American Airlines confirms some onboard service cuts

Jan 23, 2022

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional details.

American Airlines has confirmed to The Points Guy that there will be several onboard service reductions, following pressure from flight attendants to reduce service.

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The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) had been demanding reductions in main cabin beverage service on both international and domestic flights and wanted to be able to serve all courses of a meal at the same time in Flagship First.

Why? The union says it reduces the amount of time they are interacting with passengers, and will lessen their exposure to passengers without masks during meals.

Now, the airline is modifying its service flow to meet these demands.

Flight attendants will no longer pass through with a second beverage service on domestic flights greater than 1,500 miles. This change will be in effect through at least mid-April.

Additionally, American is making a change to the international flight experience as well. While the airline isn’t cutting any offerings, it will plate the appetizer salad and soup course on a single tray in Flagship First.

Main cabin meal on an American Airlines transcon flight from San Francisco to New York. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Here’s what the union requested in a memo last week, “APFA proposals include serving entreés with salad/soup/appetizers in premium cabins when possible and reducing main cabin beverage services on domestic and IPD flights. We have asked that these reductions in service be implemented immediately.”

Related: American isn’t retiring Flagship First for now

American Airlines confirmed it was instituting changes to onboard service with the following statement:

“Together with APFA, we have decided to temporarily modify some onboard service to limit customer touchpoints. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to assess ways to thoughtfully return the onboard dining services customers are asking for while keeping safety front and center. We appreciate the APFA’s collaboration as we continue to navigate the ever-changing circumstances of the pandemic. Customers traveling with us can check for current service expectations.”

“Passengers are going to look at American’s actions as just another service cutback,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst from Atmosphere Research, “If APFA had made this request in late November or early December when omicron first emerged, I would be far more sympathetic … It’s going to put flight attendants in a real bad position. Passengers are going to be unhappy.”

Business class meal service on AA flight 76 JFK to SFO. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Harteveldt said that the move by AA is a bit contradictory since the airlines have “told us that air quality on commercial planes is among the cleanest and safest of any enclosed space including some hospital operating rooms.”

Related: More masks, less glasses – a review of AA Flagship First JFK to LAX

That along with the federal mask mandate and the well-above-average vaccination and booster rates amongst the traveling public means it’s supposedly safe on airplanes, he said. “When you add these together, the airplane cabin is one of the safest places from a health standpoint and so the APFA’s request is one that unfortunately rings hollow to me.”

“It doesn’t help that American has a reputation for taking service away and not restoring it,” Harteveldt concluded.

Featured image of an American Airlines plane landing at Sint Maarten Airport (SXM) in January of 2017 by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.

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