United Airlines has restored a separate wine menu in Polaris Business Class and will trial a number of new wines in the weeks ahead.
United Airlines Reintroduces Separate Wine Menu, Refreshes Selection, Plans For More Upgrades
One of the final elements missing between the current and pre-pandemic United Airlines service has been a separate wine menu on longhaul flights. That has returned on select flights and will soon be a staple on all routes.
I appreciate that not only are the wines listed, but pairing suggestions are made and descriptions of each wine are offered.
Beyond a printed menu, United is actively sourcing new wines with plans for a more robust menu (though no return of wine flights) and great diversity of selection. This month, three new wines on Polaris flights include:
- Justin Cabernet Sauvignon
- Alpha Estate Axia Syrah Xinomavro
- Whispering Angel Rosé
In a memo to flight attendants shared with Live and Let’s Fly, United explained its approach to wine onboard:
Our beverage team tries to make selections based on the unique challenges of wine in the air. At the same time, there’s some disagreement about precisely why it’s universally accepted that wines taste different at 30,000 feet. In general, cabin pressure and low humidity render many wines less aromatically intense than on the ground. It’s one reason we’ve always focused on top-rate Champagne selections; bubbles deliver flavor and aroma to the nose. Our sense of smell is primary when it comes to flavor; anyone who has ever had a cold knows this.
So, our choices have focused on flavor intensity. We pick wines that will deliver a lot of personality and character despite being slightly muted by the cabin conditions. We can’t be all things to all people, but we can try!
To curate wine onboard, United researches price, rating, and popularity, with a specific goal of having a geographic diversity of wines onboard from both domestic and international vineyards.
One of the key hallmarks of United Polaris, in its early days, was a marked increase in the quality of the wine. That was scaled back rather quickly in 2018 due to cost overruns. It turns out that when you offer passengers nice wine…they drink a lot of it. It is not clear how United will control costs if the wine selection continues to improve.
Next week, I will detail what I feel is an even more important initiative that goes beyond the wine itself to educating flight attendants on the wine and how to present it to passengers onboard.
You can now flip over your Polaris Business Class menu and review the wines on offer on your flight. This was an important element missing for three years that has returned on select routes and will eventually be offered on all routes. Even as controlling costs remains a central concern, United’s beverage team is looking for more sources of onboard wine in an earnest attempt to offer more choice and higher quality.