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.
— Jerry (@BIGJinLA) August 3, 2023
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.