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American Airlines Will Restore Premium Cabin Meal Service This February

James Larounis's image
James Larounis
James Larounis's image

James Larounis

Senior Content Contributor

554 Published Articles 1 Edited Article

Countries Visited: 30U.S. States Visited: 35

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...

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When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in 2020, airlines were quick to cut service elements — most notably meals — from their inflight offerings.

Now, almost 2 years after the initial wave of the pandemic in the U.S., American Airlines will begin to phase-in hot meals and more full-service amenities.

Let’s take a look at the details.

What You Can Expect — and When

Flyer Favorites Return Starting February 16, 2022

Short Ribs American Airlines
Short ribs will be one of the new premium class meals. Image Credit: American Airlines

Starting February 16, 2022, the following elements will return to the first-class meal service on American Airlines:

  • Pre-departure Beverage: On flights of any length, flight attendants will offer first class flyers the full range of alcoholic drinks. You can expect these beverages to be served in plastic cups.
  • Warm Nuts: A longtime staple of flying with American Airlines, you’ll once again see the small ramekin of warm nuts served alongside your beverage.
  • Hot Meal Service: Served on a single tray on flights longer than 3.5 hours, hot meal choices will include a protein or vegetarian entree, along with an appetizer, salad, and dessert.
  • Dessert: A small bundt cake will replace the previously offered chocolate chip cookie.

Light Meals Debut Later in February 2022

Grain Bowl American Airlines
A lighter grain bowl option will be available on flights between 2.5 and 3.5 hours in length. Image Credit: American Airlines

Toward the end of February, American will introduce lighter meals that will be served on flights between 2.5 and 3.5 hours. Options will include smoked salmon, fruit and cheese plates, entree salads, grain bowls, and more.

Unfortunately, flights 2.5 hours or under will not feature any meal service aside from the current snack basket. In the past, American offered meals on so-called “exception” routes — such as Washington, D.C. (DCA) to Chicago (ORD) — but the airline is not restoring meals on these exception routes at this time.

Preorders and Special Meals Return April 2022

This spring, American Airlines will restore some service elements that were available before the pandemic but haven’t been since:

  • Meal Preorders: Customers will be able to once again preorder meals online to guarantee their first-choice selection of entrees. Preorders will open 30 days before the flight and will remain so until 24 hours before departure.
  • Special Meals: Flyers will again have the ability to choose among several special meals, including Asian vegetarian, diabetic, gluten intolerant, Hindu, Kosher, Muslim, and vegan/vegetarian. These meals used to be some of the best meals served on AA flights, but recently they’ve been known to be served frozen and aren’t nearly as appetizing as they once were.

Hot Tip: We always recommend ordering your inflight meals ahead of time (when possible) so you can guarantee that you’ll be eating what you prefer.

Further in the Future

American has said that it will continue to introduce further enhancements, including a dedicated, elevated meal service for premium passengers flying on longer domestic flights, but we don’t yet have any details as to what that will look like.

Final Thoughts

It’s great to see American Airlines finally bring back hot food, as the carrier has been serving only cold sandwiches and prepackaged salad options for the past 2 years — and frankly, these weren’t the least bit appetizing. While these new service offerings don’t amount to a complete restoration of the inflight service we were used to before the pandemic, it’s certainly a step in the right direction and will make the premium cabin feel more, well, premium than it does now.

James Larounis's image

About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.


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