American Stops Trying to Provide Better Service on Domestic Narrowbodies

American Airlines used to provide upgraded service on many routes within North America.

  • Sometimes that meant dedicated meals – such as Canada flights – which has been eliminated.
  • And in other cases that mean offering expanded meal service – such as between Los Angeles and Miami. When those flights are operated by a narrowbody aircraft, other than one of American’s transcon-specific premium-heavy Airbus A321Ts, that improved service is being eliminated.

The reason given by American, in a company memo to flight attendants, is that it was just too hard for cabin crew to offer the service.

We have received a lot of feedback regarding the limitations of narrow body aircraft and the challenges in delivering Transcon service on flights operating between LAX and MIA. In response, all flights operating with narrow body aircraft, except for the 32T, will change from a Transcon level of service to our standard Domestic LH service effective December 8th.

Wide body aircraft (332, 333, 767, 777-200, 777-300 788, 789) and the 32T (narrow body) operating between LAX and MIA will continue to offer Transcon service.

American Airlines Airbus A321
American Airlines Airbus A321

I reached out to American to see whether they’d offer any additional color on the decision to downgrade the service, and an airline spokesperson blames it on galleys that are smaller on domestic narrowbodies:

While our A321T was designed to be a Flagship product offering, we had hoped to be able to provide consistent food service no matter which flight a customer chooses (particularly on markets like LAX-MIA where we switch between narrowbody and widebody aircraft).

Despite our efforts, the standard A321 aircraft simply have less galley space for our teams to provide the level of service needed when we are offering additional choices and serving courses separately.

Therefore, we’re adjusting our food & beverage service to be consistent for Transcontinental routes that qualify for respective Flagship First / Flagship Business amenities.

American has been densifying narrowbody aircraft – adding seats, taking room away everywhere else (such as the infamous bathrooms). Instead of providing galleys that flight attendants feel comfortable providing service from, they’re cutting the service.

When Delta found they had added too many seats to their Airbus narrowbodies, leaving insufficient room for flight attendants to work in the galleys, they removed seats.

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. Translation
    Our aircraft suck and we know it
    Our experience sucks and we continue to sell it
    Our leadership sucks with Dug Parker running our company into the ground
    Come experience a true sucky experience and fly American cause we’re going for great folks (applause)

  2. Sooo…this is better for the customer? Doug can’t get the aircraft galleys right and its hard for the FAs to provide customer service?? Watch, LAX-MIA will soon all become OASIS narrow bodies with no transcon service.

  3. What BS – the flight attendants provided an even higher level of service for years in narrowbody galleys

    Did they eliminate one side of the front galley vs the 737-800s that used to be doing transcons?

    Either way – there was space to pack the food – it’s a 6 hour flight – plenty of time unless they planned on reading magazines

  4. Ok this begs the question why fly AA? The only time I fly AA are very short hops on the east coast such as DCA to PVD, thats it. Even then the service has always been marginal at best.

  5. I suspect that the LUS A321birds have limited galley space especially up front compared to LAA birds. This could be a contributing factor.

    if the LUS birds end up on the MIA LAX runs it is understandable that it will be a problem.

  6. Wait, is the galley smaller than a Lufthansa or BA A321? Just asking as it seems their flight attendants do just fine serving wonderful meals on a two hour flight.

    Sounds more like the combined efforts of U.S. flight attendants who look for any excuse to eliminate actual working and the executive teams seeing how it works to their advantage to cut costs. That’s teamwork!

  7. Although I was far from being shocked (perhaps as Capt. Renault was at Rick’s Cafe), as I read through I could only benchmark my thoughts to what would Delta have done? Of course, I was not surprised to see exactly what DL did-they removed the seats to ensure a favorable customer experience and to respect their FAs. This is not nuclear physics; but just common sense that caught the last train out of DFW when Parker and his gang took over what once was a great airline.

