Updates On What To Expect From First Class Meals And Lounges At American Airlines

Two premium services updates from a Q&A session with American Airlines employees on Thursday: the airline has no plans to return meal service up front to the way it was before the pandemic, instead working on “meaningful changes.” There are, however, 3 Admirals Clubs that will re-open in the next month.

  • Last summer then-inflight service head Jill Surdek, who made the decision to eliminate inflight meals in the first place, explained that the airline wouldn’t ever bring back the old first class meals and instead would offer something that still “has a premium feel but is different and more modern.”

    Current head of inflight Brady Byrnes doubled down on meals not returning to how they used to be, offering that American doesn’t “want to do what we always have done. We want to take this opportunity to make meaningful changes.”

    When American Airlines executives talk about changing meals, and making them more ‘modern’ they never use words like better, higher quality, or more enjoyable.

  • Meals aren’t the only premium service that’s been cut back. American Airlines continues to charge full price for its Admirals Clubs yet only 60% of clubs are currently open. Chief Customer Officer Alison Taylor reports that another one in Phoenix will open in the next month along with the lounges in Atlanta and the D15 lounge in Miami.

American Airlines has higher costs than competitors, and more debt. In order to just match the performance of other airlines they need to earn a revenue premium. And that means offering a better product. I’m not sure that they’ve internalized this yet.

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. For a short article, this had excellent analysis and foresight, @Gary. It’s too bad that Wall Street doesn’t see the details (and one would expect that they should).

  2. I like modern. I’m hoping for something like quinoa and beet on a cold gluten free hoagie and a stale biscoff biscuit for dessert.

    Pairs nicely with EJ Gallo Rose in a plastic cup.

  3. I prefer my meals to be postmodern, bordering on nihilistic. Given that most meals I’ve had on AA have made me question the nature of reality and the meaning of existence, I’d say they’re already there–no change necessary.

  4. Why don’t they simply admit that they’re making the meals more crappy to save a buck? Do they truly believe that by avoiding actually saying what they’re plainly doing, that’ll make it okay? It’s like these people born in Euphemism Land.

  5. FWIW, I actually like the look of the vegetarian protein boxes. It’s not like the… IDK, can it even be called lasagna? That… thing… wasn’t any good anyway.

    My concern is that they’ll do to this what they’ve done the meals for forever, and slowly downgrade it to the point where I’m better off eating at the airport or bringing it with me on board.

  6. You have a twenty-million timed better chance of dropping dead from the crap that they’re “serving” than you ever will of corona. Flight attendants take note.

  7. Isn’t the one thing that we learned from this pandemic mess is that we don’t really need meals on airplanes for flights that are 4 hours or less? Stop wasting time, stop worrying, stop whining about “crappy airplane food ” when there are literally dozens of restaurants in most major airports. Pass the savings on in the fares. And if you are genuinely hungry then chow down on that turkey croissant sandwich. You might even get a real Coke.

  8. The domestic first class food offerings have always been two things to me.

    Convenience, rushing through the airport or the line for a sandwich is 20 people deep? At least I know, on the flight, I have the option to eat something.

    Breaks up the monotony at cruise. Pause that movie, put down that book or take a break from work. The meal might actually taste good too.

  9. Gary Leff says, “American Airlines continues to charge full price for its Admirals Clubs, yet only 60% of clubs are currently open.”

    I say, “Reduce the Admirals Club fee to 60%, and more people will consider joining.”

  10. Just spent 2 hours in MIA’s D30 Club. It was jammed at 9:00am. D15 should have opened months ago. BTW the bagel/smoked salmon station had a 20 minute wait and the bartender were double shotting the bloody mary’s.

  11. When are they going to discount the credit card fee like they did last year for lounge access. Half are still closed and the locations that are opened offer an embarrassing assortment of amenities. They are taking advantage of the situation by charging full price for a reduced offering.

  12. Johhny – Thanks for the laugh. When I hear AA say, “service enhancements” — ah, oh.

  13. If I’m going to fly upfront I am going to opt for the airline that actually provides a full upfront experience.

  14. Allen, that was a laugh out loud comment, very well said! I imagine all of you received the recent invitation to join the AA Wine Club, with bottles chosen by their sommeliers. That was also laugh out loud funny.

  15. @Bill – all the Western European airlines offer good service and the Middle Eastern carriers offer great service. The American carriers have no culture of real service. COVID has just made it worse.

  16. I am so sick of “wraps”, “boxes”, “cellophane-covered crap”, and other “enhancements”. Just WTF is my First Class fare from North America to Europe buying me? Talk about brain-dead decisions! If coach-class food and beverage is offered on a ticket costing 10x (or even 3x, guys) the cost of coach, THAT is not a path to maintaining us buying premium tickets. No, that is a path to us simply abandoning AA, as even their buddies at BA can scramble up some proper food, even if it isn’t a luxury spread. STOP FEEDING US CRAP and blaming it on COVID!

  17. @Sunny @Tim If you think AA or any domestic airline is going to lower the price of tickets even a nickel simply because they don’t have food on board you obviously have not been flying very long. Over a period of 25 years as a frequent flyer I can give you the history of the services eliminated by domestic carriers and specifically AA and the price of a ticket never declined except for a brief period after 9/11 and now during Covid. Both of those events had nothing to do with services being cut and savings being passed on to the consumer. When I am doing international travel I always try to fly a non-domestic airline because the food and service is so much better. I predicted when this Covid deal started the airlines would try to take advantage of the situation and reduce services permanently even more and it certainly looks like AA is intent on doing so. Consumers that yawn and say it is no big deal when the airlines cut things like meals are just inviting the airlines to continue cutting services while charging more per ticket.

  18. What could they be thinking with this marketing double talk and drastic reduction in service, that their premium passengers stumbled on the $$ to pay first class fares and are missing basic intelligence to figure out they are officially dropping a First Class product? All we get are those horrible “recline 2”” seats in First, paper and plastic cups, and packaged food that tastes like cardboard and is unhealthy. JetBlue can do MINT quality and AA can’t do anything right. It may as well sell itself to Spirit. What a disappointment and frankly an embarrassment. Whoever is making these decisions should be fired ASAP and replaced by someone with some integrity and awareness of who their best customers are, and what we expect as basic requirements when we board an AA plane. Customer views have no relevance at AA, that is clear. And the marketing talk on these downgrades is an insult to the people who pay their salaries. It’s not that hard to provide healthy tasty food and the cost is a tiny little percentage of the cost of a First Class ticket.

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