FORT WORTH, TEXAS — American Airlines first and business class travelers can expect to see major changes in the carrier’s food and beverage programs on the ground and in the air beginning on July 1.
The airline held an exclusive event near its headquarters where select media and top-tier customers were given details on the new program, and allowed to sample new food and wine offerings. The program is part of American Airlines’ $2 billion investment in the passenger experience announced in December 2014.
Sheri Whitley, American Airlines’ manager of retail programs, discussed what premium customers could expect on the airline’s short- and medium-haul flights. “A full meal is not what you want. You want light bites, and tapas-style dishes,” she said.
On the domestic first class menu, travelers will see: warmed nuts as a starter; appetizers including antipasto skewers, tomato tart, wedge salad, kale and romaine salad; entrées include beef filet with lobster mac and cheese; shrimp and grits; lasagna; lentil chili for vegetarians and an Asian salad that can be served with or without chicken; and a salted chocolate caramel sundae for dessert.
“We have a survey we do randomly every week with our passengers and we work with our flight attendants,” said Whitley. “We design these dishes on the ground, but they might not work inflight, so we work with our flight attendants on making sure they work.”
Russ Brown, director of dining and retail, said the focus is on seasonally inspired modern cuisine. “When travelers see a sample of our larger menu, they’ll see bright, simple and fresh food with no heavy sauces,” he said. “It raises the bar on food.”
Celebrity Chef Sam Hoy, known for his Pacific Rim cuisine was brought in to consult on some menu items, including Wagyu Meatloaf with Sriracha Ketchup and Steamed Sea Bass with Ginger Cilantro Pesto Rice. “This has been fun to do. We took simple, recognizable items like meatloaf and upgraded it with Wagyu beef and the ketchup,” he said.
On the domestic first class menu, travelers will see: Spicy Crab with sushi rice, Burrata Cheese and Edamame Hummus as appetizers; Beef Oscar, the sea bass, Lobster Risotto, the meatloaf, Pan Roasted Coconut Lime Chicken and Tumeric Paneer.
And the food on the ground in the carrier’s Flagship Clubs are also getting an upgrade. Nick Richards, director of premium services and customer experience strategy, said the airline is taking a global approach with the food.
“Not only will customers see items including crudités, soups and yogurt, but hummus and cereals are being introduced. We’ll also have things like composed cold salads and brownie bites,” said Richards. “We’ve already started introducing some items, and more will come out in the fall.”
Regional snacks in the Flagship club include Peruvian Causa Yellow Potato with Dungeness Crab Ají for South America, Ricotta whipped with lemon and extra virgin olive oil on a crostini for Europe, Cool Sesame Soba Noodles and Chicken Satay for Asia and An All-American Macaroni and Cheese Fritter for North America.
Ken Chase is American Airlines’ wine consultant. He has a team that whittles down from more than 1,000, representing wines from around the world. “The white burgundy that will be aboard international first class flights was among 60 my team tasted,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we get what the customers want.”
Wines will be swapped quarterly, said Chase. Vintages being served in International first class are: Aaldering Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Stellenbosch from South Africa; Domaine Rene Lequin-Colin Clos Devant Chassagne-Montrachet; and the champagne, Louis Roederer Brut Vintage. International business class and trans-continental first class offerings are G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba and Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Vineyard Chardonnay Alexander Valley.
The general reaction to the food by the premier travelers who attended the event was good. They commended the airline for offering vegetarian options that weren’t heavily sauced pasta, the new fresh salad options and one commented that the food was going back to what they were pre-9/11.