The Death of FEBO: American’s New Meal Ordering Procedure Starts September 1

When the US Airways and American merger finally got the go-ahead, airline President Scott Kirby promised that US Airways would adopt American’s higher standards.

For meals, though, what’s actually happened is that the two airlines are splitting the difference.

Roughly speaking American served meals on two hour flights and US Airways on three and a half hour flights — they’ll settle in the middle at two hours forty five minutes.

Here are the specific time, distance, and offering standards that go into effect on September 1.

One additional September 1 change that I hadn’t seen reported before, but that is being discussed on Flyertalk (HT: Jeremy F.) is a change to the order in which meal preferences will be taken from customers.

Since American introduced pre-ordering of meals the procedure for taking orders in the cabin is less important for well-informed flyers than it used to be. As long as you are booked into the first class cabin 24 hours in advance you can order what you want from the choices that would be offered onboard.

But if you buy your ticket at the last minute, change your flight within 24 hours, or don’t clear an upgrade until within that timeframe you can’t order in advance.

And I generally see most passengers ordering inflight, not having pre-selected, so it may indicate there’s no enough awareness of the pre-order option.

The inflight meal order that flight attendants have been instructed to follow (and generally did follow) for years has been ‘FEBO’ —

  • Start at the front of the cabin on even-numbered flights
  • Start at the back of the cabin on odd-numbered flights

On September 1, ‘FEBO’ is said to be replaced by:

When an aircraft flight involves a change of time zones, take meal preferences:

. . . • Eastbound: from forward / front to aft /back
. . . • Westbound: from aft to forward

If the flight does not involve a change of any time zones, take meal preferences:

. . . • Southbound: from forward to aft
. . . • Northbound: from aft to forward

It turns out this isn’t all that different from FEBO except that during the merger process plenty of flights have been renumbered, and more roundtrips have been given the same number. The practical effect is that many flights will be restored to the former order in which meals were taken for that given flight!

If, that is, this isn’t too complicated to work with.

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. “And I generally see most passengers ordering inflight, not having pre-selected, so it may indicate there’s no enough awareness of the pre-order option.”

    On my last two AA flights I pre-ordered several days in advance but the FAs did not seem to have a list, they just took orders per FEBO. May be that passengers and crew are not sufficiently aware.

  2. Some good-lookin’ slop there. I take it in pic #3 you pre-ordered the Fancy Feast? Or was it Whiskas on that flight?

  3. @ another Steve: Same experience on my last two LAX-ORD/return flights; neither had record of pre-order?!?!?!?

  4. – New policy is because there are now so many “out and back” flights with the same number. The intent of FEBO was always directional, and previously there was some relative consistency with even flight numbers going north or east, and odd flight numbers going south or west. It will be interesting to see how many crew actually figure out how to execute this.
    – By the way, many AA crew don’t know “FEBO” – they apparently are not taught that acronym – those that do probably learned it from a customer!
    – Apparently some crew don’t like the “pre-order” process so they just ignore it. It’s very unlikely that they didn’t get “the paperwork”.
    – @Stvr: most domestic airlines, including AA, do not board more meals than seats. 8 seat cabin = 8 meals, and thus not everyone will get their first choice – unless they pre-order!

  5. Do any AA flight crews actually follow FEBO? I’ve flown about 40 flights in AA Domestic First in the past 5 years (I know that’s not a lot compared to most people here) but I have never, ever seen them take orders from the back on a single odd numbered flight – not once.

  6. I had a piece of chicken (cutlet) a few weeks ago that was so hard it could not be cut with their knife. That was some tough bird. So much for the gourmet meals. Its funny but yahoo did some story on airlime meal changes and many posts were like..the rich folks up front are going to be pissed. Others commented that they thought the first class meals domestic of course are gourmet meals, not like what they are offered in the back which is nothing.

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