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.
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.
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.