I believe American Airlines has given up on caring about its domestic first class meals.

I have reviewed their meals three times in 2017:

Scoring American Airlines Meals

I rated each course (appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert – only counting the “AA cookie” once) of the meal on a 5 point scale:

  1. Yuck
  2. Eh
  3. OK
  4. Good
  5. Great

I avoid morning flights so no breakfast reviews.

The total scores are:

  • The average score for the appetizer is 2.91 which we can round up to a mere OK.
  • The average score for the salad is 2.22 which is an Eh.  For a salad.
  • The average score for the entree is 2.5 which is right between Eh and OK.  And remember this is first class.
  • The average score for dessert is 3.5 which is right between OK and good.  Except I only counted the AA cookie once.

So let us take a look at 2016/2015 American Airlines meals.  I did not repeat reviews when I had the same meal more than once because generally the rating did not change. Final thoughts (and solutions) are at the end of the post.

The Meals

(Please pardon picture quality for some meals.)

American Airlines Chicken Salad
Appetizer – Prosciutto, honey dew, musk melon, herb cheese, pretzel roll   Entree Salad – egg, cheese, diced tomatoes, scallions, lettuce, creamy cilantro dressing with Chicken breast


American Airlines Key Lime Pie
Key lime Pie with Baileys and Coffee
  • Appetizer – Good – Prosciutto was pleasant and the fruit sweet.
  • Entree Salad – Yuck – Thick, slightly-off lettuce; tasteless tomatoes; processed cheese food; boring chicken.
  • Dessert – Good –  Pleasant taste and light enough.


American Airlines Artichoke Ravioli
Appetizer – Hummus and Pita   Salad – Lettuce, Olive, Pepper, Cheese Entree – Artichoke Ravioli with cheese, peppers, Italian parsley, and tomato
American Airlines Ice Cream Sundae
Ice Cream Sundae with Milk Chocolate and White Chocolate with Baileys poured on top
  • Appetizer – Eh – Bland hummus and stale pita.
  • Salad – OK – Low quality produce.
  • Entree – Good  – Surprisingly tasty and balanced.
  • Dessert – Good – The flight attendant had the Baileys miniatures in her apron.


American Airlines Chicken with Mushroom Rice
Appetizer – Tomato, basil, Mozzarella   Salad – Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese (no bacon bits)    Entree – Chicken breast, mushroom rice, haricot vert, and pepper slices
  • Appetizer – Good – the tomatoes and basil actually had some flavor.
  • Salad – OK.
  • Entree – Eh  – Nothing made me want to eat this.


American Airlines Cheese Lasagna
Salad – Green Salad with Ranch Dressing   Entree – Cheese Lasagna and Multi-grain Roll
  • Salad – Eh – Low quality produce.
  • Entree – Eh  – Although the taste was acceptable, I have no idea how they make lasagna so sticky and dense.  The roll was stale.


American Airlines Chicken
Appetizer – eggplant and olives? Salad – Green salad with dried peppers and thin sliced cheese   Entree – chicken tapenade and polenta
american airlines appetizer fail
A closer look at the appetizer.  If American Airlines wanted to be thematic, they could have served this in one of the bags in the seatback pocket.
  • Appetizer – Yuck.  The other passengers bonded trying to figure out what it was.
  • Salad – Eh.  Tired produce.
  • Entree – Eh  – Nothing worked.


American Airlines Cheese tortellini
Appetizer – Antipasto with artichoke hearts, dried pepper, some white stuff and two olives on a pita crisp   Salad – Kale with peppers Entree – Cheese tortellini
  • Appetizer – Yuck.  The artichoke hearts were all that was edible.
  • Salad – Yuck.  I grow my own kale and I would have put this in the compost.
  • Entree – OK  – The flavor was acceptable and it was not nearly as dense as the lasagna.


American Airlines Antipasta
Refreshment since the flight was after 8 PM. Prosciutto, salami, mozzarella, tomato, artichoke heart, sundried tomato, olives, and pita (with Amaretto on ice)

Appetizer – Good.  Everything tasted fresh enough, reasonable quality, tasty.


American Airlines Shrimp Polenta
Appetizer – Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil Salad – Wedge Salad with blue cheese and bacon bits, Entree – Shrimp, Polenta
  • Appetizer – Good.  Somehow this is the only dish that they use good tomatoes in.
  • Salad – OK.  They hence since have lost the bacon bits from this salad.
  • Entree – Yuck  – Low quality ingredients with a slightly off taste.


