The world is huge

Don't miss any of it

Travel news, itineraries, and inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

plane food

Free Coach Meals Coming to American Airlines Flights

To the argument that flying is becoming more hospitable, or is at least regaining some of its former hospitability, can now be added this: American Airlines is bringing back free meals in coach on some flights.

Beginning on May 1, American’s flights between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco will feature free Main Cabin meals, either a continental breakfast or a sandwich wrap with chips and a sweet. Other options include vegetarian and fruit plates.

American’s move comes two months after Delta started serving free coach meals on its flights between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco. And beginning in April, Delta will expand the service to include select coast-to-coast flights to and from Seattle, New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. In all, free coach meals will be served on flights in 12 long-haul markets.

It’s been more than a decade since free coach meals were the industry standard, so even these limited offerings are noteworthy. Might we be seeing an industry-wide trend toward improving the coach-class experience?

According to American’s news release, “Some of our best customers fly our trans-continental routes and we want to give them a top-notch onboard experience. Providing complimentary meals in the Main Cabin is yet another step we’re taking to enhance our service in this competitive market.”

Reading between those lines, it’s clear that this is a route-specific initiative, designed to shore up American’s position in the particularly competitive transcon market. In other words: Don’t expect to see free coach meals on other American domestic flights anytime soon.

What we are likely to see is a very targeted response from United, which is also heavily invested in the transcon market, with its upgraded Premium Service. Elsewhere, the only coach freebies will be stroopwafels and soft drinks.

Reader Reality Check

What should the airlines do to improve the coach-class experience?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

Don't Miss a Trip, Tip, or Deal!

Let us do the legwork! Sign up for our free newsletter now.

By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Top Fares From