American Airlines Slashes In Flight Catering On Domestic Routes

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US carrier American Airlines has announced that it will further scale-back its meal services as of May 1st. The airline is making the reduction to minimize the potential for viral transmission onboard the aircraft.

American has further reduced inflight service. Photo: Getty Images

New inflight catering changes

As of May 1st, American has updated its policies to further reduce inflight services. For flights shorter than 2,200 miles (most domestic legs under 4.5 hours), passengers can expect the bare minimum of service. There will be no alcohol service in economy class, while passengers in First Class will have to request it. Other beverages remain limited to water, canned drinks, or juice. There will be no inflight catering. Instead, during boarding, passengers will receive a goody bag of pretzels, Biscoff cookies or chips, and a bottle of water.

American 737
Flights under 4.5 hours will have no inflight catering service. Photo: Getty Images

On longer flights, typically blocked at over 4.5 hours, American will continue to offer a more robust inflight service. On the few long-haul international services American is operating, passengers in all cabin classes will be able to request alcohol. However, on domestic hops to Hawaii and transcontinental legs, alcohol is only available in First Class. Main Cabin beverage service, otherwise, will remain as usual.

American Airlines further reduces schedule due to coronavirus
Long-haul international services will still have meal service while longer domestic routes will not. Photo: Getty Images

Only on long-haul international services will economy-class passengers receive a meal. On transcontinental and longer domestic flights, American will only serve meals in first and business. Inflight service for these longer domestic flights will be limited to snacks and a beverage (water, juice, or a canned drink). However, all pre-departure beverage services are suspended.

Changes on the ground

On the ground, the airline is working to make bottled water and snacks available at the gate area. Moreover, most Admirals Clubs, Flagship lounges, and Flagship First Dining remain closed. This includes the closure of buffet food stations, as well as restrooms and showers.

Flagship First
American Airlines has shut down most Admirals Clubs and its Flagship First Dining. Photo: American Airlines

Social distancing onboard

Through May 31st, American is now working to block 50% of middle seats in economy class and seats near flight attendant jump seats. This is not guaranteed, however. If necessary, American will assign passengers middle seats.

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Gate agents can reassign seats and accommodate families. Onboard, with the permission of a flight attendant, passengers can change seats.

American Airlines getty images
When possible, the airline will be blocking middle seats. Photo: Getty Images

When will these measures end?

Not anytime soon is the short answer. As states start to lift stay-at-home orders and people begin to fly again, American has gone further with its inflight services reduction. Although, the airline did state that “full service will resume once the COVID-19 situation has stabilized.”

It is unclear what “stabilized” means, but it likely will not be for a while. Airlines are trying to reduce the risk of viral transmission onboard. It will probably be a few months before American Airlines and others start to offer full inflight service again. This move will likely correlate with guidance from local health agencies and input from American’s crew.

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American Airlines breakfast
Inflight service will resume once the situation stabilizes. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

Some travelers are concerned that service reductions like these may become permanent. While it is saving airlines much-needed cash in the short-term, these reductions will hopefully be lifted eventually.

Airlines, including American, do invest in their inflight meal program, and some have toyed with making inflight service better as a way of differentiating themselves from their competitors.

This is especially true for premium passengers, where permanently cutting meal service could significantly reduce passenger loyalty and lead to lost revenue.

What do you think of American’s new onboard service reductions? Let us know in the comments!

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