Internal Document: American Will Offer a New Third Pre-Order Meal Option for First Class

American Airlines introduced domestic first class pre-order meals five years ago this month.

It’s not like ‘book the cook’ where you get to pre-order from a large selection of items and they’ll have it onboard for you. Instead you just get to choose from the options that’ll otherwise be onboard. However you can ensure you’ll get your first choice, at least when flight attendants pay attention to pre-orders and don’t give away your choice to someone else.

American is improving the feature. Starting November 8 they aren’t just going to let you choose from the two onboard options on meal flights going forward. If you pre-order you will have a third option to pick from, that won’t otherwise be available onboard: a fruit and cheese plate.

The Forward Cabin shared an internal communication about the change that struck me funny for a couple of reasons.

American’s introduction to the change here is interesting.

American notes they’re the only airline offering first class pre-order meals. That’s no longer true, since Alaska AIrlines introduced the feature and Delta has announced plans for pre-order as well. American was first with this, and it’s good for the airline and for customers getting their first choice selection. But let’s not overclaim. Especially since Alaska offers the fruit and cheese option too.

They also note that customers don’t always like the choices American offers. However it’s not that customers simply want something light (although that may be true) the customers don’t like the choices in American Airlines domestic first class because they are bad.

Indeed American Airlines domestic meals are much worse than Virgin America’s. They’re worse than Delta’s. They’re even marginally worse than United’s.

I usually skip meals onboard flying American. I eat before or after. That way I not only avoid the food, but avoid how long it takes for flight attendants to come pick up the tray once I’m done. The length of time between finishing a meal and tray pickup is especially frustrating on aircraft without inflight entertainment since I can’t put my laptop back on the track in any non-contorted fashion (let alone not being able to work).

Nonetheless, I appreciate another option. Fruit and cheese will be inoffensive, even if the fruit and cheese provided isn’t especially good. It’ll be more quickly finished than other meals though which means even more of a wait for pickup.

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. As one of those flight attendants you are referring to,let me tell you that sometimes we have 15 other guests so it can’t just be all about you. I pride myself in giving good service and am usually good about picking up those trays on a timely matter. Maybe remember that next time you want to think its all about you!!

  2. Regardless of Gary’s rant about the tray being picked up, the food is just terrible. I would rather eat most MRE’s over an AA meal. Sad

  3. I disagree. I have had some so-so meals but also have had some decent meals. And usually the tray has been cleared out in a timely manner. And yes, I do travel international business class and have had worse service in Singapore Airlines most of the time. The stewardesses there are like robots. AA has humans. The author here is a self important cry baby.

  4. 100% agree with Gary. First/Business/Economy food has always been a mess with AA. Eat before/after and hope the flight attendants are in a good mood.

  5. @Lory – If you are truly an AA FA, then I think you meant to say “schmucks” not guests.

    I couldn’t agree more with Gary, and I will further add that the AA FA battle-axes need an attitude adjustment – as I think almost everyone would agree. I see the pride in action every time I don’t get a PDB in F. Every time I see the FA’s yakking and shrieking in the galley but in earshot of the customers, or with their nose buried in a paperback, I sense the pride.

  6. Most fliers don’t get the upgrade early enough to pre-order. Seems like they need to look at their problem holistically. But agree, most of the food is not worth eating

  7. Too bad we can’t “pre-order” the full pre-departure beverage in First Class on American Airlines.

    Perhaps what would increase the chances of actually receiving a proper beverage, not the ridiculous “water or juice”?

  8. I might as well voice what I always hear others talking about….why not offer first class passengers simply pre-order one of the sandwiches available in economy? They can simply add it as an option to the “set-up” that they are going to use for the fruit and cheese (salad, etc.) Then, instead of boarding a fruit and cheese plate, they can board an extra sandwich, have the flight attendant unwrap it, and serve it on the tray with the other items. I’d suggest it as available for pre-order only, that way, it won’t effect the number available for coach customers who want to order it on board. Just a thought…

  9. for all You people with an axe to grind on Lack of PreDeparture beverages….. Ever think Your Pissy attitude May play a Role in Your lack of getting One? I have yet not to get one but wouldn’t get bent out of shape over it. some of You are Beyond Pathetic, almost like Mr Leff thinking He is some Super Valued FF for Any Program…. very petty, chronic complainer. critic, Not!

  10. I completely agree with Gary’s comment about the trays . . . I’ve avoided accepting a meal in first class just because I know I’ll be dealing with that tray for a long time (and a half-engaged, reluctant flight attendant poking cold wheat rolls in my face).

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