United vs. American domestic first class dining

Woodford Reserve bourbon and a ramekin of warm nuts on American Airlines
Flights are always better with refreshments. Happily, both American and United domestic first class dining includes warm nuts and a free drink.

I wrote earlier this month about domestic first class dining on United and on American. To be honest, they are very similar services. While the guidelines change every few month, lunch and dinner flights that aren’t premium transcontinental routes will typically have two choices. One of those options, particularly at lunch, is often cold. Both airlines start with a free drink and some warm nuts. So what is the difference between them?

It used to be that United took dinner orders for top frequent flyers before other customers. That was a real advantage for elites, but a definite negative for those who simply bought their tickets. I did not observe them doing this during my December 2018 flight.

You should, of course, check your particular airline for general current guidelines. They will normally tell you when you buy a ticket whether a meal is included. There is one other caveat. If you book your ticket less than 24 hours in advance, or if you are upgraded less than 24 hours before your flight, the difference is down to chance.

I tend to book my flights well in advance, and I tend to simply purchase seats in the cabin in which I would like to travel. On both airlines, the difference between first class and economy in my market tends to be very little. Given that is the case, I prefer the domestic first class dining on American.

Starting 30 days before your flight, and ending exactly 24 hours before it, you can log in to your reservation and select your meal. That lets you choose between either option. It also lets you know if you simply need to eat beforehand. Many flights also allow you to select the fruit and cheese plate. This is a great option which holds up well at altitude. However, the real winner is that you can select from any available special meal.

Fruit and cheese plate in domestic first class on American Airlines.
Fruit and cheese plate in domestic first class on American Airlines.

As of this writing (December 2018), the American Airlines special meals include Asian Vegetarian, Diabetic, Gluten Intolerant, Hindu, Kosher, Muslim, and Vegetarian/Vegan. I have review some of these options, and the links are below. I like knowing what I have to eat, and I like making choices. American Airlines gives me those options, and that is one of the reasons I buy more first class fares with them than with United. The products are really similar, and I enjoy them both. American simply gives me more choices.

What are the options for domestic first class dining?

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