American Airlines Four Cheese Ravioli
Salad – Lettuce salad with a cherry tomato    Entree – Four Cheese Ravioli    Dessert – Chocolate Chip Cookie
  • Salad – Yuck.  Really bad produce.
  • Entree – OK  – Pleasant taste.  A bit oily and too much white cheese sauce.
  • Dessert – OK – The cookie was actually crispy on the outside and soft inside, which means the oven was appropriately hot for a change.


American Airlines Waldorf Salad
Appetizer – Deviled eggs   Entree Salad – Waldorf Salad with chicken breast and bread sticks   Dessert – Flour-less chocolate cake
  • Appetizer – Good.  They should bring back the deviled eggs.  They worked.
  • Salad Entree – Good.  The fruit was crisp and sweet, the binder pleasant, and the chicken was adequate not to mess up the meal.
  • Dessert – OK.   A bit too dense.

Note – This meal was on an Embraer 175 or 190 which has no ovens, and was overall one of the better meals.


American Airlines Beef
Appetizer – Chicken, an onion, and corn   Salad – Greens with cheese and a cherry tomato with balsamic vinaigrette   Entree – beef with a mustard demi glace, mac and cheese, and steamed broccoli
  • Appetizer – Yuck.  Big chunks of raw onion, two big pieces of chicken breast sitting on cold canned corn.  I really wonder what they were trying to do here.
  • Salad – Yuck.  Really bad produce.
  • Entree – OK  – The beef was moist and fell apart with a fork.  I just ignored the mac and cheese and over-cook broccoli.


American Airlines Smothered Chicken
Appetizer – Shrimp with a mango relish   Salad – Summer garden salad with a lemon vinaigrette    Entree – Smothered chicken, potato wedges, and green beans
  • Appetizer – Good.  The shrimp was pleasantly poached and the mango relish good.
  • Salad – Good. Fresh produce for once (and only once).
  • Entree – OK.  The chicken had some flavor.  The potatoes were pleasant but the green beans overcooked.


American Airlines Beef
Appetizer – Prosciutto and melon    Salad – Caesar salad    Entree – Beef with mashed potatoes and beans
  • Appetizer – Good.  Prosciutto and melon is consistently good.  This one had a generous amount of prosciutto.
  • Salad – Eh.  Mediocre produce.
  • Entree – Eh – The beef was overcooked a bit, the potatoes were OK, and the beans were mushy.


Conclusions and Suggestions

  • American Airlines needs to at least try to improve their first class meal service. They seem to want customers to accept the unacceptable.
  • Flight attendants should be aware of what the meals contains (or be given a menu card to read or show to passengers).  Descriptions like “protein or pasta” or “chicken or salad” shows how the corporate attitude of not caring about the meals has permeated the organization.
  • “Guest chefs” should see the quality that is attached to their names.  You hear that Julian Barsotti?  (Hey, have him fly and eat his meals as presented by the flight attendants on Undercover Boss – that would be a great episode).
  • There has been one significant upgrade to the beverage service in the last few years – the addition of Woodsford Reserve as a true bourbon on the bar menu.
  • The idea that first class is full of people with unpaid upgrades so its OK is just false. Believe me, we pay one way or another for those upgrades and therefore should be given a first class experience – including the food.
  • As much as the domestic airlines want to think that passengers do not care about meals, they are wrong.  Any behavior they see is probably a form of learned helplessness.
  • In the 1990s, the beef was tender and medium to rare, they served the roasted chicken supreme, and the consistent quality was good.  Don’t blame 2001 because……
  • Customer Service matters!!!!!

Upper-Class and Economy Food Done Right

Here is a picture from Qantas Business Class – the meal tasted great.

Qantas Sea Bass
Seared Sea Bass with Konbu butter and steamed broccoli.  Fresh mixed green salad.

This is from Qantas Premium Economy Class – again the meal tasted great.

Qantas salmon
Pan fried salmon with miso glaze, steamed white rice, asparagus.  Garden salad.  Apologies for the blurry picture.

This is from Air Vanuatu Economy Class.  It tasted very good, flavorful, fresh, and complete. With great respect to Air Vanuatu, if they can serve a meal like this in economy then certainly American can do better in first class.

Air Vanuatu Lunch
Beef with vegetables and tree nuts in a tangy brown sauce, white rice, mixed beans and carrots, with a crisp salad, fresh roll, and packaged cookie.

And of course you can read about my Emirates experience:

Onboard Emirates Business Class A380 – Washington DC to Johannesburg

Emirates Business Class – JNB to IAD featuring Boeing 777-300ER

How low can customer service go in the US-based airlines?  I cringe when I think of the answer.