American Airlines Senior Vice President of Flight Service Jill Surdek made the decision to pull food off of the airline’s flights during the pandemic herself. A primarily cost-cutting move, they’ve even taken meals out of first class on flights over 2200 miles though they appear to have a plan to at least offer sandwiches that used to be available as ‘buy on board’ in coach.
Now Surdek tells flight attendants, during a question and answer session held on Wednesday, not to expect a return to meal (tray) service any time soon. And when they’re ready to offer meals again to expect something ‘more modern’ which in my experience is usually code for something cheaper and less extensive,
We’re not going to come back with full tray services immediately. There’s going to have to be some interim step. And I really think there’s an opportunity to re-think it. When you think about the footprint we have for meal service and how we served, it’s been very similar over the years. And is there a way to bring back something that still has a premium feel but is different and more modern, and is this an opportunity to reset in a way that we might have made more incremental changes before.
Surdek also muses on the challenge that’s “[n]ot going to be five or 10 years off but how are we going to differentiate our service?” She knows service matters “to bring customers back on board our planes” but envisions offering service “with less touch points, masks, etc.” so they’re working through what it means to “provide the service over the long term that gets customers back flying.”