Hot Meals, Predeparture Beverages Returning To American Airlines First Class Starting Next Week

American Airlines has only been offering hot meals in premium cabins on cross country flights and international flights of sufficient distance. However in a sign that nature is healing, they’ll begin returning meal service to domestic first class cabins next week – Wednesday, February 16.

  • American says hot meals return to flights 3.5 hours or more. This actually means flights that are over 1500 miles departing before 9 p.m.

    There are some flights scheduled at more than 3.5 hours that are less than 1500 miles, like New York LaGuardia – Dallas, and American tells me they do not have any ‘exception markets’ that will be getting meals despite their shorter distance yet.

  • Meals will have a choice of a protein or a vegetarian entrée, along with appetizer, salad, and dessert. “[M]ore elevated meal service” will be coming this spring for longer domestic flights.

  • Starting later in the month flights between 2.5 and 3.5 hours get new cold meals (“smoked salmon, fruit & cheese and entrée salads”)

  • Pre-departure beverage service returns February 16. As before the pandemic many crewmembers will flout this standard with impunity.

  • Preorder meal service will return to domestic first class in April. Special meal pre-order returns in May (Asian, Vegetarian, Diabetic, Hindu, Kosher, Gluten Intolerant, Muslim, or Vegan)


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines

Details are still being worked out on a plan to bring back hot meals on 2.5 hour flights. The expectation isn’t for entrée salads at dinner for the foreseeable future on those.

There’s no word yet on the return of meal service for longer regional flights. So the 3 hour 37 minute, 1430-mile Austin – Philadelphia Embraer E-175 still gets a snack basket.

I’ve been tracking the return of meals to American’s domestic first class ever since then-Senior Vice President of Inflight Jill Surdeck warned that the airline’s plan was not to bring back on board dining as it was once known, replacing it with ‘something more modern, that still has a premium feel.’

I wrote to expect hot meals to come back in February to flights shorter than 2200 miles, and then narrowed down the start to mid-February so it looks like my sourcing has been correct throughout.

The short rib was much-derided when US Airways management took over at American and then reduced meal standards in September 2014 (‘mystery meat’). Even before the pandemic inflight service was significantly inferior to what was offered pre-merger. And this doesn’t return to pre-pandemic levels. But it’s a start.

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. YEAH! Flying from PHX to the East and Hawaii and getting “bumped” up often especially with the additional FC row on the A321s, I welcome a hot meal and a beverage as I board.

    The cold service was still better than anything DL or UA has been offering.

  2. I’m confused. Hot meals have been back in international and transcon Flagship First for months. Had two flights last week. Rack of lamb on one and ravioli on the other. And, everything was tasty — counter to so many complaints.

  3. American Airlines is doing what’s necessary to improve their travel business. The next big thing in my opinion American Airlines needs to do is to “if they haven’t already done so yet,” incorporate an “American airlines affiliate marketing program.” What do you think? 🙂

  4. Can’t wait to see all the Karen’s faces when they come onboard to a maskless 1st class cabin with everyone having a drink in their hands…..the savages!!!
    Ha ha!

  5. Airline food is where taste buds go to die. Keep your expectations low and you will never be disappointed.

  6. Wife and I flying AA 1st class on miles next Thurs the 17th to preposition for UA Polaris to Cape Town on the 20th. As AA Exec Platinum who has flown numerous times in 1st class since March 2020, glad to see the services being restored.

  7. Flew AA to LHR and BA return. AA’s International meal service blew BA away in terms of presentation, quantity and taste. This shows someone at AA still knows how to do it which makes all the worse when they choose not too. Over 3.5 hours is a good first step but not every one needs to travel solely between LA and NY. It would be nice to have some decent service in stage lengths like LA – DFW. The fares are about as high so should be the service. Good first step but much more needs to be done to justify loyalty.

  8. First Class KC to CLT on the 17th …..even with a long delay for fuel….not pre-departure drinks. AA, per the norm, needs to communicate with their staff better.

  9. Like the others mentioned, I flew on two flights on 2/17 and not a whisper of PDB’s being offered. These FA’s couldn’t care less.

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