How American Airlines Decided To Stop Serving Food

Speaking to employees this week at a Crew News forum, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker shared that he wasn’t in the loop on the decision to cut meals from inflight service. Cuts are being made across the company faster than ever before.

Out of necessity we’re making decisions must faster than this company ever did in the past, because we have to. Things like deciding not to provide food service, that would have been months worth of work at the old American Airlines – probably more than that – then we decided not to because it’s too risky.

I don’t even think I was involved in that decision. [Senior Vice President of Flight Service] Jill [Surdek] said this is what we’re doing and it was done, as it should have been. We’re making decisions so much more quickly in the airline, and it feels good.

When US Airways management took over American Airlines, one of the first decisions they made to align the two airlines was to drastically cut food investments at American. Parker was surprised by the backlash from employees and customers, not expecting people would care so much about food.

As they say, though, never let a crisis go to waste. There’s really no COVID-related reason American can’t serve meals on flights under four and a half hours in premium cabins. And with huge losses, racking up debt, we should expect airlines to hold back on restoring service cuts – American for its part probably doesn’t restore meals until competitors do.

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. What’s the point in booking a legacy carrier if they won’t give you food and booze on any flight in first or business? Even 60-minute flights should have food. It doesn’t cost anything consider the cost of cash up-front airfares. At least American still has booze (upon request), unlike Delta. I might as well fly Spirit or Allegiant if the legacy carriers aren’t going to give me service.

  2. As Lufthansa proudly asserts its return to a new normal for catering flying trans Atlantic, AA concomitantly jumps confidently into the toilet, further cutting its already inferior concept of F&B.

    Where does AA get the notion they have no competition to worry about, especially these days when the mileage programs have turned south? From a marketing perspective, who would ever voluntarily pick AA—anywhere

  3. I’ve never booked a flight because it did or did not have food. Literally irrelevant to purchasing decisions.

  4. Doug Parker for President? To Make America Great Again?
    Look what he’s done for American
    More room throughout coach
    Premium meal service
    Best Premium cabins in the sky
    Spacious lavatories
    Rewarding fair priced redemption awards and the list goes on
    Hes a hero

  5. @Bob – plenty of people have made purchasing decisions based on whether one airline offered a better product than the other.

  6. @Bob: I book flights all the time based on connecting airports, the quality of the airline lounge at that connecting airport, whether I’ll get a meal, etc. Sometimes I don’t eat all day because of meetings or flight times, which means I count on getting some edible food or a stiff drink on a flight or in the lounge. I suspect a plurality of business travelers are in a similar position.

  7. How American Airlines Decided To Stop Serving Food ;

    CFO: “What does serving food cost daily?”
    Minion: “About 1 million a day”
    CFO:”Ya cut that ASAP”

  8. I hope that American will likewise make serious improvements without consulting the CEO and he’ll “feel good” about it. I’d suggest by starting with removing Oasis and re-valuing AAdvantage to the point it was 5 years ago.

  9. I can’t speak for AA, but I won’t fly United business products again until the Polaris lounge is open and there is the normal food/drink offering.

  10. Just flew from Alaska to DFW. Five hour flight. No food, no drinks, nothing. No notice until on the plane. Main cabin extra.

    First class got food and drinks as they should. Just unbelievable.

    This is after charging me $40 for a bag even though I am gold and 3 AA cards. Wrestled with them for 15 minutes until the priority line was so long I couldnt see the end. Gave up and paid.

    Fired off an email to AA. They responded it is all COVID related. This has nothing to do with COVID.

    Had to send a second email to get the $40 refunded as that was mysteriously overlooked.

  11. @Mark,
    Lufthansa talks a good game, but they’re really screwing over the majority of their passengers with new, lousy, reduced food in economy. Yes, they’re taking care of first class and business class, but that shouldn’t be characterized as a return to normal.

  12. Qantas is managing to serve a pack of biscuits and a bottle of water to each economy passenger on the flight Canberra to Sydney – 45 minutes between pushing away from gate and touchdown when I took it 10 days ago. I read somewhere they have since reinstated tea & coffee as well.

  13. Spot on, @Doubletree Hotel
    I said much the same on the Delta FT thread (one of many that are now combined into a monster), that the daily cash burn of $50 million would be $51 million with full food/drink service…and the “whoooooosh” flying over head after talking head got quite tiresome. Insisting that the airlines that have half their fleets grounded, serve you the $8-15 worth of food/drink on your 2-3 hour flight boggles the mind. And two months ago, the grounded portion of the fleets were even higher.
    Maybe in September or October or 2021, things will be back to normal. Until then, sit in main, self lubricate and BYOSnack

  14. Cry, cry, cry Are you ADULTS? Be responsible for yourselves. If you want food spend a few minutes and buy your food and beverage before boarding. Stop the entitlement. Care for yourself and stop thinking you brought your servant with you!

  15. @Robert Hendry – true adults should provide their own food and drink when flying (if outlets in secure areas are open).
    At the same time, why fly AA, if there is no difference to any LCC? If there is no service, no lounge the product becomes a commodity and price will make the decision

  16. Excuse me Robert Henry or are you really Doug Parker in disguise. As adults we can clearly see the airlines are reducing service and screwing us over all in the name of COVID 19. So sorry that you have not yet been enlightened.

  17. @Robert Henry
    Go back to hole you came you came from. I will always select the airway that treats me better, such as food and drink service, when the price difference is insignificant.

  18. I fly premium cabin because they usually feed me and get me drunk and take care of me from check in till customs on the other end. That is what I like, that’s why I pay more for premium .

  19. As a result of the Covid reduction of flights , Delta (my carrier of choice) has pulled all Atlanta flights from my home airport of Dayton. I continued to fly during the lockdowns as I work as an engineer in an essential business. In early April I was forced to start flying AA to be able to get anywhere. On all but one of my AA flights in first class, domestic cabin since April 7 liquor has been available on request. If you ask nicely they will bring your alcoholic beverage of choice. It has a feel of being a speakeasy… they serve you the forbidden fruit. However, i have not been served as much as a pack of peanuts with my cocktail. No food means no food.

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