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Delta Air Lines

Can You Guess Which Airline Serves the Cheapest Wine?

Can You Guess Which Airline Serves the Cheapest Wine?
Jeff Edwards

An informal Wall Street Journal survey of premium cabin wine lists found that Delta offers the “lowest-priced” selections to its elite passengers, but one flyer discovered those wines might be even cheaper than they appear.

When purchasing fine wines and airfare alike, price does not necessarily correlate to quality – but it’s often a fairly good indicator. With this in mind, it will likely come as no surprise that Emirates spends the most money for each bottle of wine offered to its elite flyers in premium class cabins. It will also not be news that Delta Air Lines is among the most thrifty airlines when it comes to crafting a first-class wine list.

According to an informal survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal, the average price spent on a bottle of wine served to an Emirates passenger comes in at just under $30. Delta, on the other hand, manages to spend between $9 and $17 per bottle. Even United Airlines substantially outspends Delta when it comes to in-flight wine service.

While elite flyers on the FlyerTalk boards were somewhat taken aback to learn that Delta keeps a tight watch on the purse strings when building a premium cabin wine list, passengers were notably more upset to hear the news from Boarding Area’s Gary Leff that the preflight sparkling wine billed on the menu as a rather nice Charles Heidsieck, may in reality be a $4 bottle of Andre sparkling wine. The travel blogger provided photographic firsthand evidence of the bait-and-switch in action. According to the airline, the error was an inadvertent “catering mistake” (albeit a catering mistake that came with a huge cost savings). The wine snobs among us will no doubt recognize Andre from the worst wedding they have ever attended.

It should be noted that in a pressurized aircraft cabin, a pricey bottle of wine might not be the best choice in any case. According to Cathay Pacific wine consultant Roy Moorfield, the less nuanced blend of bright flavors often found in lower-priced wines might just be the ticket for combating the effects of dry cabin air.

To be fair, Delta’s rather thrifty wine list has plenty of perfectly quaffable selections that are, in many cases, chosen specifically to complement unique premium cabin dining options. After all, blowing the budget on a flashy Chateauneuf du Pape would by no means guarantee passengers a perfect in-flight experience. In a world where a cabin crew member might, at a moment’s notice, need to break a bottle of wine over a rampaging first class passenger’s head, it might be better if it’s the cheap stuff.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (2)


  1. texmanufan

    April 19, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    I’m a bit of a wine snob and a partner in a winery. Several comments I’d like to make regarding this. First, I’ve rarely seen any <$30 wines in Emirates first class. Starts off with Krug or DP and goes up from there. Secondly, these sommeliers/wine consultants that sell their names and souls to these Airlines. I’ve had enough with these articles about why they use cheap wines because it tastes different at altitude, pressure, etc. The lack of proper wine glasses (which I understand may not be feasible) far outweighs this. As much as it pains me to defend Delta on this subject I think their wines show better QPR than AA or UA. If they truly are spending less good for them.

  2. makrom

    April 25, 2018 at 12:12 am

    @texmanufan: They weren’t talking about first class but “premium class”, which is a stupid term as it mixes first and business, while there must be a huge difference in regards of average wine cost. Of course you won’t be served the likes of DP or Krug in EK business class. Furthermore, the mentioned cost is not per bottle but per pax. Not every pax drinks a whole bottle per flight. I had many flights with no booze at all, and don’t recall ever drinking more than 2 glasses, even on ultra long hauls like AKL-DOH.

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