Here’s What Food And Service Are Like In American Airlines First Class Right Now

I took two American Airlines flights last week, both on Boeing 737s with the newest “Kodiak” interior (modifications to first class to fix problems created in the last ‘Oasis’ modification). Despite being fresh interior aircraft, seat power was inoperative on both flights.

Three years ago American’s CEO Doug Parker said he thought they could get away without power but discovered that having some planes without it (legacy US Airways) along with planes offering power (legacy American Airlines) created customer confusion, so passengers didn’t know they needed to bring their devices fully charged. The airline has been removing seat back entertainment emphasizing that people can watch streaming content on their phones, so the ability to keep devices charged is a must.

I work on flights, and don’t trust American to provide power, so I bring an external power brick, so I was fine. However passengers who no longer has seat back entertainment, along with less space between seats, power seems like a bare minimum ask. In 2017 American Airlines evaluated a maintenance program for seat power, but ultimately rejected it because it they felt it would be too expensive – better to wait for customers to complain about not having power and addressing specific seats rather than proactively ensuring power worked.

On my outbound flight it was 45 minutes after takeoff before drink service was offered up front. Predeparture beverages, rare enough pre-pandemic, are no longer part of American’s service expectation. There were only four of us in first class on a mostly-empty flight, but flight attendants nursed water maskless in the galley to chit chat for most of that time instead.

Meals (sic) are once again served on trays in domestic first class on American, and I suppose it does make the presentation of the protein boxes better (at least not seeing as much of the plastic). Cabin crew apologized as they offered this to me, I think it was turkey and cream cheese and red pepper?

There’s a new sandwich supplementing the turkey in the afternoon, though, a ham and cheese. Still rather sad for first class but probably better than the turkey.

A year ago American had hoped to use the pandemic to cut back on inflight meals permanently but now they’re rushing to restore service, led by complaints made by pilots. The airline’s food and beverage team has been running around like mad, though without clear direction, trying to bring back better meals – though at least as of a week and a half ago it still wasn’t quite clear what or when.

I got an American Airlines survey after my return flight and filled it out. It prompted one of their “executive liaison calls” that began noting my lifetime miles and status and offered “I agree we’re not doing well in many areas right now and that needs to change.”

The caller offered that the surveys are aggregated and items reportedly broadly get flagged. The call was pleasant enough, they they didn’t offer the usual miles-as-apology that have often accompanied such calls in the past – so perhaps that’s another cutback?

American Airlines is offering old US Airways first class service now: poor legroom, no seat back video, no power (at least on my flights), and real meals on only a handful of routes. They can’t generate the revenue premium they need – given their cost structure and debt – with a product that customers won’t want to pay for.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I recently took the LAX to AUS flight on AA “first class” and I must agree with you. The turkey sandwich was just awful and the other items were not much better. Just thrown together. The flight attendant “service” was also lackluster on my flight. Even though AA has extended my status for another 12 months I will start searching for other airlines for my flights from now on. Just getting back to travel after 19 months, this is truly disappointing. I hope other airlines are doing better.

  2. Last flight was American “First Class” to Hawaii. Worst ever first class, almost as bad a lousy coach. Wrote to AA, they didn’t even bother to reply.

  3. Flew DL AUS to LAX business in late August, no food just a box of salted things. Terrible. This past week AA AUS to BDL, at least an attempt was made to serve a sandwich. Much better than DL.

  4. I’ve logged millions of AA miles over the past 32 years and I keep having to lower my expectations when flying on the ‘new’ America West version of American Airlines…What I want and expect when I travel business or first class on domestic or international flights are simply:
    1. A comfortable functional seat with room to work or rest with good IFE options
    2. A clean and modern cabin with ample room to stow my carry-on bag(s)
    3. Privacy and minimal interruptions by crew and other passengers
    4. Friendly and attentive flight attendants to provide refreshments and other amenities as needed.
    5. Quality warm meal options for international flights over 6 hours with real service-ware not plastic disposable cups.
    6. A clean and private restroom not overrun by economy class passengers
    7. No uniform pins and other airline marketing messages about social justice and virtue signaling about LGBQT issues, and please stop harassing us with special inflight credit card offers…
    8. Recognition for my long-term loyalty, business and average yield.
    9. A 24/7 dedicated Executive Platinum line staffed by your best agents
    10. The ability to use my Systemwide upgrades on more international flights at time of booking, not airport standby

    That’s what I wish for but rarely experience anymore, even prior to Covid restrictions. Doug Parker is trying to ‘build back better’ but much cheaper and with lower standards.
    AA needs to get back to the basics, treat your best customers better and rebuild your reputation before it’s to late…

  5. This week I flew DFW -CLT in first. I got the Turkey sandwich or should I say “sandwich”. The bread was dry an looked like the one you had pictured. Passenger next to me had what looked like a vegetarian option that did not look any tastier. It was disappointing to say the least.

  6. With over 3 million air miles, 2million plus on American, I never thought I’d say this: I prefer to fly United.

  7. Had to fly on a BA/American Airlines flight yesterday from London and once the food arrived, I remembered why I will never fly with American again… the food is horrible! I ordered a meatball dish which I honestly couldn’t come close to identifying what they were made of and then towards the end of the flight, they deliver a bun like thing with a filling that I had on another trip… garbage. this will teach me to always book early so I never again have to end up on American. I noticed that many people had brought their own food and of course it’s clear to me now.

  8. I fly often in Europe and Asia, and cannot comprehend how American and other US based airlines can get away with such terrible service and food comparatively. Note that BA (British) is more inline with the US carriers. I flew an EU airline that uses Do & Co caterers (same as Turkish) and the food was surprisingly good. The service was warm and considerate. This turkey “pastrami” sandwich today on my flight from to Dallas was worse than bologna sandiwches I had in grade school. The low quality is really unbelievable. Prior they at least had these sandwiches from Zoe’s and it was reasonable (and potentially real meat). I am just so confused as to the thinking that goes on for the service side. I am sure it is pragmatic business approach in some ways that people have to fly regardless … but I am seriously finding every excuse to fly Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, and Turkish – along with the Asian airlines – as much as possible. There is a big opportunity for the airline that can get this right, as well as the loyalty programs, and hopefully one of the US carriers will get this right … soon!

Comments are closed.