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Hot food is back on American — here’s what it was like on day 1

Feb. 16, 2022
6 min read
American Airlines Hot Food Breakfast First Class
Hot food is back on American — here’s what it was like on day 1
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“Is that bread?” and “are those hot towels?” were the two questions I overhead the lead flight attendant ask as I boarded American Airlines Flight 1285 from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Boston (BOS) on Wednesday.

When the catering truck pulled up to the 11-year-old Boeing 737-800, Jo, the first-class flight attendant, wanted to know what was going on.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

After all, throughout the pandemic, the airline hasn’t been serving a full meal service with hot food in its domestic premium cabin. Those splurging for first-class would be served a pre-plated meal with cold options packaged at the catering facility for most domestic routes.

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But, that’s now history. As of Feb. 16, American is once again serving hot meals, bringing back its pre-pandemic standards for first-class catering.

And that came as a surprise to Jo, who didn’t realize that hot meals would be stocked on the 8:55 a.m. local time departure.

As for me, well, Feb. 16 is a date I’ve been following closely, and when my plans aligned to take a 1,500-mile domestic route on hot meal launch day, I couldn’t pass it up.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Once we were airborne, Jo came through the cabin with hot towels, a staple of the premium cabin experience that’s been missing (across most airlines) for nearly two years.

Yes, it was one of the flimsy towels that American stocks on domestic, non-premium transcon flights (as opposed to the thick ones you’ll find on long-haul flights), but I still welcomed the return to normalcy.

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(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Minutes later, the flight attendant reappeared and greeted passengers by last name from the front to the back of the cabin.

As she welcomed each flyer, she offered a round of drinks and thanked the elites for their loyalty.

My hot tea and still water were served shortly thereafter — in real glassware. Though Wednesday was newsworthy for the return of hot food, it also marked just over three months since glassware returned to first class as well.

As the smell of freshly warmed croissants and biscuits wafted through the cabin, I knew that the main affair was about to begin.

“Eggs or breakfast charcuterie” were the choices. While I usually avoid most airplane breakfasts, Wednesday was an exception.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The eggs were served alongside some breakfast potatoes, a char-grilled tomato and three oval-shaped sausage bites.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I don’t eat meat, but the eggs (and vegetarian sides) were much better than I remembered for American.

I hope that’s because the airline is actually investing in its catering rather than my excitement at being served a hot meal again.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The eggs were a bit overcooked (and a far cry from the freshly prepared ones you’d find in Singapore first class), yet the chives were a nice addition that gave the entree a bit more flavor.

The sides hit the spot as well, though they weren’t necessarily the most inventive. It’s pretty hard to screw up grilled tomatoes and potatoes, so in a way, it’s good that American went with a staple, as opposed to trying something new.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

After the single (uncovered) tray was delivered, Jo brought around the breakfast-themed bread basket, which was stocked with cinnamon croissants and biscuits, as well as strawberry preserves. (A single slab of packaged butter was already catered on the meal tray.)

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

She offered a pick (or two), and I especially enjoyed the warm croissant.

Everyone’s going to have different thoughts about the food itself, but the one disappointment (and a very minor one at that) was the plastic cutlery.

Though the drinks and food were served in real glassware and china, the pre-set napkin unfolded to reveal a plastic fork, knife and spoon that cheapened the experience (and contributed to single-use plastic waste).

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Hopefully American will bring back metal cutlery in the near future.

As I finished my meal, I asked to see the breakfast charcuterie platter — for “research” of course. The entree included an egg, along with two types of meat, three cheese cubes, ten almonds and two dried apricots.

The charcuterie platter was also served with a side of fruit (though different fruits than those that came with the hot entree).

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The entire meal service was finished about an hour after takeoff, leaving two more hours to enjoy the rest of the trip to Boston.

Wednesday only marked the beginning of the return of hot food on American. To start, only domestic and short-haul international flights longer than 1,500 miles will receive the full service.

By the end of February, the new first-class meals will roll out to routes between 900 and 1,499 miles long, though the entree will be lighter than what’s served on the longer routes.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

For flights shorter than 900 miles, American will continue to serve flyers a choice of pre-packaged snacks from a basket.

All in all, it’s great to see American bringing hot food back as promised. It marks a return to pre-pandemic catering standards, a welcome move that many frequent flyers are sure to appreciate.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Of course, the taste and quality of the food itself will vary by route, but at least the soggy sandwiches served throughout the pandemic are becoming history.

My first hot meal on a (non-premium) domestic American flight was a big success, and I look forward to more, including a full lunch or dinner service, in the months to come.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023