A Canadian airline passenger has recently filed a lawsuit against Sunwing Airlines, seeking punitive damages on account of the carrier’s promotion of a complimentary champagne service to all passengers – a wine that any oenophile would only consider to be real champagne if sourced from the Champagne region of France – when, in fact, they’d been served a cheaper sparkling wine from elsewhere (tres gauche!). The plaintiff has been joined by 1600 others in what Sunwing (correctly) calls “frivolous and without merit.” The plaintiffs, on the other hand, feel the suit is necessary to punish what they feel is a lack of truth in advertising – they’d bought their tickets with champagne wishes and caviar dreams left unfulfilled. Robin Leach, somewhere in the distance, shed a tear and shook his fist at the sky.
But the lawsuit has had the unintended effect of putting Sunwing and their bubbly service on the map, which is a bright spot in what has become an industry synonymous with misery. Thank goodness they’re merely rephrasing the offering as a “sparkling wine service” rather than scrapping it altogether. Sunwing and airlines like Delta, which has reintroduced domestic economy class meals on some flights (and even have their own complimentary prosecco offering in coach on some international routes as well), are taking a step in the right direction in giving people a reason to like to fly again.
Initially, when low-cost carriers came onto the scene, the idea was brilliant – omit what passengers don’t want so that they only have to pay for what they do. But as the airlines slashed fares and amenities to battle it out to win over consumers, we have ended up where we are now: without enough room to get out of an upright fetal position and with a credit card constantly in hand, expecting any request onboard to come with a price tag, and that’s across the spectrum from mainline to ultra-low-cost carriers. It’s bred a sense of entitlement in many people, who feel the need to fight for whatever they can get because it’s now a pay-to-play game, and flight attendants like me are left in the unenviable position of trying to stay out of viral cell phone videos while also trying to keep my employer pleased.
As a flight attendant, my coworkers would probably kill me for suggesting that we do more work, but deep down I feel like they’d agree – some of these free perks ought to continue make a return. Airlines ought to be more creative and competitive in such a joyless landscape. We all offer the same films, same shows and have varying degrees of wifi availability, so we have become less and less able to wow people anymore. Is it worth it to pay a small amount more for a ticket in order to add a bit more pleasantness to a flight? I think that in the end, it absolutely needs to happen. Our passengers are tense. We as crew, in turn, are even more tense. Unless you can afford to travel in first class every time, flying is simply and sadly just transportation. But injecting some unexpected niceties in the experience can go so far to bring back what is so sorely missed post-9/11.
Cheers to the enjoyment of the little things in life.