Which Airlines Serve Meals in Domestic First Class?

Jun 9, 2019

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Many international airlines, especially in Asia, will serve a hot meal to every passenger (even on flights that only last an hour or two), but within the US you’ll normally only see meal service if you’re seated in first class. Even there, the size and quality of the meal depends heavily on the length of your route, which airline you’re flying and whether your flight is operated by a mainline or a regional airline.

Today we’ll take a look at which US airlines serve meals in domestic first class and what you can expect to find on your next flight.

American Airlines

American Airlines offers the most extensive meal service on its premium transcontinental routes. Photo by Alberto Riva

American Airlines serves meals in first class on flights departing between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. If you’re on a mainline flight (as opposed to American Eagle), you can expect to receive the following meals based on your flight length:

  • 0-699 miles (under 2 hours): A light snack, such as a fig bar, cookie or pretzels.
  • 700-899 miles (2-2.5 hours): Warm mixed nuts and a plated snack such as fruit and cheese or hummus and pita. A warm cookie is also served on most flights.
  • 900-1,298 miles (2.5-3.5 hours): Warm mixed nuts followed by a three-course meal, including a warm cookie for dessert.
  • 1,299+ miles (over 3.5 hours): An appetizer paired with your entree and dessert. On flights over 2,200 miles and 4.5 hours you’ll receive a choice of dessert.

In addition, American offers a three-course meal on a number of its most popular routes under 900 miles. These include flights between:

  • Chicago (ORD) and Austin (AUS), Boston (BOS), New York Kennedy (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA), Raleigh-Durham (RDU) and Washignton Reagan (DCA)
  • Dallas (DFW) and Chicago (ORD) and Mexico City (MEX)
  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Port Au Prince (PAP)
  • Miami (MIA) and Port Au Prince (PAP), Washington Reagan (DCA) and Washington Dulles (IAD)

If you end up on a regional flight, the meal service breaks down as follows:

  • Up to 175 miles (under 1 hour): Light snack mix
  • 176-899 miles (1-2.5 hours): Assortment of sweet and savory snacks
  • 900-2,199 miles (2.5-4.5 hours): Warm mixed nuts followed by a choice of two meal options

For premium transcontinental flights, including routes such as New York to LAX and San Francisco and LAX to Boston, American operates a specially configured three-cabin A321T aircraft. This plane features a lie-flat first- and business-class cabin in addition to economy. Premium-cabin passengers will enjoy AA’s flagship meal service, with menus inspired by restaurateur Sam Choy. The meal begins with fruit or cucumber-infused water or sparkling wine and warm mixed nuts. The three-course service includes options such as lobster risotto or Wagyu meatloaf. For dessert, you can choose between an ice cream sundae or fruit and cheese, and you’ll also receive a snack before arrival. AA also offers a special meal service for flights to Hawaii, with Hawaiian rolls, a sundae and a plated snack.

On all flights with scheduled meal service, you’ll be able to pre-order your meal starting 30 days before your flight and up to 24 hours before departure.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines first-class passengers can look forward to a meal on all flights over 675 miles between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. Alaska doesn’t publish exact menus, but you can get a good idea of what dishes might be available depending on the timing of your flight.

First-class passengers can pre-order meals on most flights over 3.5 hours, though Alaska is planning to offer this option on all flights in 2019. Simply log in to the Alaska app and select your upcoming flight to see what options are available.

Delta Air Lines

Unlike the dozens of different flight categories on American, Delta keeps things simple by splitting flights into short (under 900 miles), medium (900-1,399 miles) and long (over 1,500 miles). Short flight menus are relatively skimpy, offering only “savory and healthy snacks,” even on popular routes.

Medium flights enjoy a full meal service with breakfast and lunch on flights between 5 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and dinner served on flights departing between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. For flights leaving between 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., you can expect a selection of snacks.

Longer flights, including transcontinental routes, feature a full meal service with multiple options to choose from. As an added bonus, all Delta first class passengers will be able to preselect their meal choice up to 24 hours before departure.


JetBlue doesn’t offer a premium cabin on most of its planes, but when TPG Managing Editor Alberto Riva flew its Mint business class late last year he unequivocally called it the best way to cross the US.

Dining on Mint is a streamlined process. You can mix and match your own meal by selecting up to three small plates from the menu, in addition to an appetizer and dessert. JetBlue is also one of the few airlines that publishes its complete menus online, so if you have an upcoming flight in Mint you can check out this link to see what’s waiting for you on board.

JetBlue Mint routes. Photo courtesy of JetBlue

United Airlines

First-class meals on United are broken down much like those on American Airlines, with the length of your flight (and whether you’re on a mainline or regional jet) determining the meal you’ll be served. For mainline flights, meals are as follows:

Meanwhile, regional United Express flights have the following meal options:

United also offers elevated service on select premium transcontinental routes and flights to Hawaii:

Bottom Line

First-class passengers have the ultimate First World problem when preparing for a flight: Should you eat in the lounge to maximize your rest time in the air or should you save room to enjoy the meal served on board? If you’re flying in domestic first class, this guide will help you know if you’ll be offered a full meal or an abbreviated snack.

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

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