Please Don’t Blame Your Flight Attendants: They Only Cooked The Meals, Management Gave Them The Recipe

I’ve spoken with several American Airlines flight attendants that are embarrassed by what they’re being asked to serve.

I feel for them, genuinely. As one said to me, “What we used to serve wasn’t great, but it was better than this.”

Dallas – Orlando clocks in at 985 miles. It used to get a meal. Now…

Gone are meals from my DC – Miami flights as well.

United is moving to meals on flights over 800 miles. Delta is at 900 miles, American now 1000. That’s an improvement for US Airways customers… but the issue is both whether there’s a meal and what that meal is. I used to say that US Airways elites are hungry Now many American elites are too – and some by choice.

Anecdotally flight attendants are getting lots of complaints from customers. They’re the ones serving the meals snack baskets, so they’re the ones bearing the brunt of customer displeasure. When of course there’s nothing a flight attendant can do.

You can let American know what you think, it may not matter but it carries a greatly likelihood of mattering than taking your frustration out on your flight attendants will.

This won’t help the case, but I will still fly American. Delta’s miles remain terrible, though the airline operation is very good. Their route network doesn’t match my needs either. Furthermore, United and Delta prioritize full fare over status within the upgrade queue. As a DC-based flyer United doesn’t make sense unless you work for the government, despite a hub at Washington Dulles – every government employee Silver on a YCA fare will trump a 100,000 mile flyer on a mid-priced fare.

So I’ll need to learn to adjust my behavior. Eat before the flight. That just means more concentrated work time onboard thanks to Gogo inflight internet.

But seriously, people, your flight attendants shouldn’t bear the brunt of the decisions made by US Airways management.

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. Huh? DL only prioritizes fare if you’re flying full-fare Y, which isn’t very frequent at all. Otherwise, DMs on _award tickets_ get upgraded ahead of others on revenue tickets.

  2. No need for eyerolling or yawning. The reality is that first class domestic catering has been on a seesaw now for about 20 years. Delta has significantly stepped up its act with catering and United has stumbled of late. But, until quite recently, AA had a strong reputation for quality ops and decent domestic F.

    Rounding out the bottom was US with decent ops, but borderline unacceptable F. Essentially on par with AirTran, when you get right down to it.

    To watch AA devolve into US is painful and worthy of note. It may ultimately be the way of the industry, but taking away a few of the precious things left that can actually make flying enjoyable is something worthy of lament.

  3. @mark you should seek the word “cooked the meals” on the title and not click since the subset of posts dealing with food do not interest you, as you make clear on each one 🙂

  4. Does that mean sitting in Y is better for meals as an explat? Isn’t the BOB Y meal better than the F meal. Couldn’t you just ask for a Y meal instead?

  5. On my recent flight – we got the basket in F and they sold items in Y. I had her go get me a sandwich for which I paid for. Bizarre! And the snack basket sucks!

  6. Due to a status match, I was an AA Executive Plat for about a year. In addition to the higher upgrade percentage than UA, the thing I enjoyed the most was “reliable free food” in coach. I remain amazed that other airlines, particularly UA, have not matched this valuable-but-not-terribly-expensive-for-the-airline perk as free food has disappeared from domestic coach.

    But what happens now if you DO get the upgrade, and the food is likely worse for you in first class? I assume they won’t give you one of the coach sandwiches for free, right? Seems ridiculous. Why not give out the sandwiches for free in FC when there’s no real meal being served?

  7. I’d much rather have polite flight attendants or live TV than crappy food I’d never consider eating on the ground (for flights less than ~4 hours). Pack yourself a PB&J … it’s pretty likely to be much better than anything served on a domestic flight… pre or post merger.

  8. Being a US Air elite, the death of DCA-MIA meals on AA makes paying the 500 mile upgrade fees a moot point. That DC- South Florida market, including pricy diplomatic international MIA connections, is competitive, including good JetBlue flight times, can’t imagine why American felt it wasn’t worth making an exception route for meal service.

  9. It’s obvious complimentary upgrades are on the way and 500-milers will be gone.

    Was just upgraded in advance on an AWARD ticket IAD-SFO with UNITED as a Premier Executive 1K.

    Yes, a hub to hub flight with all those YCA red herrings.

  10. Go back and read Jan Carlson’s book; he’s still right. At the moment you are interacting with them, the FA is the representative of the entire enterprise, period.

  11. Upcoming an F flight on AA from TPA-LAX via DFW. Leaves at 6:50 Pm. No real meal on a 6 plus hour flight.

  12. Saw this coming with Parker and Co. taking over. I guess I’m in the minority about the importance of inflight dining (I care a lot about it). That’s ok, I let my pocketbook do the talking, as I am now almost 1k with UAL, with the PQD component already met (same applies to my wife as well).

  13. AA Y free meal for Plat better than 1st! silly but now true. on DL haved asked for BOB in 1st, they’re gratis

  14. We recently flew Alaska air from SAN to OGG at dinner time.

    At the gate with only a little time to visit a restaurant prior to flight I asked if there was a meal.

    In coach there are meals for purchase I was informed. A hot pasta dish sounded a lot better than the cold sandwiches available near the gate so we decided we would purchase on board.

    I think we were in 5th or 6th coach row (that’s 11 of 32). They ran out of the hot meal for purchase at the third coach row.

    Who is responsible for Alaska Air catering? The flight attendant was clearly embarrassed, confirming “it’s ridiculous”.

    I was hungry and kind of mad. Not mad at the FA but at Alaska Air catering and management.

  15. @mark, I agree, but there are lots of useful things on this blog. Skip posts like these and spend more time with your family or pets. I too couldn’t care less what the catering is like in first class, but Gary posts a lot and there will be something more valuable pretty soon.

  16. I was on a Delta flight, MSP-ANC. The flight was 5.5 hours long. The buy-on-board in Y was only the snackboxes. No sandwiches loaded for sale. I had a tight connection at MSP so no time to stop to buy a meal. Fortunately, the snack box was enough for me.

  17. Gary, you had me nodding in agreement until the last line –

    “But seriously, people, your flight attendants shouldn’t bear the brunt of the decisions made by US Airways management.”

    Based on the tone of the post, “bearing the brunt” involves customers complaining to the FAs. That’s perfectly appropriate if passengers are dissatisfied with the offerings. FAs should pass that feedback up the chain. If there’s no mechanism existing for that to happen, that’s a failure of management. However, it’s normal consumer behavior to express satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) to the primary service provider. In the case of air travel, the “face” is the flight attendant.

    I normally won’t compare FA service standards between domestic and international travel, but when I fly internationally (in the recent past, it’s been on foreign carriers), the FAs are genuinely interested and proactive about my feedback on the food. Just because the food now sucks on AA, it doesn’t mean that the FAs should hide from that. If they’re embarrassed to serve it, they should be collecting that feedback and presenting that to the people empowered to make a change.

    Now, if people are being derogatory to the FAs as opposed to the food itself, that’s different and unacceptable. It just doesn’t sound like it’s that way based on your post.

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