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.