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Airline Food

American Airlines Is Cutting the Inflight Meal Budget (Again)

American Airlines Is Cutting the Inflight Meal Budget (Again)
Jeff Edwards

According to a recent report, American Airlines will be making seven key inflight catering cutbacks for the purpose of cost-saving and efficiency. Many of the changes outlined in an internal memo will likely go unnoticed by most flyers, but some of the moves could mean a slightly less elegant dining experience for passengers in premium and economy class cabins.

For the world’s largest airline, even small cost savings can quickly add up when it is repeated and multiplied by thousands of flights each year. This appears to be the driving factor in American Airlines’ decision to make some seemingly inconsequential changes to its inflight catering program.

It has been nearly 30 years since an American Airlines executive first made his mark by removing an unpopular olive garnish from the salads served on flights. According to legend, the minor change to the inflight menu saved the company $40,000 that very first year.

Now, according to internal communications obtained by the Boarding Area’s Gary Leff, the airline is once again making small tweaks to its menu in the hope of realizing big savings. The report outlines seven upcoming changes to meal service. Some of the alterations will be almost immediately noticeable while other changes will likely be almost imperceptible.

Notably, the airline will change the domestic first-class beef filet for short rib. Perhaps ironically, American is attempting to trim the fat from the catering budget by serving a fattier cut of meat. In an unintended homage to the $40,000 olive, the carrier will remove garnishes from most salads, mezze platters and entrees. First class passengers on Hong Kong flights will soon have a choice of two rather than three appetizers with the elimination of the foie gras option. On long-haul flights, economy class flyers will no longer be offered a breakfast tray as a second meal, but will instead be served a “breakfast bag” containing yogurt, granola and a breakfast bar.

Other cost-cutting moves will take place behind the scenes. International first class cabins will now be stocked with 16 rather than 24 champagne glasses. Bread will be delivered to the airline pre-bagged.

“Previously breads were bagged by the catering kitchen,” the airline told employees regarding the seemingly slight change of standard operating procedure. “Pre-bagged bread will provide a budget savings.”

The carrier will even cut back on wasted paper. The airline told crew members and catering staff that the size of tray liners will be shrinking and even included color photographs to hammer the idea home.

In the memo, the company matter-of-factly told workers that the Atlas tray liners will have a small margin of additional uncovered space around the edges when used on AA Standard trays.

[Image Source: American Airlines]

View Comments (13)


  1. ftoader

    March 22, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    Sometime I wonder how much waste is being produced for the little food we get in the economy class, and if it is even worth it. I remember flying internationally and being amazed how much paper and plastic amounted as waste compared to the little bit of food delivered. And most of this waste wasn’t even being recycled. I rarely see flight attendant recycling plastic cups that are served with drinks. Most of everything goes into trash. I wish I had a feasible solution, but I don’t have one. Maybe reusable plastic plates, paper cups / compo-stable, offer a nice slice of pizza and hand wipes, or cut the food out and lower the ticket price, make airport food more affordable or let people bring their own soda, water or food. and regulate the time when everyone can pull out their own meal and eat it during flight.

  2. cmd320

    March 22, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Sounds about right. AA has been at the bottom of the industry ever since it was merged with USAirways.

  3. msconk

    March 22, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    Amazing considering their profit

  4. mauve

    March 22, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    If I count correctly, AA only has twenty planes with international first cabins, so the champagne glass cutback is saving literally tens of dollars a day.

  5. chavala

    March 23, 2019 at 6:37 am

    It’s true Short Ribs are fattier than steak, but that’s also the reason they hold up better to the galley reheating.
    As for the foie gras option, anyone who eats that deserves to suffer as much as the poor duck who had his liver engorged, all for a tasty treat for spoiled rich Westerners. Good move AA.

  6. GetSetJetSet

    March 23, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    Cutting services in F while keeping prices sky high…nice

  7. fotographer

    March 23, 2019 at 11:50 pm

    So now each meal they serve will cost 1.75 instead of 2.00
    So glad I never plan to eat on planes
    If you get on a plane hungry. Good Luck

  8. dano45

    March 24, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Buying the optional safety features for the 737 MAX cost so much that they have to cut back the in-flight food?

  9. djjaguar64

    March 25, 2019 at 6:17 am

    Just throw a rock hard bagel at its customers, that’ll do the job!

  10. djjaguar64

    March 25, 2019 at 6:22 am

    Yep doggy bags is the way to go!

  11. HMO

    March 25, 2019 at 6:40 am

    Regarding the breakfast bag for Y, this weekend I had an int’l flight with American, and the breakfast was yogurt, a small orange juice (same size of yogurt) and a soft cook in a tray.

    There is no difference for the upcoming “breakfast bag”

  12. Austin787

    April 17, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    USdbaAA has to pay for the many brand new airplanes to be delivered.

  13. kkua

    April 19, 2019 at 8:26 am


    On most international flights, recycling almost never happens. That’s because the garbage should be incinerated for sterility measures. The last thing they want is to introduce foreign contaminants at the destination’s ecosystem (think Australia, NZ, Hawaii etc).

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