American Airlines Removes Espresso Machines To Save Weight

American Airlines is raising the ire of its first class passengers by removing espresso machines from several aircraft types. With an eye on the bottom line, American Airlines is pulling some equipment from its planes to save weight and ongoing maintenance costs. High on the jettison list are the first class espresso machines.

American Airlines is axing espresso coffee in some first class cabins. Photo: Vincenzo Pace / Simple Flying

Espresso coffee axed to save fuel and end confusion

However, it is a decision that only impacts a small percentage of American’s passengers. American Airlines had installed espresso machines across its Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A321T aircraft, making them available to first class passengers only. In a good year, American Airlines flies more than 200 million passengers annually. The vast majority of those passengers fly in the main cabin, where the chances of ever scoring a ristretto were next to nil.

But even if only one or two percent of those 200 million passengers fly up the front, that’s a few million people flying American Airlines first class each year. And some of them are deeply underwhelmed at having to drink brewed coffee on their next American Airlines flight.

What’s behind the move? In a statement, American Airlines says they are removing the espresso machines “to help conserve fuel and prevent confusion about what services are currently offered.

It’s the last call for a half-decent coffee on American Airlines. Photo: Will Taylor via Flickr

American Airlines only ever offered espresso coffee in first class and only on two aircraft types (formerly, some of American’s Dreamliners also had espresso machines). But American Airlines also has a first class product on many of its Boeing 737 and narrowbody Airbus aircraft. They never had espresso machines. So some first class cabins had half respectable espresso coffee, and some didn’t. You could call that confusing, or perhaps just an inconsistent first class product.

American Airlines also raises saving fuel as a reason behind the decision. You might think, what’s a few extra kilos on a Boeing 777-300ER? But every kilo counts, especially these days when airlines are experiencing revenue shortfalls and looking to save where they can. With services in the main cabin already fairly barebones, airlines looking to cut costs often turn to their premium cabins.

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Cost, weight, and maintenance issues dog American’s espresso machines

In the late 1980s, Northwest Airlines famously saved a motza by cutting limes into 16 pieces rather than 10. First class passengers found the lime wedges flavoring their drinks that bit smaller. Or did they even notice? Around the same time, American Airlines saved around US$40,000 annually by shrinking everyone’s salad by a single olive.

Granted, American’s espresso coffee was better than the dreaded brewed coffee, but their espressos were never tip-top – pod-based coffee, not hot enough, and lacking a substantial oomph. What’s a coffee pod worth? 25 cents? Drilling down, it probably isn’t the cost of the coffee that is bothering the bean counters at American Airlines; it’s the machines’ weight and the cost of maintaining them.

Espresso coffee was available to American’s first class passengers on Airbus A321T services. Photo: Vincenzo Pace / Simple Flying

American’s espresso machines weren’t the light little numbers you have on your kitchen bench. To adhere to FAA regulations, these machines are modified and substantially heavier and more complex than domestic espresso machines. They are also temperamental, costly, and labor-intensive to service and maintain. American Airlines may have simply decided espresso machines were not worth the trouble they caused.

Regardless, American Airlines’ decision has upset quite a few of its regular first class passengers. Now, like everyone else, it’s brewed coffee on their next American Airlines flight. Enjoy.

Is American Airlines doing the right thing by axing its espresso machines from first class? Post a comment and let us know.