American Airlines Eliminates Champagne In Business Class

American Airlines no longer serves champagne in its long haul business class, offering only Italian sparkling wine Ferrari Brut Trento DOC from Trentino, which is decidedly mid. To be fair, you can drink it. But it’s neither champagne nor memorable. Reader Jerry flagged this for me, after asking the airline about it on twitter. This change was in place in July.

Many people don’t care about wine on a plane. To them, business class is just a seat. They could go without food, too. But airlines are trying to offer a premium experience. Other airlines do offer a more premium experience. And so enough customers at the margin make their decisions on how comfortable they feel overall (both hard and soft product) that this is an area in which carriers invest.

Even United Airlines, when first launching their Polaris business class reboot in 2016, introduced wine tasting flights and dessert carts before former American Airlines President Scott Kirby came on board as President and the cutbacks began. Air France, Emirates, ANA, Singapore Airlines – and American Airlines joint venture partner Japan Airlines – make food and beverage programs a centerpiece of their product.

When I flew American to Sydney and back in first class in June, I was appalled by the $15 wines (this wasn’t even business!). There were zero Australian selections out of Sydney. It seemed to me there should have been Australia wines on the flight to Sydney, but how come not departing there? They served Drappier champagne which is a good choice, though still a value selection for international first class. They served it in plastic cups predeparture, and just wow.

In tough times, airlines say they need to cut back on amenities. In flush times, they say they don’t need to invest in amenities in order to win business. This reminds me of four-time British Prime Minister William Gladstone, “If the people are silent, they must be contented. If the people are violent, we must not yield to disorder. Either way, the people get nothing.”

Why not at least care enough to make the most out of the budget you do have? In the case of wines, don’t just outsource selection to the supplier Intervine. It’s a $25 retail bottle, generally considered a ‘value’ selection. One imagines there was a surplus, though with a similar budget in the hands of someone passionate about delivering excellence American can do better even without ‘spending a dollar they don’t have to’ in the words of their CEO.

Update: American Airlines offers,

American is proud to offer an elevated dining experience which features thoughtfully chosen beverages rotated quarterly to complement our inflight menus. Wines considered for the American Airlines wine program are carefully reviewed by a team of wine experts and highly regarded James Beard Foundation wine consultant Julia Coney.

Currently, customers traveling in Flagship Business on international flights have the opportunity to enjoy Ferrari Brut NV, Trentodoc. This internationally-acclaimed sparkling wine is known worldwide for its exceptionally high standards demonstrated throughout its production methods and Ferrari Trento’s organic and carbon-negative certifications.

We look forward to hearing our customers’ thoughts on the accompaniment to their inflight experience, and to continuing to evolve our inflight dining experiences based on customer feedback.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I find it amazing that American Airlines cannot offer an American sparkling wine made from the champagne method,. Argyle from Oregon, Gruet from New Mexico, Dr Frank from New York, or even Chandon or Mumm from California. There are even some excellent champagne-style sparkling wines from Virginia.

  2. They can’t afford it since raising redemption to 450k one way in business class

  3. Dreadful, shameless nickel and diming

    UNITED rising with its upgraded wine selections this year. I wonder if the Emirates codeshare has something to do with that.

  4. I’m not a wine or Champagne connoisseur, but their offering is absolutely indicative of how American Airlines operates. Everything on the cheap. At least 50% of their flight attendants act seriously stressed the offer the slightest level of courtesy. My wife and I flew domestic first class this past Monday and when the flight attendant offered beverages after takeoff it was a dead monotone “do you want anything to drink.”

  5. It’s all sparkling wine!
    Whether you prefer it coming from the Champagne district or somewhere else in the world, is really a matter of taste.
    Several airlines are not serving Champagne by default.
    Last flights I had on UA and DL and LH, the preservice was Spanish and German sparkling wine. Very good!

  6. A decidedly “mid” sparkling wine served by a decidedly “mid” airline (and calling AA “mid” is being generous). In the world of airline experience, AA is not trying to be a Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus. It is at best a Kohl’s or a Macy’s – a low-to-mid scale brand focused on a middle-of-the-road experience for the masses. Once you understand that, AA’s place in the global aviation industry becomes clear.

