Change Your Altitude

AAre You Hungry? American Airlines to Introduce Free Meals in Domestic Coach

There’s something afoot in American aviation…something’s…changing. And it’s for the better as well.

Domestic service within the continental United States has long been the bane of most peoples’ travel existence – tight seat pitch, no food and massively overpriced stale processed food. Being nickel and dime’d left and right. In different borderline surly service. It’s been a gradual transition out of the depths of this despair, but some big steps have been taken of late.

First it was Delta announcing that free food was back in their coach cabins – initially on their premium DeltaOne services between New York and San Francisco and Los Angeles, then expanding it to other trans-con flights from the East Coast to the West.

It was announced yesterday that American Airlines (AA) will be following suit.


The Scoop:

While the industry might have been taken aback by Delta’s announcement of free ‘light meals’ in coach, they were the most likely contenders to do so amongst the Big Three (Delta, American, United) US airlines. So imagine the shock when American matched DL, at least for their ‘Flagship’ NY-West Coast service.

Begininning May 1, 2017, the world’s biggest airline will commence free meal services in Economy Class on all flights from New York’s JFK to San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX). The airline is yet to announce anything beyond these select routes, but it is widely speculated that further route additions will be announced after this trial period passes. 

The airline’s food options will reportedly include a continental breakfast for early to mid-morning departures and healthy sandwiches and wraps for lunchtime, afternoon and evening departures. It should be noted that red-eye flights (2x daily from SFO and LAX to JFK) are excluded from the new meal service. 

Apart from the main meal service, chips and dips will also be offered as well as a dessert dish. Vegetarian options are also included and will be offered on all flights. On select ‘meal time’ flights a fruit and cheese plate will also be dished out.

Keep in mind that these meals will not be offered to passengers on ‘Basic Economy’ – the lowest fare class for Economy Class passengers. They will be available for purchase for these passengers, at around $7-$11 per box. 

American Airlines has released mock photos of their intended new meal service, and while relatively basic and in what seem to be in a lunch box format, it’s better than nothing and actually look quite good and not bargain basic options (brands such as Chobani and Milano seem to be included in the new meal service).

One of the continental breakfast options that will be offered by American.

The afternoon snack box includes fruits, chips, yogurt and cookies.

The vegetarian wrap option for lunch and dinner time flights is paired with some kettle cooked chips and a brownie.

American Airlines has chosen to pair their chicken wrap entrees with kettle chips and Milano cookies as dessert.


The Takeaway:

Well this is nice, isn’t it? Especially for an airline such as AA that is usually seen as a bit stingy when it comes to inflight offerings. This new development also makes the airline comptetitive with Delta on the very competitive trans-continental market between New York and SFO and LAX.

This leaves United (UA) as the last airline not to offer anything to their coach passengers. UA’s hand will most likely be forced into offering something comparable now, but we shall see how long it takes them to do so. As usual, United seems to be last to the game.

Other than that, this is a great step towards making AA cometitive on the international front as well. For example, for those connecting from their premium service flights from Australia and Japan to New York via LAX, some service consistency will be restored. In most parts of the world it’d be unheard of not be offered any food on a flight that could stretch as long as six hours, especially when transitting from a long haul flight on a ticket that costs upward of $1,000. 

For now this new meal service is limited to just the AA ‘Flagship’ service, unlike Delta who expanded their meal services to other trans-con flights. But we wouldn’t be surprised if American expands as well and offers free food in coach on their other longer trans-con flights, especially the ones out of Miami and Boston.

Regardless of your alliance allegiance or where you stand on what cabin you fly in, this is a massive development in the continual evolution of the US domestic flying experience. Not since 2001 has any major carrier offered free meals in Coach and now it seems to be becoming the norm. Otherwise in the intervening years it’s simply been a race to the bottom. 

Not so, anymore.

Between the advent of Virgin America, the introduction of Mint by JetBlue and now these latest introductions by AA and DL, could we be headed towards a renaissance in travel within the United States?

Now where you at, United?? 



  • Joey
    Posted at 09:17h, 15 March

    UA – always late to the party