Airline coffee usually isn’t very good, but there are exceptions. Three things matter: the beans, the (tank) water, and cabin pressure. Opting for good versus bad coffee on board could cost a major airline $10 million per year.
When United Airlines dropped Starbucks after the Continental merger, Delta picked up the partnership Then when Oscar Munoz replaced CEO Jeff Smisek at the helm of United one of the first attempts at a rapprochement with customers was to introduce stroopwafels and Illy coffee. United is probably using the best beans of any U.S. carrier now, but it still suffers from the water they use and that they’re making it at altitude.
A Starbucks union activist makes an issue of Delta Air Lines serving the Seattle-based chain’s coffee on board. She’s even drawn responses from the likes of Sara Nelson, head of the AFA-CWA flight attendants union (who was talked about to lead the entire AFL-CIO).
Wow look! Union-busting airline promoting union-busting coffee. pic.twitter.com/vywXOhies0
— Casey Moore (@UnionCasey) April 14, 2023
It’s not fair to call Delta Air Lines “union busting.” They certainly work hard in many ways – from paying their employees more, to communicating the benefit (from their perspective) of not having a union – but “union busting” calls ot mind dismissals of employees considering unionizing, such as Gate Gourmet at London Headrow back in 2005. Or during the early 20th century in the U.S. ‘red scares’ and involvement of unions in socialist activism led to violence against union activists. Police and National Guard troops clashed with unions. There were bombings. And Delta is unionized! Just less unionized than competitors.
Moreover, Delta flight attendants have consistently chosen not to unionize. Yet they receive much bigger bonuses than anyone else and they’re the only ones receiving pay for time spent boarding, while AFA-CWA-negotiated contracts haven’t included it. AFA-CWA, which is trying to organize Delta cabin crew, report that their own members at United are consistently unhappy at work.
Thanks to union-busting…
— Casey Moore (@UnionCasey) April 15, 2023
Most importantly, however, unionization doesn’t correlate with quality of coffee.
- American Airlines flight attendants are unionized. Their coffee is bloody awful.
- United Airlines flight attendants are unionized. Their Illy coffee is excellent.
I’ll take Starbucks on Delta or Illy on United. There’s no need to make coffee political.
Now, the idea that Starbucks somehow signals quality is strange. And the brand alone doesn’t matter most, when United served Starbucks it was a special light brew because too many passengers were overwhelmed by deeper flavors. They worked to serve the lowest common denominator taste. But any issue you may have with Delta now serving Starbucks should really be about would you like a cup of it on board?