Cutting Corners: The Surprising Truth About First Class Service Flow On American Airlines

An American Airlines flight attendant proudly shares how they deliver first class service on a short domestic dinner flight. What’s striking to me is a corner that they cut to get everything out to 20 first class passengers on the Airbus A321 – and that they’re proud of how they do it. The truth here is that there’s no great way for one crewmember to do service for 20 passengers, and American Airlines is cutting too many corners on staffing.

This flight attendant places warmed nuts in ramekins prior to takeoff. What is the purpose of heating the nuts, exactly, then? It’s more efficient for him, but he’s going to serve room temperature nuts. A first world problem for sure, but it points to an underlying problem – since that’s not the intention the airline has, or the experience that’s supposed to be delivered. Cabin crew are meant to heat the nuts in aluminum trays and place them in ramekins just prior to serving!

It’s not really his fault, though. Broadly speaking, American reduced flight attendant staffing levels during the pandemic and hasn’t brought those levels back to they were even as they’ve brought back service. However the domestic Airbus A321 staffing has always been to FAA minimums, which is fine for passing out peanuts but not for delivering premium service.

Twenty first class passengers are a lot for one flight attendant to serve drinks, nuts, and meals to on a short flight and service will take longer than passengers can reasonably expect – and longer to have their trays removed so they can go back to work as well.

At a minimum the number three flight attendant should prep the nuts and stay up front to assist with drinks and serve nuts while the number one flight attendant prepares the dinner trays.

So the beef here is with American Airlines inadequate staffing, not with this flight attendant who clearly takes pride in his work.

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. This seems like a strange procedure. At United, pre-portioned nut ramekins are boarded directly inside an oven by catering. All the FAs have to do is turn on the oven for 10 minutes, and then serve the nut ramekins directly from the oven. I’m really confused by this AA practice…

  2. I’d be more concerned with the fact that he’s using a personal electronic device while on duty. At UA, this kind of thing can get you fired nowadays.

  3. @Greg Jones
    For your information…..

    American Airlines had its own worldwide kitchen/catering SkyChef.
    SkyChef had multiple kitchens in most major US cities / hubs and many European, Caribbean and South American cities. SkyChef also serviced most Domestic US airlines and many International Airlines. Marriott Airline catering and Lufthansa Airline catering
    eventually invested in SkyChef.
    SkyChef, Marriott and i Lufthansa catering later merged to become LSG/SkyChef. AA was a Airline Kitchen and catering.
    Just FYI

  4. You all want first class service at economy prices delivered by underpaid employees who are there to drag your burning body off the plane, not shove warm nuts down your gob. Give this crap a break. You should expect respectful service, as time and turbulence permit.

  5. Why is it you take one junior flight attendant’s word as gospel? You think we all do it this way? No we do not.!
    I’ve been an AA flight attendant for 25 years and can assure you it’s not done this way. This particular fa needs to stay off Instagram and concentrate on how he was trained to do his damn job. He is not a typical case at all ,
    Gary, do your homework!

  6. Another brilliant move by American Airlines in their race to the bottom. No, AA doesn’t necessarily like the passengers that they fly around the world. They are not a flagship airline. They’re just a huge company that happens to fly people around the globe.

  7. You are WRONG yet again. The nuts ARE heated IN the ramekins. They are usually catered already in the ramekins but recently catering is just catering in the tin. This is a proficient way to save time after takeoff
    Again the nuts ARE heated!

  8. I believe American Airlines should pay the cabin crew the minute they board the aircraft. Not when the door is closed.
    While not being paid. They are expected to perform safety checks, catering and prep work.


  9. Record profits and a continuing erosion between management and staff, which affects premium customers who pay more for the comfort. My recent trip on AA was bad enough (10 hours) to reinforce my active dislike of this brand. It will catch up to them.

  10. Every one has choices. If the crew is always complaining that they don’t get paid enough.. they knew that when they committed to the job! Service should never cut corners but it’s all about the money. That being said… you get what you pay for… even the grandmas that are flight attendants, either you can afford to be in the airline industry or not! But don’t take it all out on the customers. I was a flight attendant for 40 years and I loved my job!

  11. Gary never has anything nice to say abt American. This is such a joke. Who buys an airline ticket for the meal anyway? I usually go to a nice restaurant when I want fine dining. I pick my airline for safe efficient travel!

  12. There have always been 4 flight attendants on board the A321’s. 2-4 are serving the coach pax. What corners are being cut? The nuts can’t be heated in the dishes? He specifically said this was for a quicker flight.

  13. If you heat the nuts in the ramekins they will become very chewy quickly. AA has always catered the tins of nuts and once heated, they are placed in the ramekins.

  14. This flight attendant did great! There is nothing wrong with putting the nuts in the ramekins before putting them in the oven… they still get heated, and stay warm longer because the ramekin will also be hot.
    The real issue is AA cramming more seats into their planes- The 321 now has 20 first class seats when it used to have 16. This may not seem like a big deal, but it makes a HUGE difference. As a flight attendant, that First Class service has had me in literal tears. I take pride in what I do, and I make every effort to deliver the best service. I wondered what was wrong with me for not accomplishing the service as quickly and efficiently as I’d like, until I realized the problem isnt with me but with AA SETTING UP ITS FLIGHT ATTENDANTS FOR FAILURE. There is a reason no one wants to work first class- that position always goes to the most junior person. It may seem super simple from an outsider’s perspective, but I assure you it’s not. We have to work magic with extremely limitted space and time.
    I wish people would walk a mile in our shoes before criticizing.

  15. I’m realizing maybe Gary misunderstood… he said the FA “put warm nuts into ramekins before take off”. That is not the case. The FA put COLD nuts in COLD ramekins, and then put everything in the oven and heated everything up just before service.
    Hope this clarifies things.

  16. FA’s today think they have it so bad. I was an FA in the 80’s. We had to do a full meal service in coach if the flight was over 1 1/2 hrs. On a full flight, that meant 132 meals and drinks, not just peanuts or cookies. Heated, served and cleaned up in 1 hr. I can’t tell you the number of times I was strapping into my seat 5 seconds before we touched down.

  17. Recently flew FC on AA DTW/PHL round trip. FC got a beverage, but no snacks. Coach at least got cookies with their beverage. So much for customer loyalty!

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