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American Airlines' New System Lets Economy Passengers Pre-Order Meals

Aug. 02, 2018
3 min read
American Airlines' New System Lets Economy Passengers Pre-Order Meals
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Earlier this year, American Airlines tested a food pre-ordering system for economy passengers on select routes. On August 1, the innovation went systemwide. On qualifying flights, you'll now be able to ensure that your preferred "light meal" option will be onboard and reserved just for you.

While these meals aren't free — unless you qualify for complimentary snacks through elite status — it's a nice if marginal improvement of the passenger experience. I've been on plenty of domestic flights where these snack boxes and/or meals run out after only a few rows of economy, leaving only pretzels for the rest of the cabin.

Qualifying Flights

This option won't be available on all routes. Instead, it's only going to be available on routes that otherwise have "light meals" which must meet all of these criteria:

  • Flights over three hours
  • Flights departing between 9:45am and 8pm
  • Flights that don't otherwise have a meal provided in economy. Examples include flights to/from Hawaii and international flights that serve full meals.

Meal Options

Your pre-order options are going to be limited to the standard light meal options that would otherwise be available on the flight. Since I don't have any qualifying flights in the next 30 days, I held an award ticket from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to San Francisco (SFO) within this period to check the offerings:

  • Fruit and Cheese Plate: $8.99
  • Chicken Arugula Wrap: $9.99
  • Turkey Sandwich: $9.99

As an Executive Platinum elite, I'd get one of these for free on-board. So, it seems that everyone will see the standard cost online — even if they qualify for a free snack. There's no payment collected at the time of the online order. Instead, it's just signaling to AA that you intend to buy this item on-board.

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How to Order

You can place your pre-order between 30 days and 24 hours before your flight by logging into your reservation on the American Airlines website or app. If your flight is outside of this window, you'll get the following error:

If your reservation is eligible, scroll down on the reservation management screen to find the "Reserve a Meal" section. Select "Place your order" to start the process:

Which Card to Use

As of May 2018, all American Airlines flights are 100% cashless — even on regional jets. And since you're going to need a credit card for the purchase anyway, you might as well use one that gives you 25% off in-flight American Airlines purchases. These cards include the:

  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
  • CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard
  • AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Thanks to TPG reader Arthur T. for the lead!

Featured image by JT Genter