Flight Food Review: AA’s Chicken Cobb Sandwich

Posted in American Airlines, Domestic US, In the Air

For as much as I tout the developments of the in-flight eating experience, it’s very clear to me and pretty much everyone else in the world that the on-board food options for domestic carriers in the United States are pretty substandard. Remember that awful microwave pizza I had in AA First Class a few months back? I surely do and that was in FIRST. The options in economy are much, much worse. Even though I know this fact, I still found myself flying hungry from ORD to LAX a few weeks ago and to remedy the situation, I ordered a sandwich. Big mistake.


Bite into delight? More like bite into my wallet.

First off, I have lounge access thanks to one of my credit cards and I wish that meant I could fill up on good food before take-off. You definitely can in the new Qantas/oneworld lounge at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal. Sadly, that’s not the case at American’s domestic lounges where yogurt pretzels are about as luxurious as things get without a hefty price tag. Even with a plastic cup full of sweet white pretzels in my belly, I still found myself digging into the seatback pocket for an in-flight menu and the best option appeared to be the Chicken Cobb Sandwich ($9.99), a clever play on the famed salad with chicken breast, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, lettuce, tomatoes, and blue cheese dressing on white bread. In theory, this should be a good sandwich. Unfortunately, sandwiches are rarely theoretical.

Let’s start with the chicken. Like the salad, it comes in small chunks which works great if you’re eating with a fork and less great between two slices of bread. Mixed with the avocado and dressing, it becomes a sloppy mess that you’re constantly trying to keep within the confines of the bread. The lettuce and tomato didn’t help matters much and the bread — more of a whole grain than a white, thankfully — suffered greatly from sopping up the liquid parts of the ingredients. To make matters worse, there are pieces of hard-boiled egg everywhere and this might be a personal thing, but I don’t think hard-boiled eggs belong anywhere near a sandwich, unless they happen to be part of a mustardy egg salad.


Sandwich Glamour Shot

Overall, I felt like I threw ten bucks out the Exit Row window by ordering this sandwich. Did it fill my belly? Sure. But so would a can of tennis balls. It’s sad to think that my favorite part of the sandwich was the bag of chips that came with it. American Airlines stopped their partnership with Marcus Samuelsson a while back and I’m not saying that my sandwich would have been all that much better if he were still involved, but clearly it’s not helping things…

I still believe in the American Airlines’ food and beverage program. Their long-haul international Business Class food is good and I’m willing to bet the new transcon Business/First menus are very respectable, too. I just think they don’t care that much about what their economy passengers are eating these days and I hope that changes soon.


  1. That Marcus Samuelsson sandwich was vile, even when I got it for free as EXP. The sandwich you had in the picture looked a lot better. Although, it was probably too dry and could use some more mayo or something.

    • It was actually too wet. I know AA is still using the Samuelsson recipes, but I’m curious if the quality control is out the window now that he’s not involved at all. Sounds like it wasn’t great to begin with.

  2. Thanks for the great review of genuine junk. I too suffered through that sad sandwich a couple of weeks ago; what a mistake! Not in reference to this particular sandwich, but come on AA catering folks… Any fist year culinary student or a 3-month deli worker understand a few things about sandwiches! Perhaps the most important rules involve added goodies. Who among us does not appreciate a nice slice of tomato or a CRISP lettuce leaf on a sandwich? ANd if the interval between assembly and consumption is >15 minutes, skip it or serve it on the side. Tomato is is just too wet and lettuce wilts too fast. Even 7-11 and the mechanical vending industry figured this out – years ago. And they damn sure don’t demand $10.
    While front cabin food may be enjoying some improvements, the BOB offerings in cattle-car class continue to deteriorate. Why does AA – and their domestic competitors have so much trouble with the $7.50 – $10 sandwich box? I don’t know, but I have some ideas and suggestions for them:
    1. If is is a simple sandwich, stick to that alone, use only ingredients that will hold up for 48 hours.
    2. Skip the fluff and the pretty add-ins: Other than a pillow-pack of mayo or mustard, I do NOT want a cookie or a mint or a toothpick etc. As long and the sammy is not sqished, I don’t even want to see a box!
    3. Please spare me the ‘sampler pack’ shelf-stable soggy crackers, salami and ‘yellow food,’ that non-dairy substitute for cheese. See #2 as well.
    4. Look at the sales results and realize that >90% of on-board sammy and snack-pack buyers are first timers that don’t know any better. Once is enough and repeat business is rare and with damn good reason.
    Whenever possible, plan ahead! Pack your own lunch box at home. If that won’t work, buy an appropriate box lunch – BEFORE airport arrival, with due consideration of any expected holding time -un-chilled, before consumption. It can be done and with a little care, one can obtain excellent sammies to-go that are stable, won’t get soggy and are remarkably good. And finally, unless you think you’ll perish if you don’t eat something on a domestic AA flight, do NOT buy the on-board fare. A couple of other major domestic airlines do a little bit better – one or two even permit advance purchase of a hot meal (when the system works), but please use caution.
    At the end of the day, that center seat in the middle of a 2-3-2 coach cabin is just NOT where you should be having lunch. If those catering department paid any attention to items SOLD in coach class, hit the right price point and got the quality right, it really could be a legitimate profit point. Most are turning modest profits on this fare, but in the process hey are pissing-off most of their customers and ensuring that they remain one-time buyers. One more reason to fly-it-up to business class as often as possible. The truly smart flyer consumes only bottled water (lots of it) and finds a domestic airline that does not charge for (safe) drinking water.

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