American Airlines stopped catering the espresso machines on board their Boeing 777, Boeing 787, and Airbus A321T aircraft during the pandemic. The “frothing wands, cups, saucers, brewing pods” were taken off of planes, according to the airline. Fortunately espresso drinks are back!
When business travel was completely grounded there was little high yield demand, and American had adjusted its service levels downward. Yet an espresso option, such as in first class on New York JFK – Los Angeles and San Francisco flights, was even more valuable for American Airlines than other airlines given the inferior coffee that they’ve been using.
- United serves Illy coffee.
- Delta serves Starbucks.
- But American uses FreshBrew. That’s the stuff United moved away from in one of former CEO Oscar Munoz’s first moves to distance himself from the cost-cutting Smisek era (it’s also when United introduced stroopwafels).
If you want drinkable coffee on American, it needs to be espresso.
Regardless of the grounds, though, the biggest problem with inflight coffee is the water – and this is universal for airlines that don’t make their coffee with bottled water. Bottled water than tank water should be the standard because coffee is a serious investment – something where major US airlines spend $5 to $10 million a year.
American’s espresso machines tended to be used more by employees than by customers who often didn’t realize the option existed. However investing in better coffee for both employees and customers has a business case even aside from customer preference.
- Improved operational efficiency and reduced delays, by eliminating pilots stopping at Starbucks in the terminal on the way to the aircraft.
- Improved employee morale, which in turn affects customer service. Better coffee is a product flight attendants can be proud of and reduces complaints they receive from customers. American has long said they’re investing in employees, who will take care of their customers. This is a crucial area where they’ve lagged.
Quality coffee is especially important for early departures. Pre-pandemic the ‘first flight Monday morning’ consultant routes benefited from this investment most. It’s great to see that this amenity is back at American on planes that have had the machines to offer it.