    Me? I personally avoid AA when I can, but their model is working well enough that they continue to be the largest airline on the planet. Why? because there is a subset of people (like me) who care about the total experience and have specific expectations of that experience. For most people, it’s not something they expend much energy focusing on. To each their own.

  7. @Clausen – not to sound snobbish but Prosecco is different than other sparkling wines made in the champagne method. The carbonation is not natural with Prosecco. You can taste the difference.

    a nice Cava, American Sparkling, or Cremant would all be great and of similar to quality to budget champagne. Prosecco is middle age mimosa juice. it should be avoided by itself. and definately not a splurge.

  8. If you don’t think much about your company, neither will your customers. American just LOVES being in 3rd place.

  9. This is far and away the most important airline issue of the last three years. Who cares about trivial issues like safety?

  10. I’m with Ghost on this.
    People don’t and won’t choose an airline based on the quality of beverages.
    Yes, all of those are wrapped up in the brand placement but the biggest component is the quality of service that is offered and a well-trained flight attendant can make anything much better than the brand.
    I’m not sure that most champagne is even consumed after pre-departure drinks are served but a real international FA could tell me differently.

    As for UA, Greg, the reason they are adding so much capacity – but not rising any faster than other airlines – is because they have held onto a bunch of old, inefficient airplanes, making them one of the most fuel-inefficient global airlines in the world. And Delta grew faster in every global region than United in the most recent quarter and also recorded better revenue metrics.
    So, Greg, if United is rising, Delta is soaring.

  11. Next, they will just pump raw sewage out of the holding tank and call it a refreshing drink.
    AA continues its race to the bottom.

  12. American Airlines is one of those cheap Airlines.cheapest of all.i wouldn’t touch from God knows where.
    Third grade American trash.
    When Americans fly the likes of Emirates they just can’t even comprehend the premium service which is available around the world.

  13. @Tim Dunn I would respectfully disagree with you. SOME passengers will make purchasing based on soft product and things like food quality and beverage options. I am one of the passengers that see the journey as important as the destination.

    If am purchasing a $7K ticket for a long-haul flight in business class and find that I can fly on AA, BA, or QR to get where I’m going, I’m flying QR. Why? Because their in-flight experience is flawless. Their aircraft comfortable. Their dine-on-demand food restaurant quality. Their hub and lounges spectacular. Their cabin crews are polite, professional, attentive and visible.

    A lot of folks would either not focus on these things or care about them. But I spend this much at least once a year on hard-earned vacations for me and the mister. The experience of travel is very important on these trips. I want to feel pampered. I want to feel that my travel is a luxury as my experience at the destination.

  14. Mohsin,
    and Emirates employees would die for the career they could have at a US or European airline instead of being a disposable asset that is discarded when they become too old and/or too expensive.

    I want good service too but I won’t sell out my fellow citizens just to enhance my own pleasure for a few hours.

  15. The days of caviar & Dom w/ropes between the 3 sections of the aircraft are long gone. Just returned from JFK-LAX in Flagship 1st. Flt was 2 hrs late b/c equipment was placed out of service & another aircraft needed. Spent a little time in the Chelsea lounge which we found to be a big disappointment after years of sitting in Flagship Dining which was a wonderful small enclave w/in the former Flagship lounge, but we weren’t able to return since our flt was from the far set of gates & G/A’s weren’t forthcoming on the length of the delay. A week after my flt I rcv’d a call from the executive liaison desk & gave them an entire litany of issues that I had w/AA including the fact that I knew they weren’t spending anything on the 321T since they’ll soon be reconfiguring from 3 to 2 class plane. I was on the phone w/the rep for at least 1/2 hour & was told my comments woild be provided to AA’s top mgmt, but when I told her they were more than welcome to contact me she said “I doubt that will occur.” In any event, the downgrading continues to occur. We fly next week LAX-GRU via MIA and I merely hope I have a safe flight, a chair that properly makes into a bed and an ability to sleep btwn MIA & GRU…

  16. The way people are acting in the airport and on planes maybe the booze should be cut out altogether.

  17. Italy does making some good sparkling wines.

    And yes, not all Italian sparkling wines are prosecco.

