American Testing Pre-Order Meals in Coach in 3 Domestic Markets

American Airlines was the first US airline to let first class passengers pre-select their meals, having rolled it out in fall 2012.

That’s not ‘book the cook’ make your choice from an extensive menu and they’ll have it on board for you. Rather you choose your meal from what would otherwise be on board and that’s supposed to ensure it’s available to you (they don’t run out of your first choice before getting to your row).

American also now offers a fruit and cheese plate in addition to the usual two choices, and that’s available by pre-order only. I like this option because I frequently don’t want either of the two entree choices that American offers. It’s intended for folks not really hungry enough for a meal, in practice it’s a good option for when the two choices are just bad.

Now American has rolled out pre-orders to coach on a test basis.

I’m flying Dallas – Seattle and back next month. My outbound upgrade is confirmed (with a Business ExtrAA certificate). I’ll try the short rib because it’s one of American’s new meal choices and I’m really hoping it’s better than the short rib they served September 2014 through July 2015.

My return flight is still in coach. Hopefully my upgrade will clear. However I was surprised to see a meal choice for my coach flight, too.

The flight is long enough for buy on board meals and not just snacks. And this option lets me pre-order. It’ll be nice that they won’t run out of sandwiches before making it to my row. Of course as an Executive Platinum member a food item and drink are complimentary, so it makes sense to reserve something.

Complimentary Drink and Snack Item on Shorter Phoenix – Austin Flight

I’ll be interested to see how many people pre-plan to buy a sandwich on board. I imagine many people realizing they’ll be hungry will buy something in the terminal, and coach buy on board is more a spur of the moment decision (settling) than anything else. The usage data here would be fascinating to see.

Coach pre-order is being trialed on three routes:

  • Dallas Fort-Worth – LaGuardia
  • Dallas Fort-Worth – Philadelphia
  • Dallas Fort-Worth – Seattle

You’ll be able to pre-select up to 24 hours prior to departure. And you don’t pre-pay. There’s no downside to pre-selecting, though I hope not too many people abandon their choices since American will have boarded them. If they load too much food that goes unsold the test may not be extended I’d imagine, or they’ll require pre-payment (though that would involve IT, so I’d guess they would sooner abandon the trial than make that investment).

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. I’m entitled to the sandwiches for free and they are not worth eating for free so I have no idea why anybody would buy them. They are both terrible Everything you can buy and bring on board is better. American should learn from United

  2. @Gary – Not that they’ve ever run out on me (yet), but I do love the econ cheese “platter” (the term is used… loosely by AA). The quality is reasonable and it’s fresh enough in my experience. It’s far and away the best meal/snack I’ve found on any domestic US carrier.

  3. I agree with Ryan, the Caesar wrap and the turkey sandwich are just terrible on American.

    It would be nice if they had some nicer stuff you could pre-order and even pre-pay to guarantee that it won’t go to waste.

    My current go-to meal in AA economy is a can of Pringles.

  4. I struggle to understand the value in pre-ordering meals they usually have on board anyway.. Realistically (Imo) if you’re buying food on board on AA, it’s bc you are really hungry and failed to plan ahead (or your connections ran tighter than expected due to a delay) and buy better food… The BOB food to me is a last resort. I can’t imagine opting for it in advance (except maybe cheese box). If you have the foresight to know you’ll be hungry on your journey you’ll have the good sense to spend the same amount of money on food that is actually decent.

  5. Last Sunday, my DFW-DCA flight had 20 EXPs on board and no CKs. I was 11 on the upgrade list. The FA told me about 20 EXPs.

    I would guess looks at the number of EXPs and CKs and coach and caters more food for BOB.

    When F is full and you are a half way down EXP – it will be nice to pre-order the BOB food, when you know you won’t get an upgrade.

    Unless I travel on Saturday, I am finding it impossible to get upgraded, where I can be anywhere from 7 to 15 down on the upgrade list. On a Saturday – I get upgraded in advance.

    AA seems to be holding back only 1 seat these days, so one person on the upgrade list gets it. I just see more and more EXPs on the flights. EXP is now what was Platinum.

    The next few flights I have – I have now just purchased as when booked way in advance F is less than double coach. I have a ticket where F RT DCA-PHX was only $200 more than coach. I have even seen on where the return part of the trip prices the RT for F less than for coach.

    I wonder if you do pre-order coach BOB, will that hold you back from any upgrade opportunity?

  6. American can teach delta a thing or two about pre ordering. Delta still has not figured it out even for business/first class much less coach. That is surprising since all airlines allow pre ordering special meals and delta has allowed ordering asian meals TPAC for a long time.

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