Want A Hot Meal In American Airlines First Class? Order A Special Meal

Before the pandemic I made sure to eat before my American Airlines first class flights. With the return of ‘real meals’ I’ve had some really decent food on board. They put too many salads on a tray but breakfast was even a high point in a way that few U.S. airlines can manage. (It shouldn’t always just be fruit and yogurt or eggs).

Nonetheless, especially on sub-1500 mile routes, American Airlines meals can be disappointing. The watchword here is inconsistency. I expect that out of my home town of Austin where catering hasn’t been able to keep up with American Airlines growth, and meal provisioning has frequently had to be trucked in from Houston.

Still I was especially non-plussed by the options presented to me for my recent Austin – Charlotte – Austin flights in first class. This was lunch Austin – Charlotte:

And much worse, the turkey sandwich reared its ugly head for Charlotte – Austin and this can’t be attributed to catering supply chain out of Austin.

The turkey sandwich is something every regular American Airlines premium cabin flyer dreads, the mainstay of the pandemic, though at least it’s no longer presented in shrink wrap. Here it is from a breakfast last fall.

American Airlines turkey sandwich when it was actually served… at breakfast

My solution was to try out the current special meals that American offers for pre-order. Though not always hot meals, they usually are, and that was something which wasn’t on offer for either flight otherwise.

For Austin – Charlotte I ordered the Kosher meal and for Charlotte – Austin I ordered the Muslim meal.

On my outbound I was asked by the flight attendant how I wanted the meal presented, since it needed to be heated and it’s generally given completely wrapped to make clear it’s remained in its original condition for ensure religious observance. I explained I’m not actually kosher, I was just looking for a bit of variety. Here’s the box.

And here’s the meal itself, which featured hot meatballs of some kind which were mushy but surprisingly tasty. The rest of the meal was not. But I was still happier with it than I’d have been with the regular options.

On my return flight the flight attendant let me know that the Muslim meal was actually the Asian Vegetarian meal. I knew this has been the case for awhile – American used to offer an amazing Muslim meal, really delicious and with meat, but that changed pre-pandemic when they collapsed their number of actual meals for simplicity while still offering the same choices as before. Asian, Hindu, and Muslim meals are all actually the same thing now.

The good news is it was a hot meal, and you don’t have to identify as Muslim – raising all sorts of government alarms, potentially! – for a bit of variety. And it came with baklava! It was a vegetarian meal, nothing spectacular but it was flavorful and hot and not the turkey.

So flying with American Airlines don’t forget the option to pre-order special meals up to 24 hours prior to departure.

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. Airplane food (there’s a contradiction in terms)…where taste buds go to die. Keep your expectations low and you will never be disappointed.

  2. Alaska still get it right for domestic first. Virgin America had good F food while they lasted. Proof it can be done.

  3. Delta doesn’t even bother to cater half the meals that customers with paid first-class tickets pre-order. They also don’t cater one or two extra meals in the event something goes wrong or enough of the other choices aren’t catered.

    Before the pandemic, Delta arguably had the best in-flight meals between Delta, American and United.

    The only U.S. airline with reliably good meals is JetBlue, but even then that’s only on Mint.

  4. @ Arthur
    I flew First from Boston on Alaska last night a 1200 dollar fare one way or 95,000 miles more miles than my return from Australia o QF in business class
    The food and the lack of description offered was pitiful.What happened to menus?
    The only thing premium was Hagen Daz for dessert.

    The nuts were served in a thimble and of poor close to stale quality.
    Not a single sparkling water on board just canned seltzer.
    A cheese plate isn’t a meal unless you are cheap though they consider it one.
    They also offered dried out smoked chili chicken dish and some other cold item for the life of me which is something you serve perhaps at breakfast not a dinner.
    My tiny salad was 3 or 4 inches wide in a square shape with leaves falling out with so many thinly sliced beets I couldn’t remove them so I ended up not eating the salad.
    The cheese wasn’t good at all the fruit good if your an apple fan and grapes excellent
    2 out of 5 stars a fail IMHO
    My last flight on American in Domestic First served and executed brilliantly was actually excellent I was in a state of shock and perhaps may never happen again

  5. I flew home round-trip. First Class with my wife on 9-19-2022 to Phoenix from Columbus, Ohio John Glenn Airport.
    The flight was to leave at 5:30ish but left 1 hour late. We paid $1100.00 each roundtrip or $2200.00 total. There was no dinner! “Wasn’t delivered from Cincinnati “, flight attendant said. We came from Cincinnati 2 hours early. No problem. Flight Attendant gave us a CHOICE of 2 shrimp or small cup of Hummus with 4 crackers.
    We were to get an email with a meal voucher. AA lies obviously.
    I ordered a Woodford Bourbon on the rocks. 1 hour later ordered 1 more! Was told “Sorry, we’re out”!

  6. @Steve – your comment on airline food and contradicting terms literally made me laugh out loud. Thanks. I needed that.

  7. You sold me on the Muslim meal. I hope to check it out the next time I’m in first on AA.

  8. @Gary this is still not a guarantee that you will get a hot meal. I’ve pre-ordered Asian Veg on numerous AA flights in the past few months, and sometimes it is just a hummus plate, even coming from hubs with strong AA catering.

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