Imagine a flight where flight attendants impeccably describe the wine list onboard, knowing how to pronounce each choice, the origin, ingredients, and what to pair it with. Gulf carrier, right? Or maybe an East Asian carrier? How about United Airlines under a new initiative that has the potential to genuinely elevate service onboard to a level I have not seen in my 20 years of flying United.
Tangible Proof United Airlines Is Serious About Improving Service Levels Onboard
Many of us who frequently fly on United Airlines in a premium cabin are used to apathy when it comes to inquiring about wines. What wines do you have today? “Oh, a red one and white one.” Of course some extraordinary flight attendants already take it upon themselves to check the wine prior to pushback and be ready to describe what is on offer.
But far too many flight attendants apathetically have no idea what wine is onboard when offering a beverage service. So many times a specific question has been asked like, “What red wines do you have today?” and flight attendants shrug and says they will be right back…because they have to check. Isn’t that something you do before you start the beverage service?
Frankly, United has not made this easy over the last several years, even before the pandemic. Frequent flyers will recall that the wine list on the printed business class menu rarely matched what was actually stocked onboard.
But all of this appears to be changing. Last week, we wrote about the return of the wine list and a new selection of respectable wines onboard. Not stopping there, United has created new “wine tips” sheet that it now boards with meal preparation instructions and ingredient lists.
These wine guides include:
- Tasting notes
For example, let’s look at the Alpha Estate Axia Syrah Xinomavro, now available on Polaris flights departing the United Sates:
- Pronounciation: Xinomavro (pronounced Ksee- NOH-mav-roe)
- Body: Medium to full-bodied red
- Vintage: 2019
- Region: Florina, Macedonia, Greece
- Tasting Notes: Medium to full-bodied red, with splendid, purple red color. Complex bouquet of spices (vanilla, pepper, clove), with hints of ripe blackberry. Finish is long and velvety with soft tannins.
- Varietal: Syrah 50%, Xinomavro 50%
Think how helpful it would be in deciding which wine to pair with your meal with if the flight attendants could describe each offering with that level of detail.
Of course there will be some that refuse. But I give most United flight attendants credit for trying their best with the resources they have. This sort of guide, to my knowledge, has never been offered in the recent past.
There’s lipstick on a pig and then there is the sort of change that can actually re-orient service in a positive and meaningful direction. I find this initiative is one of those pushes for better service that will be noticed and well-received by premium cabin passengers onboard.
I’m very excited to write this story because it represents the first time in all my years of writing for Live And Let’s Fly, which tends to focus a lot on United since I fly so often on United, that flight attendants have been offered a meaningful document to help them tangibly offer more polished, professional, and personal service onboard.
Over and over I’ve lamented that United can do the big things so well (great network, new aircraft, comfortable seat, superb bedding, great IFE and Wi-Fi) but often stumbles over the little things like offering passengers a warm greeting or giving them a moment to settle on longhaul flights before a flight attendant appears demanding a meal choice.
This is a very real effort at bringing flight attendants up to a higher level of service, which will build loyalty and frankly should make the whole flight experience not just better for passengers, but better for flight attendants. Happy passengers require less work!
In the weeks ahead, let’s see if we see any improvement in describing wines beyond “the red one and white one.”
image: United Airlines (circa 1970)