Can You Tell What’s Wrong With This Vegetable Ramen in American’s Flagship First Dining?

American Airlines is the only U.S. airline that offers three-cabin first class. This is available on their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft that fly to London, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires. It’s also available on their Airbus A321T aircraft that fly mostly between New York JFK and both Los Angeles and San Francisco.

American has dedicated business class lounges called Flagship lounges at New York JFK, Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas Fort-Worth and Chicago. At all but Chicago there’s also a Flagship First Dining room which is reserved for first class passengers. There’s sit down dining and made to order food, along with a private bar.

Flagship First Dining New York JFK

Bryan S. relayed his recent experience at the New York JFK Flagship First Dining before a flight to Los Angeles. He paid for business class and spent miles to upgrade himself and his wife.

An airport dining facility needs to be fast. A first class dining facility needs to be properly staffed to attend to first class passengers. Brian was disappointed to find that this one was neither. While their orders were taken promptly he reports that it “took about 30 minutes to get our crab cakes and vegetable ‘ramen’.”

Take a look at the ramen and see if you can spot anything wrong with it?

There’s chopsticks. There are vegetables. But as Brian noted, while the vegetable ramen “had a good kick” it didn’t have any ramen noodles.

It turns out the lounge had run out of noodles, and substituted cavitelli pasta instead. Nobody mentioned this – 30 minutes passed and this is what was delivered and it was too late for him to order anything else (and wait another 30 minutes).

After mentioning to the server that it would be really helpful, if a dish was going to come out differently because the kitchen is out of something, that this might be mentioned to the guest right away so they could deliver something else guess what happened?

Same thing happened with the Neapolitan cheesecake – it was supposed to be on a graham cracker crust – instead it was plain, and came with 2 cookies.

There were six other people in the dining room at the time. Drinks were slow to be delivered, and no one was around after food had been delivered. Dessert took 15 minutes to deliver, even though it was pre-prepared.

He does say that “the flagship lemonade was delicious” and compliments the friendly servers on their demeanor. However none of this sounds very first class, which is disappointing because it’s what American leans on to differentiate itself from competitors in pursuit of the most premium business.

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 was recently in FFD JFK. The staff are just your normal airport concession workers, with no real service expertise.

    It’s still an overall very nice experience for airport lounge dining. But don’t expect Michelin star quality food or service.

  2. American Airlines doesn’t give one tinker’s damn about customer satisfaction or product fulfillment. I realize the flagship dining is contracted out, but obviously whoever wrote those contracts was an AA employee and therefore carried forward the AA attitude. Seriously, the flagship lounge in DFW has 12 shower rooms but nobody that cares about keeping them available or managed. I waited 45 minutes for them to page me and finally had to find a manager to get a shower. Compare what this passenger got for a ramen dish compared to the dan dan noodles at cathay or even anything at the Polaris lounge. The only flag in the flagship would be that of the titanic.

  3. I have used the JFK dining room several times and have always enjoyed the food and the service.
    This had to be an off-kilter day.

  4. Gary I think this is more of a one time failure than something normal there. I’ve been to FFD in JFK multiple times this year and honestly it’s the only redeeming part of American’s First Class experience — it’s amazing. Better than dining in the F lounges of airlines like Qantas, Cathay, BA. And in terms of food it’s at least comparable to Lufthansa’s. I also find JFK’s to be better than LAX and DFW, so those folks are doing a standout job.

    Have I experienced service hiccups sometimes with some servers? Yes. But it was nothing like what you describe.

    I agree American is overall a mess of an airline. But it saddens me for you to publicly shame one of its only parts that I think does a world class job based on one report.

  5. That’s sad – my experience there last August could not have been better. Plenty of Krug, amazing lamb and a fantastic dessert. The staff were all really friendly and the food and drinks were fantastic. On board, however…

  6. Publicly shame away, as why should we be surprised that Flagship meal product when it is nothing more than an extension of AA’s flights?

    Domestic FC is typically a gothic horror story: no catering out of LAX to ORD and no substitute for dinner: lunch flight from SAN given departure time to ORD should have been dinner, served up Vietnamese salad for dinner with nothing substantial to eat (and nobody eats such crap in Vietnam); a lazy FA that served drinks, lunch and dessert on same tray so she could sit and rest from ORD-LAX, etc, etc.

    Let Parker et al continue to tank AA, as DL, and even, UA more than happy-and prepared-to pic-up the slack.

  7. Agree with Carlos that this has to be a one-off. First Dining, especially at JFK, is one of the few positive things about this sorry excuse of an airline.

  8. Now Mark, try that same exact service in First from HKG to DFW, and then again in Business from Vienna to DFW. Their seniority allocations of FA’s in elite and long distance flights means nobody under the age of 80 will be attending you. If, they can even find you.

  9. Wow, talk about a first world problem. If this is the biggest issue have I can send you a box of ramen ….

  10. Once again… get a life dude. How much of your travel is FREE? And to hell with you as well Mark Johnson. Believe me, when the whiners do not have what they need, I take out food from my own bag that I bring with me, Funny they eat my Ramen noodles all the time.

