American Airlines Cuts Premium Cabin Glassware, Buffet-Style Food In Lounges Amidst Coronavirus Concerns

American Airlines Cuts Premium Cabin Glassware, Buffet-Style Food In Lounges Amidst Coronavirus Concerns

American, Delta and United are adapting quickly as the coronavirus pandemic takes root in the United States and affects the air travel industry. Earlier this month, the legacy carriers all updated cleaning policies and shared word with travelers that technologies from fogging to HEPA filters would now be used to clean aircraft. Now, the carriers are changing catering operations on and off the ground to ensure that passengers don’t contract the virus from anything shared while in transit.

On Friday, Fort-Worth-based American Airlines announced that it would make a wide spectrum of changes to its catering services to promote sanitation, prevent the spread of germs and give travelers confidence in the cleanliness of air travel.

Starting on Monday, March 16th, passengers flying in premium cabins on the carrier will get disposable plastic or paper cups instead of reusable glassware. That glassware will be removed from all flights this weekend while hot towel service will also be suspended from the flights on Monday.

On the ground, many of American’s catering changes will be reflected in its Admirals Club lounges, which regularly feed thousands of itinerant customers each day. Typically those lounges lay out a spectrum of snack food in a buffet-style display while some kiosks such as avocado toast stations are manned by staff. On Monday, March 16th, however, food will now either come pre-packaged or individually wrapped. Soup stations — where passengers could typically pull from a shared ladle — will be shut down and single-serve items such as coffee creamer, fruit and even cutlery and napkins will come pre-wrapped.

Manned stations like the avocado toast kiosk will remain in operation because according to American, “the portions are individually made by servers using gloves.”

American’s catering updates come on the heels of a whirlwind week of changes at the carrier thanks to reduced demand across the board. Earlier in the week, the U.S. government banned all passenger flights from Schengen EU countries into the United States, a move that dramatically affected service that legacy air carriers operate across the Atlantic Ocean.

Late in the week, it became apparent that American would end up retiring a portion of its older long haul fleet sooner than was originally planned. According to Edward Russell of The Points Guy, a portion of American’s Boeing 757 and 767 fleets will go into retirement early thanks to cuts surrounding the collapse in demand.

Despite the capacity and international cutbacks, domestic travel remains a reality for the big three legacy carriers in the United States, and the threat of coronavirus expanding via air travel a tacit concern. To keep passengers safe, tighter standards around in-flight and lounge catering will likely remain in place until the threat of the virus has passed.

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