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.
Nice move United – upping the quality of the whites/reds can also take some pressure off the champagne usage and budget.
These are the kind of wine names and quality you expect in a premium cabin.
Now please give customers the option of having their main course served after the salad / appetizer and be more proactive with drink refills during the meal service.
The onboard meal is really important, even with the Polaris lounges. It’s rare I can get a table for sit down dining in the lounge with time to spare for the flight.
So agree with you on proactive refills during meal service or any other time on the flight. Very happy they’re adding drinkable wine to the menu.
As much as I love this, as a flight attendant flying internationally, this is so hard. We have been cut to minimum levels of staffing on these aircraft and during the meal service it’s constant running back and forth. It’s two of us serving a cabin of 20-24 – preparing trays, plating entrées, delivering, refilling drinks, cleaning up, getting ready for dessert. And usually before you’re even close to finishing your set of passengers, the first row is looking at you to take the trays away. I wish I could constantly keep the glass full during the service, but it is a constant rush through the cabin. I gladly fill it when I deliver the meal or when I clean up your tray, but it’s so hard to check on trays as I deliver.
Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to let business class sample the wines at the lounge and deliver to the plane what gets the most votes? Taste perception changes with each individual,food pairings,noise level,glassware design,decanting enhances bouquet and dehydration level in the cabin.
Odds that flights will be catered with all the wines on printed menu = 0%
UA-NYC – Just flew Polaris NRT-DEN.
Every wine and beverage listed was served in the cabin.
The food is noticeably higher quality and much larger portions.
Japanese meal is back.
The ice cream cart with six topping plus cheese plates and a third dessert were
on offer. They also had sandwiches and soup mid flight, and a pre landing service.
Flight Attendants were excellent. Some one higher up got the complaints about the
catering apparently… I had no complaints.
Smart! I know which airline I will book my next trip at!
What does it matter when better red wine is served at 75 degrees?
I agree that temperature can be a problem (though I find the red wine usually far too cold rather than too hot), but stay tuned for my update on Monday concerning that.
I can work with far too cold
Red wine should be served at 54 F
Drunk people are the worst. Keep the wine and upgrade the seats.
Is a good aidea, more choice to have.
Tank you to take care of us
“One of the final elements missing between the current and pre-pandemic United Airlines service has been a separate wine menu on longhaul flights.”
So the appetizers and salads in Polaris are now finally 2 separate items again?
I think that’s a fairly respectable international biz class wine list; it doesn’t excite me, but also doesn’t make me cringe. They are actually wines that people know about and are at least $20/bottle. They are also wines from respectable new and old world wine regions and are grapes grown and best suited for the region. Bravo United. Now they just have to make sure that the wine list aligns with what is actually catered, and that enough bottles are actually available.
I would say I know enough about wine to have a good discussion with anyone that knows something about it. I think the selection chose by United is decent. I usually drink Justin Cabernet at a restaurant since I know what I am getting it. I never tried the French or Greek reds but both don’t get great ratings on Vivino. Now, I am not snobbish about only drinking expensive wines but when you pay over $7k for a business class ticket, you expect something a bit more refined. The CA and Greek wines can be found for $19 and the French for $24 at Total Wine. Nothing to cringe about as you said.
This post title will, sadly, never appear with the words “Delta” in it!
I am very excited about this, and on my outbound and return to EU this week, all wines were loaded as printed, and the FAs actually did a great job describing them. My meal today from LHR was actually very tasty, and the service was stellar – refills, proactivity. Very encouraging.
These wines are at a good price point, and they are actually higher quality and price point than anything LH is offering in First this month, with the exception of the champagne selection.
It would be really nice if United offered non-alcoholic beers and wines on their flights so that people can enjoy the taste and social aspects of having a cocktail while they are traveling.