Every six months or so, someone issues a diatribe about the wines available on our nation’s airlines.
The latest person to weigh in is Dan Berger, a widely respected wine critic who writes a weekly newsletter called Vintage Experiences. Berger flies constantly, and says his beverage of choice is Heineken. “No self-respecting wine lover would drink anything on there,” Berger remarks of the typical situation on most domestic flights.
Of course, there are few self-respecting wine lovers in the sky these days—just wine drinkers trying to numb themselves enough to get to their destination. Berger’s rant is correct as far as U.S. airlines go, and certainly true if you’re flying in coach. Most carriers purchase wine in 187-milliliter bottles, and their goal is to get it as cheaply as possible. The typically buy a six-month supply and distribute it across the fleet, so your chances of drinking something reasonably fresh are fairly low.
The situation gets slightly better in the Business and First class cabins of domestic airlines, but not much. Most travelers don’t see a real improvement until they board a foreign carrier such as Lufthansa, Swiss or Air France. On these airlines, even in coach, you’re likely to get a carefully chosen selection of wines served from regular 750 ml bottles.
This leads to the inevitable question: If they can do it, why can’t we? More to the point, most U.S. carriers are scrounging desperately for cash, and charging passengers for everything in the process. Why not pour a premium tier of wines and charge for them? It seems like a no-brainer—the wine lover would get something drinkable, the airline would receive $10 or more per glass, and they would have another revenue source to help them through uncertain economic times. The usual excuse has to do with the extra weight of the glass bottles, but this doesn’t seem to stop foreign carriers on long-haul flights; in any case, don’t four 187-ml bottles weigh the same as a 750?
I have a dream. Someday, I’ll be sitting in seat 22D on a Delta domestic flight sipping a glass of Premier Cru Meursault, and my bag will be flying for free.