American Airlines Fined $1,800 For Not Serving Kosher Food

A Brazilian court has found American Airlines guilty of failing to provide its promised services, namely a kosher meal. The 23rd Chamber of Civil Court of the Justice Tribunal of Sao Paulo, Brazil, has levied a fine of $1,759 for the lack of kosher meal provision relating to two passengers.

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American Airlines has been fined for failing to serve special meals on three separate flights. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Starved for 10 hours

American Airlines has found itself in hot water over its inflight catering offerings. Despite advertising a total of 15 different ‘special meals,’ including kosher, the airline reportedly failed to provide this service to its passengers.

Two passengers were reportedly denied the promised kosher meal on long-haul flights with American Airlines. One passenger had to go for 10 hours without any food while traveling from New York to Sao Paulo. The other had to fast for a total of nine hours cross two flights, from Madrid to Philadelphia and then again from Chicago to London.

Both passengers claim to have requested kosher meals – food which is prepared with respect to Jewish law – prior to their flights. However, both claim that the crew were unable to provide these meals once in flight. Neither plaintiff was named in the case.

Although airlines are not legally obliged to provide particular sorts of food, or indeed any food at all, in either the US or in Brazil, the courts ruled that American Airlines had breached its obligations under consumer protection laws. The ruling is based on the airline selling a service that was not delivered.

Inflight meals
Airlines are not obliged to serve food. Photo: American Airlines

Also wrapped in the fine is a fee for ‘emotional suffering’ caused to the two passengers. The Brazilian court included this because American Airlines served a meal to every other passenger on the flight, which it says caused distress to the passengers who were unable to eat. In total, American Airlines will pay $1,759 for the two incidents.

Kosher airline meals

To be classed as kosher, airline meals have to comply with the Jewish dietary law known as kashrut. It avoids meats that are from animals that do not ‘chew the cud and have cloven hooves,’ thereby excluding things like rabbit and pork. It also avoids the mixing of milk and meat, as well as shellfish.

For some passengers, kosher meals have a reputation for being higher quality than non-kosher airline meals. That notion is further supported by reports that such food costs airlines almost twice as much to produce as standard meals. Despite this, most airlines will not charge any extra for such meals.

Most international airlines offer kosher food and other special meals. Photo: United Airlines.

Passengers do not have to be Jewish to order the kosher alternative. Indeed, Ben Schlappig, AKA ‘Lucky’ over at One Mile At A Time, swears by the kosher breakfast on American Airlines for a healthier, cleaner eat. Most international, full-service airlines offer kosher alternatives – as long as it’s ordered in advance and usually only on international routes.

Offering specific dietary meals has become commonplace for long-haul flights, with halal, vegan, and other options widely available. If these are ordered, they should be loaded onto the catering cart at the origin airport, which suggests there was a breakdown in communications between the airline and ground services for these two incidents. Simple Flying has reached out to American Airlines and will update this article with any further information.