Sky Talk

Flight delayed at JFK? American Airlines hands out free food

American Airlines offers free chips to passengers on a delayed flight at JFK Airport.
American Airlines offers free chips to passengers on a delayed flight at JFK Airport. Courtesy of American Airlines

When writer Shawn Landres’ flight from New York to Los Angeles was delayed, he tweeted about his two-hour plus wait.

But it wasn’t an angry tweet at American Airlines or a complaint about the delay. Instead, he was happy to have a free snack while he sat in the terminal.

American hopes to make long waits a little easier for passengers with a new test program at New York’s JFK Airport that brings free food to delayed customers.

“When we know there is a delay of over two hours, we bring out the snacks and drinks to the gate,” said Gina Emrich, manager of service recovery, plannning for American, noting that the delay could be the result of weather or a maintenance issue.

The pilot program was launched in late December and American hired a vendor to help bring the food and drinks to gates when delays occur. Initially, chips, fresh fruit and cold drinks are offered and then if a flight’s delay stretches past three hours, free sandwiches are brought to the gate.

So far, customers have given American positive comments on social media about the program.

“It’s great for customers and it’s great for employees to help ease the tension in the boarding area when there is a delay,” American vice president of customer planning Jill Surdek said.

The food has been offered in place of meal vouchers that usually gate agents hand out to passengers when there is a lengthy delay. Surdek said by eliminating the voucher line, front line employees are able to spend more time rebooking and reaccommodating passengers.

In the first month, American brought the complimentary food to about 100 delayed flights at JFK. It plans to test the program at Los Angeles Airport later this month and another American-served airport that has yet to be determined, Surdek said.

American is also experimenting with offering more breakfast items, including muffins, for morning flights that are delayed.

Surdek would not divulge how much the pilot snack program is costing American but said it is one of several intiatives that the airline is testing to improve customers’ experiences when flights are delayed.

Unfortunately, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport customers will have to wait as American doesn’t plan to test the program at its largest hub yet.