When American Airlines eliminated inflight service – meals and drinks – that was a decision made by Senior Vice President of Inflight Service Jill Surdek. The airline’s CEO didn’t even know. Over the summer she looked ahead at what first class service would look like at the airline and offered they’d be “bring[ing] back something that still has a premium feel but is different and more modern.”
So far that means first class passengers can have whatever they request to drink, and they eat what used to be coach ‘buy on board’ items. Passengers in coach don’t get a full drink service. On the one hand airlines say that there’s no safety risk in flying because of HEPA air filters and cabin air that flows downward. On the other hand they say these cost-cutting measures are about Covid safety.
One flight attendant asked Ms. Surdek about the return of inflight service for premium customers after the American Airlines earnings call on Thursday. She said on board service would come back ‘slowly’.
Our flight attendant team would love to be back in the position where we feel comfortable and our customers feel comfortable receiving service again. And it’s something we’ve been looking at carefully. We’ve seen other airlines begin to slowly add back some of the beverage service elements, and we’ve been working with our Vanderbilt University Medical Center partners, working with the union, looking at what opportunities exist.
When we are ready to bring it back we will be communicating fully. And I really see that we will be doing this in an incremental way, slowly bringing back elements, working with our flight attendants. Because we all want to serve our customers, we’re all appreciative of the customers flying, and how can we do this in a way that’s safe for everyone.
Fares are low. Cash burn is high. And flight attendants are – rightly or wrongly – concerned about interacting with passengers. They do it on each flight up front, and spread doesn’t seem to be happening on planes and touching the same items as passengers isn’t a big risk or as the CDC puts it “Spread from touching surfaces is not thought to be a common way that COVID-19 spreads.”
American’s joint venture partner British Airways is bringing back hot meals in business class, but they’re effectively coach meals. Once they’re serving hot meals, what’s the safety difference in offering quality food versus rubbish?