American’s New Meal Service Standards Revealed: Here’s What to Expect on Flights Starting in September

Fly2Travel shares details on the new American-US Airways meals service going into effect September 1.

As I explained back on June 7, starting September 1 American and US Airways will align their meal service offerings — offering meals on flights of 2 hours and 45 minutes or longer.

For US Airways flyers this marks an improvement over what they had before the merger. And unsurprisingly, this is less generous than what American flyers have been used to.

US Airways got this as their new standard on April 1. (The previous cutoff had been 3.5 hours.) About 40% more flights, or 126 flights a day, saw meal service at US Airways.

American is going to reduce service to this metric starting September 1.

Here’s a chart of meal service offerings, and of cities that are ‘exception markets’ — city pairs that wouldn’t get meals based on the new standards but for competitive reasons will see food anyway (flights to and from competitor hubs, where the competitor offers meals for instance and key business markets).

You can determine what service you’ll receive based on the flight length/distance and the flight’s departure time.

Here are the markets that are getting more substantial service than the standard chart would allow.

Tampa and Ft Lauderdale were included in the list for JFK flights, even though those flights are not currently scheduled. And until I landed in Fort Lauderdale late last month on a delayed flight with more than 20 people connecting on to Port au Prince I had no idea that American even operated the route (as opposed to just flying to Haiti from Miami).

Ultimately sad to see the direction that American meal service is going but also good to know what to expect. And I haven’t enjoyed the meals over the past year as much as in the prior year anyway so I don’t place this all at the feet of new management in any case.

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. the lite bites basket really does not look that bad. A lot of people are going to claim the sky is falling, but in reality, a sandwich and chips is perfectly acceptable for a 2-ish hour flight. Could have been worse and again, compared to the food served in UA this is still a win.

  2. So which is it – the mileage or the time? DCA-MIA is sometimes blocked at exactly 2:45 but is less than 1000 NM. Same goes with some other routes to latin america / Caribbean.

    Also, where does one find the “official” time duration of a route? What it’s blocked at varies from day to day.

  3. Can someone explain why DCA-MIA is not on the exemption list? This route is a good candidate to be exempt.

    At least for the dinner service (2-3 flights a day) they could exempt those flights and leave the others with the basket.

  4. I didn’t know either about American’s route between Fort Lauderdale and Port au Prince, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. A lot of people from Haiti live in Southern Florida — so many that it’s quite common to see trilingual signs, in English, Spanish and Creole.

  5. @MP – well, as I posted above, it’s not clear whether they’re using the mileage or the time as the cutoff. So it could fall in.

    If they’re keeping it out, it’s probably because it’s mostly a leisure route and there isn’t much competition from the majors on that route.

  6. @CW – I see you point, because some of the evening departures are scheduled for 2:50+. So maybe those longer flights could be saved.

    As to your second point regarding the route maybe being a leisure route, I think this is not true on many of the evening flights. I have taken these flight many times, and almost always first class is filled with business people going to or from DC, many of whom are connecting to South America. Plus I can’t imagine that flights to FLL, some of which have been exempted, are any less of a leisure route than flights between Washington and Miami.

  7. These meals are for the 99% or are you now writing only for the 1%? Please clarify?

  8. Most people flying in domestic first class are there via upgrades, not paying a first class fare. Domestic first class is decidedly not for the 1%, but for middle manager road warriors and mileage junkies.

    My goal is to write about whatever I find interesting, and as someone who flies mostly American and to a lesser extent US Airways on domestic flights, I find what they’re offering with that product interesting.

    For what it’s worth!


  9. Disappointed with some of Anerican’s decisions as well. In January I booked a 6:00 flight from PIT to Austin using miles for business/first class as coach didn’t offer the later departure I wanted & it included dinner (yes I know there are better options for cashing in miles, but I don’t travel a lot snd have racked up miles purposely for my baseball pilgrimages). Anyways as AA & US airways started merging/reducing flights they dropped the last PIT-AUS route and moved me to the 3:55 PM ET flight which stopes at DFW at 5:45 PM CT then DFW to AUS 7:05-7:55 PM CT – now dinner is no loner included. When this change was made, at first they kept me on the original DFW-AUS flight, and & I had to call & work it out. Then they changed flight numbers, moving me to a 1:00 flight – again had to call, but got back on the newly numbered 3:55 flight. The first leg is a 3-hr flight, clearly covering the dinner hours (3:55-6:45 ET) but it doesn’t include dinner (because of the time change I guess) and an hour at DFW is not much time to get to your flight & grab a bite.

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