reduced delays, by eliminating pilots stopping at Starbucks in the terminal on the way to the aircraft.
- Improved employee morale, which in turn affects customer service. Better coffee is a product flight attendants can be proud of and reduces complaints they receive from customers. American has long said they’re investing in employees, who will take care of their customers. This is a crucial area where they’ve lagged.
Quality coffee is especially important for early departures, and when business travel returns the ‘first flight Monday morning’ consultant routes will benefit from re-investment here. I’m glad there’s at least a chance that this amenity will eventually return.