Union Activist Blasts Delta Air Lines For Serving Starbucks. Leave Politics Out Of My Coffee!

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).

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.

Most importantly, however, unionization doesn’t correlate with quality of coffee.

  1. American Airlines flight attendants are unionized. Their coffee is bloody awful.

  2. 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?

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Why are you promoting some random clown on twitter she’s got like 100 likes a tweet.
    You’re the reason why society is in such bad shape, you amplify the crazies on twitter who are a very very vocal minority.

  2. Oh for gods sake, take a deep breath and then go [redacted -gl] yourself Gary.

  3. Maybe so called union activist should consider & act on his his own advice?
    Satisfied customers/clients equals more fannies in the seats, revenue & jobs so put a sock in it clown act.

  4. I love Union Free Delta but Starbucks coffee sucks. Burnt Beans.

    And why would anybody love Starbucks on a plane since they can’t put three shots of this and whip cream and a latte and a bunch of syrup… and the oat milk. Don’t forget the oat milk.

  5. Is it okay to ask for a cup of hot water? I brought my own packet of instant hot beverage, (along with my own bottle filled after security with airport water )

  6. Honestly the key here is not giving them attention. Even an article about this irrelevant tweet shouldn’t happen.

  7. @chad – I find Gary’s analysis interesting if nothing else so agree to disagree. It’s a freaking Sunday night, we are lucky to have content at all. You have to respect seven days a week.

  8. Gotta love the union activist, posting an anti-Delta post while using their product, since that’s clearly a Delta seatback screen. Practice what you preach, lady!

  9. Keep politics out of your coffee …. At least when they’re not your politics?
    WFTW is THE place to go for a good anti-union rant and sometimes it’s even related to the travel industry.

  10. To tell you the truth, AA’s coffee is really terrible. I’ll keep it nice… I’d rather drink Starbucks instead of drink Green mountain any day! I’d actually wish Peete’s was on AA flights. Green Mountain is garbage! But that’s my opinion.

  11. Tangential, Gary I expect you know Australians have a different standard that equates most US coffee (brewed or otherwise) to dishwater.
    Let me give a call out to the barista in the Thai BKK lounge last Saturday for a stunning latte, simply a 10/10 which is rare anywhere ( but Americans may curl up in the corner drinking it and die, so please don’t travel Thai! )
    After 11 hours from ARN and another 8 to Mel, it was a highlight.

  12. I agree with the author that coffee quality should not be politicized. I think it’s unfair to label Delta as a union-busting airline when they pay their employees well and respect their choices. I also think it’s hypocritical to criticize Starbucks for being anti-union when they offer benefits and opportunities to their workers. I enjoy drinking Starbucks coffee on Delta flights and I don’t see why that should be a problem for anyone else. Coffee is a personal preference and not a political statement.

  13. Illy is very good and I like it better than Starbucks. That being said, you really can’t reason with most Union leadership. They make illogical statements, many times at the cost of their due-paying members, that may not even match what their membership believes in.

  14. 1. Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks (or Starbux or Charbucks or whatever your preferred name is.)

    2. It doesn’t matter — from a taste perspective — what coffee is used if the water sucks.

    3. This has nothing to do with current (21st century) politics. Some people have ALWAYS made purchasing decisions based on the social/political positions a company takes, (i.e.: “voting with their pocketbook”), while others have always ignored such things when making a purchase..

  15. Gary…stick to hotels and travel deals and stay out of stuff you don’t have a clue about.

  16. RE: above comment…..why not admonish the union clown to stick to what relates to the employees they allegedly “represent” and stay out of affairs they have no business in!

  17. If Delta buys the coffee they can do whatever they want with it…The union cutie needs to back away..The union activists always want to cause trouble……I guess the Starbucks and Overall union activist(Sara) have nothing else to do and get paid way tooo much to do so!!!! Pay cut for them!!!~!

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