With cellars overflowing, American Airlines plans to sell wine to consumers

  • A selection of wines from American Airlines’ new Flagship Cellars program to sell and deliver wine directly to consumers. (Courtesy American Airilnes)

Can’t get enough of that first-class experience? American Airlines is trying to deliver it straight into homes, at least the alcoholic beverage part.

With an excess of Chardonnays, Merlots and Rieslings in stock, American Airlines said it is launching a wine delivery service called “Flagship Cellars” that will send wine from its curated selection of varieties to the homes of customers. It’s hoping to use the excess of wine it has stockpiled during the COVID-19 pandemic and connect with passengers that miss out on the tastes of flying.

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American and other airlines have cut down on alcohol service during the COVID-19 pandemic, first stopping the sales of any alcoholic beverages on board, then opening it up to premium classes and customers on longer flights. Recently, the company temporarily halted sales on flights in and out of Washington, D.C., due to rowdy customers following the violence at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month.

But those are all temporary measures. In the meantime, the airline hopes to make a few dollars and reach out to flying and wine enthusiasts.

“For wine lovers around the world, wine provides a deeper connection to the places they enjoy visiting,” said a statement Alison Taylor, American’s chief customer officer. “We created Flagship Cellars to provide more ways for customers to enjoy our Flagship wine even if they aren’t flying in one of our premium cabins.”

The wines, which are usually available on flights or in the carrier’s airport lounges, will be available through online wine retailer Vinesse.

American is selling three bottles of its wines, which the carrier describes as handpicked by its “award-winning master sommelier.” The collections are available for as little as $14 for a bottle or $300 for a case of a dozen bottles of champagne. It’s also pitching a subscription service starting at $100 a month.

The airline often curates its wines based on regions of the world, such as California wines while traveling to and from the West Coast. American also is selling a champagne collection.

American Airlines is only expecting about $40,000 to $50,000 in revenue in the first quarter from the venture, so it’s not necessarily about making money.

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“We worked with our wine management partners at Intervine to think about creative ways to offer the surplus to customers,” said American Airlines spokeswoman Leah Rubertino. “We felt that Flagship Cellars is not just a great way to generate revenue, but also introduce the Flagship experience to potential loyalty customers or stay connected to our customers, even if they are not traveling as frequently as they have in the past.”

American plans to keep the wine program even after the pandemic is over, she said.

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