    As a segue, it’s ironic to see how ex-DL CEO Anderson is totally lost at Amtrak, as evidenced how he aggressively attacks any concept of customer experience. Just for example, Amtrak has eliminated the dining cars on long distance trains traveling east of the Mississippi, as if sleeping car passengers paying an obscenely high fare are content with carrying their own meal tray thru a moving train to their room, if the bare bones table car is full.

    Even a worse experience is for coach travelers, who are greeted by the Amtrak version of the “Soup Nazi” and forbidden to even obtain a meal or sit in the table car; but condemned to the cafe car offering over-priced, unhealthy snacks; forced to take back to their seats thru a moving train, as many of the cafe’s limited tables are unavailable due to the resting train crew.

    Given how Amtrak and American are in a fast dive into the toilet, it would certainly make sense for the two transport modes to hook-up and accommodate their passengers to mutually benefit from such a pathetic experience.

    Just as Amtrak’s Board is to be held accountable for the lack of oversight n management, when will AA’s Board wake-up and take the requisite action before AA can only carry chickens and goats? Perhaps if their compensation was exclusively based upon AA’s stock value and compared to DL…

  8. I have never understood why American and their competitors don’t use widebodies for their coast-to-coast flights. Two aisles makes a huge difference.

  9. It’s those old LUS birds. They only have half a galley and I’ve seen FA’s struggle to complete a standard meal service with only America West resources to work with.

    It’s also ironic to walk into a plane with absolutely no plugs, TVs, or amenities whatsoever and have the FA try to make the MIA-LAX service look fancy. It’s like serving caviar out of a 1993 Ford Escort. Maybe the transcon service made sense when it was only the LAA Airbus but ever since the merger what’s the point of pretending?

  10. @Charlie, DL is all 767-300 right now between JFK and LAX. You’re right, it makes a world of difference.

  11. What BS. For *years* legacy American provided coursed-out meals and other transcon amenities on narrowbody flights. These include routes *never* operated by widebodies. For instance, DCA-LAX, LAX-IAD (was widebody at one time, not for years), BOS-LAX, etc.

  12. AA reveals its fatal flaw, inward focus in defiance of customer needs. Why on earth would you lower your standards, not by asking your customers, but by asking your staff which has been known, on occasion, to minimize its workload?

  13. Let me help you with this. I’m an AA flight attendant. Yes, the galley on LUS airplanes are NOT set up to do the service correctly. The new AA, Airbus 321 was not really much better. There was no input from flight attendants when these were set up. It can be done with an extra flight attendant, but the company wants to keep staffing minimal. Please don’t blame the flight attendants. The galley is a hot mess to work in. Completely set on saving money, not function.

  14. Excellent job by AA management to continue to degrade the customer experience by throwing their employees under the bus.
    The flight attendants have and can demonstrated their ability to make this work even though the powers that be gave zero thought to the equipment limitations they forced on the employees post merger.
    AA all about profit over human factor.

  15. What was the difference in service on when flying transcontinental on an A321? I flew that several times and felt the service as flying on a non-transcontinental (MIA-LAX vs. MCO-LAX) A321.

    The only time I felt the service was different was when I flew on the A321T or 777-300ER where you could see increase in service offering.

  16. This begins to explain why AA lost their LATAM partner to Delta/Skyteam. In the summer of 2019, while AA was looking to increase profits by cutting costs/services, Delta was looking to increase profits by maximizing revenue.

  17. Ex Concierge Key ….. Ex !
    I still remember entering the AA cabin shaking my head….mumbling something like “unbelievable how bad this airline became”’ … I flew Mex Mia in one of their awful 321s. Still remember their pre-order quesadillas on first. Any street seller in Mexico City would have the decency to commit suicide over this trash…. well, good riddance.. Fortunately I am 80% of the time on JAL ….no comparison.
    Never again AA for me….hopefully ….

  18. And will this reduction in premium cabin service and amenities equate to a reduction of premium cabin fares? Of course not.

    Chug-A-Lug Doug and his America West penny pinchers need to take a permanent hiatus from AA.

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