    But the reality is that all the cheap prosecco has ruined it for the handful of Italian makers producing sparkling wine from the more expensive champagne or traditional method.

    Cremant is a good compromise if you want something that is vaguely exotic but not Andre or prosecco. Cremant is French sparkling wine made from the champagne method but produced outside Champagne.

    The reality is a national airline should have a food and beverage offering that amplifies the best of their country. There are excellent American wines; red, white, and sparkling. It’s really unfortunate that American, Delta, and United can’t highlight the best of American wine.

  18. @Cliff – on a tangent but speaking of specialized liquor menus I have flown IcelandAir in Saga Premium a few times. Yeah I know – no lay flat seat but soft product is very good and 6 or so hours to KEF then 3-4 to Europe is manageable without a lay flat seat. Getting back to liquor they have a gin menu with some really unique offerings you won’t find in the US and I have made it a point to try all of them. Wish other airlines would have a scotch, whiskey or tequila selection In premium cabins. Makes for a nice touch IMHO

  19. AA is becoming the next Spirit, just without the low fares. Call me nutty but I don”t see that working.

  20. In business class a customer should expect it to at least meet the definitions of these two words. It is not pretentious to pay for a third of the operating cost and expect to be treated better than economy. A business class customer will cease to be a business class customer and pay economy if the services don’t warrant it. Then the airline will begin charging even more for the economy tickets. If it’s a case of Prosecco that helps them to pay those high prices, then we should all be yelling at American for their uncouthness.

  21. @cmb
    You explain perfectly the difference to philistine business class travelers! ( I am French, by the way)

  22. About Crémant : when you have the choice, number one will be the Crémant d’Alsace, number two, Crémant de Bourgogne and three, Crémant de Loire …which could be very good ( Montlouis) or awful

  23. SOBE ER DOC & ElliotS have it right – US d/b/a AA continues to ply the downmarket path. No, champagne alone is not a sole marker. Yet, the cumulative changes in the soft product made at the carrier since the mid-2010s is merely a reflection of the service philosophy the current management employed in the past…just in a different guise.

  24. Well, it’s just another example of AA’s race to the bottom, trying to out-Delta Delta. Why don’t they ask the disgusting Ed Bastion to run their airline?
    However…. what is missing here is a comparison of AA-UA-DL wine choices, which is really needed for context. Are UA and DL really much better? That’s not a rhetorical question, I’d be interested in a one-on-one comparison. @Gary?

  25. That AmericaWest management crew sure knows how to run an ULCC. Unfortunately they can’t find their a$$es with both hands when it comes to running a large full service airline.

  26. The wine list is much better than the former private label sludge that was served previously. Ferrari being the official Toast of Formula 1 seems very premium to me. I think a look at the entire menu is worth a look rather than 1 wine.

  27. Well, my wife simply told me to book BA or IB in J instead of AA when flying Transatlantic. The last two times we took JFK-LHR on AA the food was average if not below and service was not existing. Note that AA partners offer the same price and one can even get a better deal by baying tickets through BA AARP portal. While this is true that people do not buy airline tickets based on type of drinks served on the plane, this dumb decision from AA side could be the last drop tilting the scale . It also tells a lot about AA decision making.

  28. If having a “quality” champagne is all that important, let the folks that want it, fly another airline.
    American is not the airline it was when C.R. Smith was at the helm, but little is the same as it was then.
    I travel less now that I’m retired and want more seat room than food or drink that barely meets the standards of edibility and potability. I also want FAs who will maintain good order among the passengers and show a genuine concern for the safety and comfort of passengers.

  29. “People don’t and won’t choose an airline based on the quality of beverages.”

    Except that we read Gary, The Points Guy, and One Mile at a Time to learn all about the quality Champagnes being served in business class and first class on foreign carriers.

    Thanks for playing!

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