American Airlines has joined a growing list of major international carriers to drastically cut back its in-flight service in order to reduce the risk of spreading the Coronavirus and help protect flight attendants. But unlike similar policies introduced by the likes of Air Canada, British Airways and now Delta Air Lines, the Dallas Fort Worth-based American will continue to offer alcohol in all cabins.
In an internal sent to the airline’s 30,000 flight attendants yesterday, American said it was “temporarily suspending all food and beverage service on the majority of our flights through April 30.” The policy does, however, have a number of exemptions in which flight attendants will continue to offer some form of service.
“Full service will resume once the COVID-19 situation has stablilized,” the memo continued. Like Air Canada, American wants to provide water bottles to all customers at the boarding door in lieu of a service but has not managed to implement this solution yet and will instead ask flight attendants to continue interacting with passengers.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), the official union of American’s in-flight crew, said management only listened after many of its members “stood up and spoke up” demanding any change of the in-flight service in order to help combat the spread of Covid-19.
“Our jobs require us to forego the distancing rule; that, coupled with multiple interactions with our customers, puts Flight Attendants in particular at higher risk than other workers,” Lori Bassani, the union’s president explained in a note sent on Tuesday.
Bassani said the union was close to “demanding” the changes be made before American finally relented and introduced the new service. The reworked standards are split into flights under 2,200 miles and those over 2,200 miles or more than four and a half hours:
Flights under 2,200 miles
- No food to be delivered or sold in any cabin of travel
- Main cabin service, including drinks, will be on ‘request only’
- No alcohol to be served in Main Cabin or Main Cabin Extra Extra
- Alcohol will be available in Business and First Class
Flights over 2,200 miles (or over four and a half hours)
- No food will be sold in Main Cabin
- Meals will be served on IPD
- One tray meals in Premium cabin with everything covered or wrapped
Ice will be available on request only, while hot beverages and juice will continue to be made available. Alcohol will be served unopened.
In contrast, Delta Air Lines also announced similar changes to its in-flight service on Tuesday but decided to remove alcohol and all other beverages apart from bottled water across all cabins and on domestic and short-haul international flights. Ice will also be unavailable until further notice.
Both Air Canada and British Airways have also removed all alcohol from all flights to limit the amount of human preparation needed which could in turn lead to the spread of Covid-19.
However, Delta appears to want to offer a full service on its remaining long-haul international flights, saying it was still “evaluating” what adjustments could be made on these flights. The carrier said it had reduced service on domestic services in an “effort to lessen physical touchpoints on board” but did not comment while this was not possible on long-haul services.
American has already suspended hot towel service, banned drink top-ups and swapped out glassware for disposable alternatives in an effort to reduce the chances of spreading the Coronavirus. Flight attendants have also been told to keep passengers out of galley areas and to stop people congregating around on-board lavatories.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.