Airlines offer lower-quality wine selections for economy class, regardless of a passenger’s desire or financial ability to buy more expensive business class wines. Our two-tiered flying system has needlessly produced a two-tiered wine system, and Jon Bonné of The San Francisco Chronicle has published a thoughtful column examining all the absurdities.
But all me to fortify his argument with an analogy. Let’s say you’re in the lounge at Thomas Keller’s Per Se. The waiter says you can’t order the full nine-course tasting menu in the lounge, and you fully understand that restriction, because the kitchen and the wait staff need to devote all their efforts to serving that menu to those in the formal dining room, who have committed in advance to paying $295 per person.
There’s only so much a three Michelin-starred restaurant can handle.
Not a problem. So you ask to see the formal wine list from the formal dining room; the waiter brings it over; and you have yourself a fine glass of Bollinger La Grande Annee for $65 (service included). That’s what would happen in real life at Per Se (and you can have a few small plates in the lounge too).
Now imagine if that waiter said: “Sorry, in Per Se’s lounge, you can only order Sutter Home Chardonnay and White Zinfandel, poured straight from the box”
The waiter goes on: “We want to ensure that the people in the formal dining room have a BETTER experience than those in the lounge, otherwise there’d be no incentive to pay more. We go about that task by guaranteeing those in the lounge have a less fulfilling oenophilic experience.”
Sounds kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it? And rest assured this situation is fictional — while you can’t order the full tasting menu at Per Se’s lounge, the full wine list is available to everyone, including walk-ins.
But such is the sad state of air travel. A two-tiered wine system helps promote the two-tiered class system, and airlines haven’t yet realized that happy economy class customers drinking good wine today are more likely to become happy business class customers paying lots of money tomorrow (well, if they’re going into finance, at least).
Instead, we now have unhappy economy class customers drinking lousy wine, complaining in prominent newspapers, on Twitter, and on this Tumblr account. That’s right kemosabe. Two-tiered wine systems are a BAD DEAL.