Flight Food Review: American Airlines Economy JFK-MAD

Posted in American Airlines, Domestic US, In the Air

Dear American Airlines,

This is hard for me to write. I’m one of the foremost fans of airline food in all of the media. In fact, I write this blog in part to educate flyers that food on planes has gotten so, so much better. After my most recent flight, though, I need to speak out.

You’re not even trying anymore. I just flew from JFK to Madrid in economy class — Main Cabin Extra to be precise — and the food you served would barely make the cut in school lunch programs. I get it. Making decent food for consumption in the air is difficult. There’s a difference, though, in accepting the challenge and trying to put out a good product and giving up entirely. The entree options you served on my flight were evidence that you’ve given up. Even the flight attendants seemed embarrassed to serve it.

The choices were “chicken with some kind of dijon sauce” (a direct quote from the cabin crew) and “tortellini.” After asking to see the chicken dish, I chose the pasta. The chicken looked like it had been shot with a brown gravy cannon. The pasta looked better, although after eating it, I think I would have been better off going hungry.

Salt is a trick that airlines use to perk up tastebuds at 30,000 feet. In this case, the trick was more like a practical joke. The amount of salt that came through on my palate was enough to dry out an entire reservoir of water. The fact that it was buried in a literal pile of pesto-alfredo sauce made it all the worse. There was enough sauce on my plate for three dishes. All that it accomplished was funneling more salt into my mouth and turned the tortellini into a soggy mess. Truth be told, I don’t even know if there was cheese inside that tortellini. It could have just been salt in cheese’s clothing.

Add the monstrosity of a main course to a salad composed of wilted, brown lettuce and a mealy tomato along with a stale roll, a triangle of pasteurized “gruyere” cheese, and some crackers and you’re left with the caramel brownie as the only truly bite-worthy item on the plate. Yikes.

Maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe the catering company you contract through at JFK has really dropped the ball and you have yet to find out. No matter what the cause, you need to pay attention to this. Economy customers are not less important than Premium Class travelers. We may pay less, but we still hold you to the same standard of excellence you achieve in other aspects of your flights. For the record, the other parts of my flight were great. Sadly, the food was nowhere close to even average.

I’ve believed in you. I’ve extolled your virtues. I’ve now been burned too many times to think that you care at all. While other airlines are spending money on building up their chef-driven culinary programs (*cough* Delta, JetBlue, and United *cough*), you seem content to throw slop at your customers and hope they get over it.

I’m not over it. We the flying public of Economy Class deserve better and we shouldn’t have to pay thousands more for a Business Class or First Class seat just to get it. Please. I’m begging you. Put as much time into your culinary products as you clearly did into the new A321s. I want the whole flying experience to be great — not just the seat I’m sitting in.

You can do this, American. I know you can. The new American has already arrived. Now it needs the New American Kitchen to come with it.

Jason Kessler
AAdvantage Platinum Flyer


  1. You just won me over by caring that food in Y should be decent. Thank you for realizing that Y passengers are important to an airline’s bottom line. As far as I know, no one has built a profitable J-only carrier but lots of people have built profitable Y-only carriers 🙂

  2. Just thank your lucky stars you weren’t served the American Airlines deep crust pizza they serve on the LHR – ORD flights!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *