An Update On My American Airlines “Lobster Roll”

Yesterday I wrote about the meal I was served on a Los Angeles to New York flight in American business class on Wednesday. Much to my surprise, the story got a lot of media attention, and was written about in the New York Post, Consumerist, and Gothamist, just to name a few.

I have some updates about this, for those who feel personally invested in my lunch from a couple of days ago. 😉

The “lobster roll” I was served

American lets you pick your meal choice in business class as long as you do so at least 24 hours out, so I selected the “lobster roll with sweet potato chips,” which I found intriguing based on the description.

As you might expect, I was a bit surprised when I was served this:

And I was horrified when I looked inside the “lobster” “roll:”

I asked the flight attendant three times to confirm that this was in fact a lobster roll. When I was first served the meal, our conversation went something like this:

“I’m sorry, I think there’s a mistake. I ordered the lobster roll.”
“Yes, that’s it.”
“This is the lobster roll?”
“Yes.”

Then after the meal I once again asked, because I was in such disbelief:

“Is this the normal lobster roll?”
“You got lucky, we ran out of the business class ones, so that’s the first class lobster roll.”

Obviously something wasn’t right here.

I was served the “lobster grilled cheese with tomato soup”

American reached out to let me know that I was served the “lobster grilled cheese with tomato soup.” I’m not sure what’s worse:

  • That a flight attendant lied to me about what I was being served three times despite having pre-ordered a specific dish and asking repeatedly, since clearly this doesn’t look like a lobster roll; couldn’t she have said “sorry we screwed up and don’t have the dish you ordered, but instead can I offer you the lobster grilled cheese with tomato soup from first class?”
  • That they ran out of my meal choice and didn’t even bother to plate the replacement correctly; seriously, the little aluminum ramekin is supposed to have soup in it?
  • That this is actually a dish that American serves in three cabin first class, for which they try to charge $2,500+ one-way for a five hour flight? A lobster grilled cheese sounds delicious to me, but this was disgusting.

Pathetic all around. For what it’s worth, reader Christopher was kind enough to share a picture of what the lobster roll is apparently supposed to look like on American:

Bottom line

The way I see it, the best case scenario here for American was that the catering kitchen prepared a lobster roll, it accidentally fell off a catering truck and got run over by a baggage cart (explaining why it was so flat), then a dog vomited on it after eating canned lobster. That would at least make this an isolated incident. But in this case it looks like the flight attendant thought it was easier to just lie repeatedly about what I was being served. Even more concerning is that this is actually a dish that American serves in first class (not even in business class!).

Comments

  1. US airlines maybe just shouldn’t be reaching for lobster rolls. I had one as the second meal on a Delta Europe->US flight in business class and it wasn’t this bad, but it was far from good (and who thinks that having a lobster roll sitting in a refrigerator for hours until the second meal service is a good idea anyway?).

  2. But, but… “…the 3ME are getting ahead of us, just because of subsidies! ”
    Unfair! #AA best customer service ever

  3. “Lobster lettuce wrap” sounds like a more accurate description for what it *should* have been. American Airlines is accidently becoming a master of culinary fusion.

  4. Good god.. I haven’t laughed so hard all week! Thank you!
    “it accidentally fell of a catering truck and got run over by a baggage cart (explaining why it was so flat), then a dog vomited on it after eating canned lobster. That would at least make this an isolated incident”

  5. Actually, I believe that was the menu for first class on that route as well… I’m just surprised that they haven’t changed it for like a year… lol

  6. “Oh, that’s the Lobster Grilled Cheese. My bad.”

    Seriously, AA?

    Not a first class meal. Not a business class meal. Maybe would suffice as the second meal on a daytime, westbound Transatlantic flight — maybe. Though I’d take the hot ham and cheese pocket over that load of garbage.

    Give ’em hell, Ben.

    I’ve tried to limit my business to AA, but unfortunately I’m very, very hub-captive at CLT.

  7. Tomato soup in aluminum cup is a food safety violation.
    Aluminum is highly reactive to acidic foods. That’s a scandal in itself, worthy of a news piece on its own

  8. C’mon… they only lied and served disgusting food. At least they didn’t beat you and dragged you out of the plane, right? You can’t have too many complaints. FA are overworked and underpaid for service like this. Give them a break. Have a sense of nationalism. Without AA, there will be lots of unemployment and US soldier cannot go around the world…. Let’s make murica great again!!!

  9. @James Time to take your meds again. 🙂

    But other than getting a ‘lobster flavored’ grilled cheese, and a third of a tin of soup, the pickles look pretty good.

  10. I’m glad Lucky went in on AA about this, they deserved to get reamed for this. Pathetic on AA’s part but should we honestly expect anything better from them at this point?

  11. Oh, Ben, those were two great posts! Your stories were entertaining, as always, but I literally choked with laughter on my morning tea at the reference to Amy’s Baking Company! Having experienced both she and her husband first hand, I can guarantee your suspicions would not be unfounded. Those were two crazy people alright. I guess we’ll all have to be happy with the incredibly good Lobster Thermador on Singapore Airlines’ first class. I’m glad your article got America’s attention. Their service used to be great, back in the 1990’s. Great job, Ben!

  12. Thank you very much for this article, especially for the bottom line section. Haven’t laughed so hard for a long time! Now, all my colleagues in office know your article… 😛

  13. Back in the day US Airways had color photos of meals printed and hung in the galley as crews prepared meals to ensure they were plated properly and that the crews actually knew what they were serving.

    My guess is that your F/A wasn’t lying but rather believed that she was serving the lobster roll. The package said lobster, so it had to be a lobster roll in her mind. The lack of training is more the issue rather than lying. Now if she knew she was serving grilled cheese with lobster…no, no, no…that meal is disgusting. Any good diner waitress would have said “maybe order something else sweetie, that don’t look so good today.”

  14. I agree. Give me drinks and a bed. So yesterday, on my antiquated ex US Air 757 from Glasgow to Philly (ie no bed), I was more than a little perturbed when they ran out of all of the business class white wines 45 minutes into the flight.

  15. @ Ben — American reached out to you? Can I post my ignored complaint on here? Did you get compensation, maybe 500 miles? 🙂

  16. Lucky, I think you might be assuming more malice on the part of the FA than is fair. It is possible that the FA doesn’t know what a proper lobster roll is. I’m from the midwest and didn’t have the pleasure of eating a lobster roll was until I was 30. It’s not too far fetched that the FA thought the fact that it had lobster and bread meant that it WAS a lobster roll. The label would have the word lobster and given that they don’t have a lot of lobster meals, she may have just assumed it was the right meal.

    Or maybe she knows what a proper lobster roll is and knows that the quality of AA meals is so low that she assumed it was AA’s version of a lobster roll.

  17. Go get ’em Ben! I was equally appalled and disgusted by not only what they served you, but also the bulls*%t that they verbally fed you. Why bother preordering if it is going to be crap?

  18. Soup in an aluminum cup? What stupid person thought of that? It doesn’t even look like a soup. The fact that this is a first class meal is pathetic. The food on AA continues to be super cheap, tastes bad and often looks disgusting. Looking again at that disgusting “sandwich”, it wouldn’t surprise me if that dog story was true lol!

  19. I agree with AB. I grew up in Florida and had no idea what a lobster roll was until I moved to the northeast. She might’ve just thought a lobster sandwich is a lobster sandwich.

    That said, why even try to do a lobster roll on a plane? I find the idea of seafood on a plane generally unappealing, even in first or business, but it is undoubtedly hard to do well under these conditions. I think AA would be much better off doing a solid version of a simpler dish that holds up well in catering than some fancy dish that inevitably ends up looking like dog vomit.

  20. Curious as to why you think she overtly lied. I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of how food/drink are loaded, but is it possible that:

    A. The food manifest(?) said “Lobster Roll” and that’s the only thing that resembled a lobster roll compared to the other dishes, and
    B. The FA simply doesn’t know what a lobster roll is supposed to look like and/or has resigned to the fact that sometimes airline food looks different than its land-based counterpart so she took it as the lobster roll in earnest?

    Though, I’m curious to know what the differentiation between the first/business class lobster roll would’ve been. I mean, I hate UA and AA as much as the next guy, but Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity?

  21. I have similar issue when I flow Business Class from GRU to MIA, my pre-order was chicken and they even confirmed my selection after reaching 10K ft, but they run out of chicken when they tried to serve me and the FA told me the other FA gave my chicken to some one because he misunderstood when the other asked for extra, the only option left was the beef.
    I’m a beef person but I ordered chicken because I knew it was beef stew (too chewy).

  22. I flew JFK-SFO in business last week and ordered the lobster roll. That was my exact same reaction. My seatmate got the Wagyu meatloaf and I really wish I did. It was way more substantial and tasty looking.

  23. That’s pretty egregious on the flight attendant’s part. What if there were ingredients in this faux-lobster-roll that you were allergic to?

    Plus… where’s the lobster in that lobster-grilled-cheese? So much for AA business class.

  24. Whatever AA calls that it is extremely disgusting. They should be ashamed to even considering serving that.

  25. You should of ordered the beef curry. It’s really good. Idk why you would order the lobster roll on the plane. That’s a rookie move for a vet. The curry with coconut rice is one of my favorite AA dishes.

  26. Jesus, nobody “lied” to you. When your pre-ordered meal wasn’t correctly loaded (a service failure, to be sure) the FA proactively found a similar item on the First Class menu and brought it to you. That they didn’t know or didn’t process the difference between a lobster “roll” and a lobster “sandwich” isn’t lying.

    The correct response is “thank you”.

  27. I’m going to agree with Rob that the “lying” rhetoric is a bit strong. Assigning intentions is difficult, and usually reserved to political discourse, so I’m inclined to give the FA the benefit of the doubt and say it was an honest mistake. Maybe a label said LBSTR or something truncated and the FA conflated two separate items as the same (or different based on cabin). Mistakes happen. Ask for something else. Be kind to people who are working long shifts in customer service. Being perfect 100% of the time is a tall task for any human. If you’re mad at AA for not spending more on catering flights, keep to that thesis and move on.

  28. Having once worked briefly in the restaurant business while in college, I quickly learned that there was a goal to never waste any food. I wonder if airlines throw out meals that were not used from previous flights but rather load them on the next flight. More than once I’ve received a salad that was completely brown and wilted while the passengers seated nearby had fresh salads. Maybe that lobster grilled cheese had been around for a few flights? In any event, I eat very lightly on flights and carry a few goodies in the event of a complete meal wipeout and actually prefer food in terminal restaurants which have improved greatly in the past decade. Maybe Lucky or his contributors might consider reviewing some excellent airside restaurants occasionally.

  29. @FA: I agree about being kind. But, higher standards of service should be expected as well. Professionalism should show up in safety and service. Being alert and aware of your product is an essential part of the job. I agree that the accusation is too strong, but there was certainly a failure on the part of that crew member.

  30. You don’t need to have been raised in Maine, catching your own lobsters or whatever, to realize that something called a lobster roll probably isn’t two slices of sandwich bread shoved together.

  31. @LarryinNYC

    I agree, the word “lying” means that the speaker knew that their statement was false and that they intended to deceive their audience. The FA could just have been ignorant about the difference, or not focused on the sandwich to see that it is not what she thought it was. People are quick to accuse people of lying, but to know someone is lying requires knowledge of that person’s cognitive state, and that is hard to come by. Most of the times when people say things which are false they probably don’t know their claims are false, or they don’t care to know. (Another example is Trump.)

    ChrisinNYC

  32. I commented yesterday that it looked like UA’s midnight Polaris snack of Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup.

    In all of this I don’t think we found out:

    DID YOU TRY IT?
    DID YOU EAT IT?

  33. Calling the flight attendant a liar is so uncalled for. As others have mentioned, they may not have known what a proper lobster roll is. Grow up.

  34. Interestingly, the Lobster Roll was on the menu in my LAX-JFK when I flew it in 1st last week. I passed since when I had it in business class previously it was inedible.

  35. Lol. So many stupids here trying to convince anyone that it was normal FA doesn’t know what they served.

    Passenger: I’m allergic to peanut. Is this bread contains peanut?
    FA: no. You can eat it.
    Passenger: *eat and die….

  36. I had the same exact dish. I opened it up and ate the few bites of lobster, which at least wasn’t of awful quality. It was almost midnight after a week in NY, so I wasn’t too hungry. For a premium meal, it is embarrassing, but more because of the lack of lobster. Also, I had read flyertalk and knew what to expect.

    To be fair, no-one should open a grilled cheese sandwich and expect something pretty. If it looked exactly the same in the picture and was called ” grilled cheese with proscuitto bits”, would you feel the same way? I would expect the inside of a grilled cheese sandwich with proscuitto bits to look that way . Of course, with the expectation of a lobster roll, it is a complete failure visually.

    It was far from my worse premium meal on AA .

    On the other hand, I thought the hamburger in the Flagship Lounge that everyone was raving about was 10 times worse because of how it tasted, not how it looked.

  37. I had an awesome lobster roll from McDonalds at BDL a couple years ago. They were doing a limited time regional thing at McDs for awhile I think. Reasonably priced too! That may be a good carry on option for those in premium cabins 🙂

  38. James, you simple creature, there is a difference to knowing what a lobster roll is and knowing if a dish has a common allergen that may cause death.

    Donna that would be great, but I don’t see bloggers spending time outside of their lounges, despite the fact many have disgusting food

  39. Abidjan says:
    August 11, 2017 at 9:40 am
    “Lobster grilled cheese” – – a staple on menus across the country. Paging Guy Fieri.

    Classic!

  40. @Anna occasionally in J down under and in the Pacific Rim generally, you will get served a seafood meal. In countries like NZ, Australia, Fiji, we ADORE our seafood and no self-respecting carrier in our little part of the world would ever DARE serve seafood that was sub-par in J, or god-forbid, F. Even on a plane, with the right budget, it can be done really, really well *I’m looking at you, Virgin Australia, Fiji Airways & Qantas* However, this meal was nothing short of a dog’s turd; there’s no getting around it.

  41. what’s pathetic the FA might actually think this is a lobster roll. that;s how low the service people in this country has become.
    I’ve not flown a single AA this year after years of Plat status. I matched to AS & B7 & will try to stay there.

  42. UA has actually been improving this year on food in my opinion.

    Also, on my UA flight last week I ordered lentils and polenta, FA confirmed but then apologized profusely when he realized catering had miscounted meals and served me the lobster mac & cheese (which had more lobster than that sandwich by a lot…). Continued apologizing since I’m 1k and gave me a $125 travel voucher for the inconvenience! Haven’t had a genuine apology for such a minor thing in years from an airline employee.

  43. Omg Ben, you actually even gotten a reply from American, that’s a start already! Then of course they are telling you hey you got it wrong in your post, your picture had the grilled lobster and not the lobster roll that you preordered! American is laughable aren’t they as they still do not get the point… /bonk bonk bonk

  44. When will “you” learn that the aircraft is NOT a restaurant!!!! It is a means of travel. It has turned into a fickin bus!! So stop blaming the flight attendant for your stupid meal. Are you such an idiot that you haven’t figured out that the meals are made and put on the flight. The flight attendant has absolutely nothing to do with preparing your food except heating it up. Do you serious think they are in the galley making your meal from scratch. You are an IDIOT!!!! So if the paper work says it is a “lobster” roll that is all she knows. And STOP thinking that because you fly a million miles a year that the Flight Attendant gives a rats ass. They are there to save your ass in case of fire, medical emergency or a crash. If it wasn’t for the FAA requirements, the company would have two vending machines in the back. So stop thinking that you are so special. And treat the flight attendants correctly. They are not there to kiss your ass and serve you food because again THIS IS NOT A RESTAURANT!!! it is a means of transportation. And they are there for your safety. The mentality that you and other passengers put out there is demeaning and wrong!

  45. Lucky, there must be a strong temptation to return the favor and kiss airline industry ass because industry P. R. depts. reach out to you to clarify, apologize, possibly provide comps and favors, etc. — which they don’t to for everyone else. Yet, you seem to call it like it is, which is obviously to your credit and enhances the integrity of your site.

    That said, I don’t think there was a lobster roll conspiracy. The flight attendant assumed, as you did, that the drek on your tray was indeed the lobster roll. She probably wasn’t lying.

    It’s hard enough to find a good lobster roll on the Maine coast. Why would you think AA could serve anything approaching a creditable version?

  46. Ohh brotha! Here we go with more 1st World WPP. I don’t care. Buy your own sandwich at the Deli…they haven’t banned that yet for you mone-wasting first class brats.

  47. Bring back Sky Chefs which was a wholly owned subsidiary of AS. Food was good, served on regular dishes and stainless steel flatware. But that was before planes were turned into cattle cars.

  48. As an AA loyalist that just tried JetBlue Mint recently, they will have my Transcon business going forward. Good hard product with outstanding soft product. Mint catering (Plane Eats) is in my top 3 airplane meals, and that is including EY apartment flights.

  49. @Tclark you are a jack off that doesn’t know the difference between an $80 coach ticket and a $2500 first class ticket. They sell it as a luxury ticket with first class food and amenities. That’s what they advertise it as, and thats the only reason u buy a first class ticket. Stick to Greyhound

  50. Travelling from Honolulu through to Detroit AA First Class in a couple of weeks.
    Looked at the meals to reserve.
    For 3 flights only 1 meal available, breakfast from LAX to Detroit, and it does not sound very appealing, oatmeal and fruit or a biscuit with scrambled eggs and a chicken chorizo gravy ( for breakfast, Seriously! )
    For the cost of these ticket, as others have said, it is poor, and what about the other flights.
    At least with Qantas, even in economy, when you have meals you can reserve they are reasonable.

  51. Thanks for sharing that story theirs prices for the ticket are never like the meal they served you should be refunded for that maybe they will settle with a bag of pretzels

  52. Lobster roll doesn’t mean a roll of lobster, it means lobster salad in a roll (and it sometimes it can be in a lettuce leaf. In this case the “roll” is toasted bread, but technically it is consider lobster roll (ie lobster salad inside something). Lobster roll is chucks of lobster mixed with mayo and other ingredients- similar to the way chicken salad is made.

    That aside, the portion was skimpy. The last couple of times I have had the beef barbeque sandwich on AA’s long haul international J – the amount of beef was similar – almost non-existent. It was mostly cheese and bread.

    AA has clearly gone to far in reducing food in its long haul business class.

  53. I for one have never been a fan of airline food even when flying FC, which I’ve done many times. These guys are in the business of taking our raggedy butts from one city to another. They have a hard time managing that let alone serving decent meals. Their mass produced meals are produced by ex-line chefs from the poorest of the fast food chains. Better to bring a Hannibal Lecter take a way box from Dean & Deluca. Lobster roll! LOL!

  54. @Everyone giving the FA the benefit of the doubt:

    1. The FA doesn’t live under a rock.
    2. The FA works with this menu every day.
    3. It is literally the FA’s job to know.

    Could you imagine if a waiter at a BBQ restaurant brought over spare ribs instead of short ribs, then doubled-down about them being short ribs? How would the “maybe he’s vegetarian and doesn’t eat meat” defense sound?

    I’ll put my bets on the FA lying because the alternative is even less flattering.

  55. If a main part of my job is serving food that includes serving lobster rolls, and other lobster sandwiches, I will know the second day what is a lobster roll even if I was raised in the middle of grand Sahara in Africa. If I don’t know the difference I am either an idiot or a liar.

  56. What do you expect? It’s an airline, not a 5 star snotty restaurant. Next thing I know, you’ll be complaining about gas station sushi.

  57. Stop being entitled. Maybe AA should just serve chicken or beef..happy? How about you deserve no miles for this mistake. Gosh it’s just food

  58. It is like that blue/white/gold dress internet phenomenon. Yesterday when I saw the post and sandwich (and wasn’t hungry) I thought it looked like shit. Today I look at this post and the sandwich (when I am hungry) and it looks pretty tasty. The soup is bang out of order any way you like at it.

  59. You should have asked for something else? Anyway in economy they still serve a disgusting chocolate brownie and lettuce. But the tomato is bigger now.

  60. When one pays a premium price for a product it is not unreasonable to expect that one would receive what was advertised.
    I do not expect “haute cuisine” on a plane but having flown long haul on numerous airlines I am aware that it is very easy to provide meals that are quite appetising and reflect what is promised.
    In my retirement I am fortunate enough to fly “First class” on 90% of my flights as a result of flying coach for 40 years. I avoid AA whenever possible. American expects their employees to accept the bare minimum in conditions and remuneration whilst boasting of increasing profits. Is it any wonder that their flght attendants are in
    many instances unfriendly and unhelpful. This is the new capitalism – cut costs and please shareholders – give your employees and customers just enough to keep them showing up.
    In the situation that began this particular discussion it is correct to accuse this particular FA of lying. I have eaten a lobster roll, reluctantly, in FC many times and it looks nothing like the item in the photo. I have also watched FA’s from all classes visit the FC galley after meal service.

    FYI #Sjsjdjd – I would agree many premium fare payers want the bed but to suggest anyone would pay $100’s or $1000’s for premium seats to get free drinks destroys all credibility.

  61. Wow… AA’s PR have made a new low…. making comments defending them and badmouthing Lucky. Unfortunately, they failed to provide a good reason to do so. Well… once a stupid always a….

  62. Lucky: You seriously believe the FA was lying to you? Are you aware how incredibly messed up AA’s catering is and how often FA’s are charged with trying to figure out what it is actually they are serving customers? As someone else pointed out the FA was probably looking at something labelled LBSTR–if that. Further, it appears he/she wasn’t catered properly in B/C and actually went to F/C to try to get the correct item for you–or something close. The problem here lies with catering and the quality of food chosen by AA. Stop blaming those trying to do their best with what they’ve got. You should know better.

  63. Lucky thanks for calling AA out on this – this is exactly the kind of publicity they need to get if things are ever to improve. It’s shameful they serve this in any premium cabin.

    To all those complaining that Lucky assumed the FA was lying he did ask her multiple times to check if this was correct so she must presumably at least suspected something was wrong and chose to keep insisting it was the correct item.

    That is leaving aside the basic point that it’s entirely fair to expect and ask that an FA in a premium cabin is aware of what food she is serving. This should be a basic, minimal expectation.

  64. Perhaps, the american/us stewards/stewardesses need to be far better educated and engaged as to what exactly they’re serving. Instead we hear typically american excuses, rationalizations, and unclear logical with a mix of cognitive dissonance. The fact is american/us airlines were a bad joke–reflection of the hustler country. That picture and the insistence of the “flight crew” once again proves this fact. And then they truly wonder why other international airlines are kicking their red/white/blue arse.

  65. Please keep complaining, our airline is a joke now.
    It’s so embarrassing serving catering to our customers when I myself wouldn’t even feed it to my dog
    You will notice most AA flight attendants bring their own lunch totes, simply because the onboard catering is inedible since the merger
    Those bean counters have won.

  66. Lack of culinary knowledge by the FA’s is not uncommon. Just got off a United flight where the FA offered (and we took for my child) the Chicken Marsala….but was handed a spicy Chicken Masala (in an Indian labeled catering box). Was listening to her incorrectly offer this dish to everyone. Was going to say something and correct her but didn’t get a chance to before she was off.

  67. Many of the recent comments beg the question–would an actual canine willingly ingest this meal as presented?

  68. Benny…
    Why don’t you bring your own sandwich on board ?
    Why don’t you get a REAL job ?? The safety of a flight
    is more important than a lobster roll. Wake up !

  69. @Austin… Yes, indeed. Jet Blue Mint is radically better with respect to food and service. And excellent Wi-Fi, very comfortable seats to boot. Basically, if you’re on American, you’re on your own for food. Bring it with you and you’ll be happy.

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