American Airlines Plans “Modern” Meal Service Post-Crisis

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American Airlines, like some of its competitors, is changing its meal service to adapt to the new reality of COVID-19. The airline’s Senior Vice President of Flight Service mentioned during a Wednesday Q&A session that guests can expect something ‘more modern’ when it comes time to offer meals again.

American Airlines reduces international capacity with 10% due to coronavirus
Airlines have been trying to reduce as many ‘touchpoints’ as possible when it comes to inflight services. Photo: Getty Images

An interim step

American Airlines Senior Vice President of Flight Service, Jill Surdek, made some comments regarding inflight service on Wednesday. At the Question and Answer session, she hinted at some upcoming changes to meals that passengers can expect.

According to View from the Wing, Surdek says that full tray services won’t be returning immediately. Rather, an interim step will be introduced to bridge the gap. Here’s more of what she said:

“When you think about the footprint we have for meal service and how we served, it’s been very similar over the years. And is there a way to bring back something that still has a premium feel but is different and more modern, and is this an opportunity to reset in a way that we might have made more incremental changes before.” -Jill Surdek, Senior Vice President of Flight Service, American Airlines via View from the Wing

Surdek also noted that she envisions offering service with fewer touchpoints while wearing masks and such.

All of this, of course, is in response to COVID-19 and trying to eliminate any opportunity for the virus to spread. While symptomatic travelers will hopefully be screened out before boarding the plane, the biggest concern would be an asymptomatic transmission, with unknowingly-infected crew or passengers spreading the disease.

Following Air Canada’s footsteps?

Many travelers will agree that a ‘cold, boxed, meal’ is seen as inferior to a full meal laid out on a tray complete with a steaming hot main course. However, Air Canada is attempting to ‘spruce up’ its meal service, which has been adapted for the reality of COVID-19.

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Simple Flying had the opportunity to experience this first hand in July. Is this something we can expect to see with other carriers like American Airlines one day?

Air Canada inflight meal
All meals are cold and served in completely contained boxes. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Air Canada inflight meal
An example of what a long-haul economy meal looks like with Air Canada. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Air Canada signature class
Another completely boxed-up meal. Pictured here is a business class lunch. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

As you can see from the photos above, touchpoints are minimized with all elements of the meal already contained within a box. Going further, everything within the meal box is wrapped up in plastic. To ‘make it fancy’ the box is branded with the name of a well-respected chef. Additionally, an information card is included.

This method eliminates the process where flight attendants must heat up main courses and move through the cabin, placing the passenger’s preference of the main course on to the pre-set tray. This would also eliminate flight attendants having to ask passengers what their preference might be, since that element of choice would be gone.

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Wait and see…

Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see what Surdek and American Airlines have up their sleeves for this ‘more modern’ food service. It would certainly not be surprising if it was similar to that of Air Canada’s new boxed meals.

Do you have any ideas of what American Airlines might do? Will it be a worse product than before? Or can they make it better? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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