Economy Food You Actually Want to Eat: A Taste Test of AA’s New Partnership With Zoe’s Kitchen
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On Dec. 1, American Airlines launched new Zoës Kitchen buy-on-board economy food on domestic flights longer than 1,100 miles. Breakfast options include a Breakfast Sandwich and a Continental Breakfast Box while lunch/dinner options include the Grüben, a Chicken Wrap and the Hummus Duo.
And the photos of the new meals look great:
But of course those photos were staged:
So, we wanted to check out the new food for ourselves to see if it’s worth the price — and the calories. Thankfully Katie and I had two qualifying flights across the country this past week, which allowed us to taste test the options. Here’s what we found:
- Description: Sliced turkey, Manchego cheese, crunchy slaw and feta spread on marble wheat bread. Served with a spicy brown mustard and a chocolate chip cookie
- Cost: $10.99
- Route tested: Charlotte (CLT) to Los Angeles (LAX) on Dec. 6
- Made by: LSG Sky Chefs Charlotte, NC
I almost missed out on my chance to try this out. After accepting a $600 bump to take a flight one and a half hours later from Charlotte to Los Angeles, my upgrade cleared on the new flight. Tough turn of luck, I know. Thankfully, I was able to convince the flight attendants to get me a sandwich from economy after service was complete and there were leftovers.
I found the marble sandwich bread to be a bit soggy, but not bad considering the feta spread in the sandwich. It was clear that the sandwich had to have been made that day. The wheat bread made the sandwich feel somewhat healthy, but I knew better from the cheese slice and feta spread — which both upped the taste experience… and the calories. The sandwich featured a pile of fresh-tasting deli turkey with the twist of a nice crunch provided by the slaw.
The sandwich is served with a cookie, which I found to be a little tough and chewy, but not overly sweet or doughy. Between the large sandwich and the cookie, the $11 purchase was certainly enough to serve as a meal.
Chicken & Artichoke Wrap
- Description: Grilled chicken with mozzarella, tomatoes, arugula and artichokes on a wheat tortilla. Served with balsamic vinaigrette and a chocolate chip cookie
- Cost: $10.99
- Route tested: Charlotte (CLT) to Los Angeles (LAX) on Dec. 6 & Phoenix (PHX) to Newark (EWR) on Dec. 11
- Made by: LSG Sky Chefs Charlotte, NC & LSG Sky Chefs Phoenix, AZ
Katie tested the wrap option on both of her qualifying flights across the country. She found the wrap to be served cool — as expected — with parts of wheat tortilla wrap slightly soggy from the ingredients. Saying she’d order it again, she especially enjoyed the chicken and cheese, but found the roasted tomatoes and arugula fell out while eating.
On the first flight, the cookie was hard and crumbly — but still tasty. On the second flight, the cookie was softer and even better.
Overall, it was a decent sized meal but could be filled in by adding a bag of chips. But it was certainly enough to satisfy hunger on the long transcontinental flight.
- Description: Zoës classic hummus and basic pesto-topped humus served with pita rounds, cucumbers and carrots
- Cost: $9.99
- Route tested: Phoenix (PHX) to Newark (EWR) on Dec. 11
The AA Platinum elite sitting in my row for the cross-country flight and I both ordered the hummus box. The flight attendant tried to dissuade us from ordering it, noting that the hummus box was small and that the other options were bigger. But I persisted, and the flight attendant ended up being surprised at the size of the hummus box he pulled from the cart.
Sure enough, this isn’t the hummus box of the past — and at $10, it should be larger. While the box wasn’t light on hummus, it could have benefited from more veggies and/or bread, as the hummus easily outlasted the dipping food. Comparing notes, Debra (the Platinum elite) noted that she used her pretzels as additional dipping material — but still had more hummus leftover.
The pita rounds didn’t taste especially fresh, but I assume that the hummus boxes are designed to have a longer self life than the sandwiches. Of the three meal options, I’d personally order the wrap or sandwich next time.
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
Pre-Order Your Meal
If you want to ensure that AA stocks a Zoës Kitchen meal for you, you can pre-order a meal between 30 days and 24 hours before your flight. Just go into your trips on the AA website, select a reservation with a qualifying flight and scroll down to “reserve a meal.”
Overall, it’s great to have “real” food on board, even if you have to pay for it. For the amount of food included, it seems worth the $10-11 price point. And passengers with tight connections will surely appreciate having the option to get an actually-good bite to eat on board.