  11. Well skygal1, too bad if this hits a sore spot for you. get a job you like that doesn’t so negatively impact people confined in a tube requiring your assistance. AA service is totally crap and you know it. Take a look some time at the costs of those tickets rather than your D2 certificate and you will see why we have some expectations of someone doing their job.

  12. Welcome to the millenialist world…can you say…”they DGAF” ??? Our once great companies are being run by millennials. Good luck trying to find one that actually wants to work.
    I hope you got to your destination…. safely. Most likely you did…those old guys running the mx show just want to be respected and paid well for keeping you safe. Merry Christmas.

  13. In the preceding comments I would love to know how many have actually been to an AA First Class dining room. I suspect, not many. I have.
    IMO, the food quality at the LAX dining room is better than that I am served in the Concorde Room or Cathay’s Pier or Wing lounges (@Gary probably won’t like hearing that but it’s true 🙂 )
    I have also used the DFW dining room. Good experience too.
    I’m sorry a traveler had a less than stellar experience, but it doesn’t match mine. I think the AA First Class dining rooms are excellent and I enjoy visiting them.

  14. Mark. I love my job and I take care of my customers as if they are guests in my own home. What about D2? I BUY my tickets and they are mainly first-class tickets however we get a slight discount. BUT I BUY THEM. I do not expect a massage or an ass-kissing or a FREE upgrade and when I see an employee not doing their job, I write it up. Of course, I also write up people that do their job correctly. I just wish we had more control of reporting customers that are rude and unruly based upon their personalities in general or having had too much to drink. Again, my job is to get you from points safely. I pray for your safe travels no matter which airline you fly. Merry Christmas sir.

  15. I have dined there. The food wasn’t amazing or anything but I certainly didn’t experience anything like this type of service or incompetence. Not sure why we can’t get competent customer service in the US, especially in NYC.

  16. Bill, I feel that the unions are facilitating this incompetence to the detriment of the customer. As long as seniority is the only qualification for working in elite cabins, and most workers knowing they can’t be fired leads to total disregard for the customer. Even one of the US branded airline CEO’s said the company’s goal is to merely be as good but no better than the other airlines. Sadly, many people have no idea how horrible the service is because they don’t get the opportunity to experience an asian airline’s service. Skygal said it best when she repeated what I am confident comes out of her mouth frequently, “To hell with the customer”.

  17. I’m really glad so many have had good experiences in FFD. But for this couple it seems it of the ordinary and special. AA should refund part of his upgrade cost since the full experience wasn’t available. Am I the only one that feels this way? If I pay for one thing but receive another then I should get some money/miles back. If AA is serious about providing a great product then they should feel this way too.

    Btw, coinciding with the Delta trademark suit makes this even more amusing. Well played AA!

  18. I have also visited the Flagship lounge in a number of occasions. And in all but one I had a great experience, with much above-average quality and very good service. And the reason in simple: AA can offer this in the flagship dining because the nonrevs aren’t able to get it for free. Otherwise, onboard, where easily 50%+ of the 77W cabin is comprised of nonrevs, AA serves the food that nonrevs deserves: crap for having paid zero (or close to zero) for the tickets. I have been on a flight that was F7 minutes before boarding and magically all of those 7 seats were filled with nonrevs friends and family (true story, and it was one of the worst flights I have been on).

  19. @Gary Leff

    You mention that AA offers three-cabin service with genuine First Class (“flagship”) service (in addition to Business and Coach) on JFK-LAX/SFO routes. They also offer it on one of two of their flights MIA-EZE (seasonally). One of their four flights JFK-LHR has F/B/Y. Where does the HKG flight depart from that has F class? Is it DFW? Where does the SAO flight depart from that has F? Is it MIA?

    What is the difference between AA’s B and F cabins on these long-haul flights? Perhaps you could do an article about AA’s Flagship First vs. Flagship Business class service.

  20. did Bryan really describe his drink as ‘FLAGSHIP lemonade?’

    Here comes another lawsuit for IP, copyright infringement, etc…

  21. This is what happens when you take corner convenience store style management and put them in charge of the largest store in the world. America West was basic and overly fair at best. I remember flying them years ago. Didn’t have ovens for meals in first class so everything was ‘chilled’. Even coach food was ‘chilled’. I do remember a 757 flight I had with them where breakfast was served. Was somewhat hot even. Of course to get a beverage took 1.5 hours after the meal was served.

    Fast forward 20 years and we have America West management running (and ruining) the largest airline in the world. This all came from them. They are consistent if nothing else.

  22. Brian,

    I spent 32 years at DL in gates/ticket counter. I would gladly have given you a years worth of my nonrev tickets. Caveat: you have to spend a year putting up with you and your minions. Bet you wouldn’t renew for a second years worth of passes. Don’t know what your beef is with nonrevs, but this is the perk we get for getting yelled at every day of our life. Every day a nonrev gets F/C I cheer.

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