EXCLUSIVE: American Improving Meal Service Starting May 1

On April 1 American reintroduced linens in domestic first class for short and medium haul flights. That’s been reported elsewhere.

The good news is that American isn’t done making changes to their meal service, and addressing the areas that have gotten significant customer feedback (like the cookies…).

I think we have three things coming together:

Fortunately, there are several changes coming to American’s domestic first class inflight catering effective May 1.

They appear to be improving things that customers have been least fond of, like the sandwiches included in the snack basket.

The Return of Entrée Salads!

Meal flights between 2 hours 45 minutes (1000 miles) and 4.5 hours get a new lunch option: entrée salad, which were popular on American up through last August.

There will be four different types of salad in the rotation, served in casserole dish, with three different proteins served in a small bowl on the side. The options will be chicken, shrimp, and beef.

This gives a healthier option at lunch, and gives passengers a choice to have just the salad if they prefer.

Real Plated Snacks Instead of Shrink Wrapped Sandwiches

The ‘PM Lite Bites’ will no longer be the basket of sandwiches, cookies, bananas and the like.

Instead we get a light snack presented on china with proper napkin and flatware, something that reminds me of what American used to offer prior to last September.

  • Flights between 2 and 2.5 hours (700 – 899 miles) get warm nuts and these new plated snacks instead of nuts and the snack basket
  • Flights between 2.5 hours and 2 hours 45 minutes (900 – 999 miles) and shorter ‘exception markets’ get warm nuts and these new plated snacks instead of nuts and the snack basket between 1:31pm and 4:00pm [in other words, outside of the window where these flights get meals].
  • Flights between 2 and 4.5 hours (700 miles – 2199 miles) get warm nuts and cookies after 8pm instead of snack baskets. They still get meals during existing meal times.
  • Flights over 4.5 hours (2200+ miles) after 8pm including redeyes get warmed nuts and these new snacks (instead of the basket) and continue to get the pre-arrival continental box.

No meals are being cut with these changes.

New Snack Examples:

  • Fruit & cheese (eg grapes + cheese slices, crackers)
  • Spinach dip + pita
  • Charcuterie plate (salami, mozzarella ball, olives, pita)
  • Hummus + pita
  • Spinach + hummus

These will generally be served along with a garnish.

The only piece of this change that isn’t an unequivocal positive – though will nonetheless be favored by many flyers — is the replacement of the snack basket with American’s chocolate chip cookie and nuts (but not the new plated snacks) on flights after 8pm that are shorter than 4.5 hours, for instance your late Dallas – Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles flights.

I’m told there should be more improvements coming, that the May changes won’t be it. Are you happy to see entree salads coming back, and the PM lite bites basket of packaged snacks replaced with plated snacks?

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Their entree salads are awesome, although I wish they offered tofu as a protein for us vegetarians. What types of salad dressings are we in store for?

  2. Sounds great until you give the actual examples, which sound incredibly insubstantial. I’d rather have a couple mini-sandwiches from the basket than any of those things when I’m hungry. AA’s snacks used to be pretty filling; these don’t seem to be. I guess we’ll see what the portions are like.

    And btw, pita, not “peta.”

  3. Any word if these standards will apply to Express/RJ flights or just mainline? Even during mealtimes flights exceeding 700 miles did not get the Lite Bites basket if they were on regional jets.

  4. I actually really liked the snack basket “lite bite” sandwiches. That little thai chicken sandwich was great.

  5. No doubt the entree salad avoids most of the limitations of trying to “cook” in a 737’s limited galley.

    I just hope it is generous – delivering a meal on a plane is relatively expensive, so skimping on ingredients would be a shame.

  6. Gene,

    Do you include the labor burden of FA’s, cost of flying convection ovens, depreciation on equipment, and all other indirect costs in your $5 figure?

    At sea level, I suppose that what are essentially frozen dinners might cost $5. But what is the true cost to deliver at 30,000 feet?

  7. The domestic airline that brings a free meal/healthy snack back to Y will get my continued support.

    I’ll pay $35 more for a domestic ticket if I get a free checked bag and a good meal.

  8. They’ve already switched from those horrid aluminum foil ramekins to ceramic ones that look like tiny coffee mugs. Big improvement.

  9. Re: snacks. I had a turkey and cheddar cheese on Hawaiian bread sandwich on Tuesday, and it was really good! You also can never go wrong with Malano cookies. Looking at the plated snacks, I would much rather have the snack basket.

  10. About time.

    I just took a 2:40 SQ flight from SIN to DPS *in economy* and had a wonderful meal that was much better than anything I would get with a “first” class ticket on AA for a flight of the same length. And I am comparing it with an AA lunch because given our 9:25 am departure we probably would have gotten seved anything on the equivalent AA flight.

  11. Gary,

    Thanks as always for staying on top of this. I have to obviously give a thumbs up to these changes. First of all, I like that plated snacks are returning. The snack basket was horrible and not at all “First Class.” I agree with other commenters though that the plated snacks seem pretty unsubstantial. I’d like to see a return to the pmAA snacks like open-faced sandwiches, or noodle bowls.

    I also like the return of the salads. I assume you would have a choice of a warm entree still. Any word if that would be the pasta or the meat? I would hope the pasta given the horrid meat entrees being served currently. I would hope that post May 1, we see big improvements to the actual entrees themselves.

    It looks like dinner service is unchanged?

    Also, I welcome the return of real ramekins and linens!

    Keep up the improvements, AA. They are valued!

  12. I never really cared about short-haul meals. I can go 2.5 hours without eating — that really is not a problem at all.

    I do, however, care about long-haul meals as it is impossible to go 10 hours (or more) without eating anything and that’s when I want my meal to be both delish and nutrish.

  13. I’ll believe it all when I see it (and taste it). Linens were supposed to return 4/1, but there are still reports of meals being served with fast food tray liners.

  14. I am a first class AA flight attendant and it is really interesting for me to read everyone’s comments. I have been flying long enough to see a lot of changes on long and short haul flights. There are many reasons behind certain changes that would make sense to flight crews but maybe not to passengers. Just know that all of your [good] first class flight attendants DO send in feedback upon recieving passenger response. Thanks for flying with us! We appreciate our passengers!

  15. Reading the comments just goes to show that you’ll never be able to satisfy or please everyone. And many can find fault with *anything!*

  16. Brett, Totally Agree. Everyone is a Critic. And Most are absolutely CLUELESS. Serve a Meal….They do Not like the Choices.. Serve a Snack…..it is Never Good enough. Serve pretzels, they prefer Peanuts. Give them peanuts, they want Almonds. Switch to Almonds, they want macadamia nuts. There is a LONG Established Trail of Nonsense. And let’s not forget……pay For First Class…..”Are You Kidding, Do you Know Who I am”? Get Over Yourselves Already. I have seen more than enough of this BS!

  17. @reese,

    I think you’re being awfully harsh. People do pay for first class (I do for personal trips, but work trips require coach) and people do appreciate decent food. Sure, there will always be critics, but the start truth is that AA has been cutting back to beyond pathetic levels since last year. Complete strangers sitting near me feel compelled to remark on how appalling the food has become. Many now bring salads and sandwiches to eat on board. So, any improvements are positive, although Gary’s comment that dinner is not being improved is sad news.

  18. What about early morning flights? What wold the light snack include? I happen to be one of those people who cannot start the day without breakfast. At the same time, I am not a morning person. So when I have a 6:00 am flight, I really look forward to some sort of a breakfast snack.

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