wine sales

With alcohol banned on many flights to help thwart the spread of COVID-19, this is adding up to a lot of surplus booze. Image: Adobe Stock

Industry in crisis: US airline resorts to selling off wine to generate income

While South Africa is dealing with an alcohol ban, American Airlines has launched an online catalogue to sell off its excess wine.

wine sales

With alcohol banned on many flights to help thwart the spread of COVID-19, this is adding up to a lot of surplus booze. Image: Adobe Stock

Many airlines have stopped serving alcohol to reduce interaction between cabin crew and passengers, thus mitigating the spread of COVID-19 through human contact. This has resulted in alcohol stocks piling up at some airlines.

American Airlines has begun selling off some of its wine stock to bring in much-needed income during an extremely challenging time for the aviation sector.


The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in border closures, flight and travel bans which have heavily affected aviation and tourism. These sectors have lost vast sums of money as a result.

Most airlines are burning through their reserves, while others are going bankrupt or entering business rescue processes. There is a desperate need for airline companies to generate income during this turbulent period.


Qantas’s 2020 ‘flights to nowhere’ took in several Australian landmarks. Image: Adobe Stock

Many airlines have become creative and are using their resources to generate additional income streams besides flying passengers from A to B.  

Airlines like Qantas and All Nippon Airlines operated hugely popular flights to nowhere in 2020 when borders were closed. Thai Airways operated a restaurant serving inflight meals to patrons at its Bangkok offices.

Singapore Airlines opened up one of its Airbus A 380 aircraft at Changi Airport in 2020, offering patrons on-board dining experiences in the various cabins on the aircraft.


American Airlines is launching a wine sales service in an effort to generate income during these trying times. The airline launched a programme called American Airlines Flagship Cellars, where it will sell excess wine from its “grounded” stocks.

The carrier will sell wine which would ordinarily be served to passengers who travel on Flagship tickets. Flagship tickets are the airline’s premium classes on its international and transcontinental flights.


American Airlines Flagship Cellars is an online wine sales service which will deliver wines to customers’ homes. There is a range of wines in the collection, ranging from $13 (R197) to $40 (R608) a bottle. The most expensive option is Champagne at $300 (R4,567) for three bottles of bubbly.

Customers can buy wine by the bottle or by the case. They can also curate their own customised case by selecting their preferred bottles. There is also the option of taking out a monthly subscription at $99 (R1,507) a month. This entitles customers to three bottles of premium wine a month as well as access to discounts.


American Airlines does not only intend to generate revenue through the sales of its premium wines. More importantly, it is using the initiative to maintain relations with its customers at a time when many will not be taking any of the airline’s flights.

“Though revenue is important, Flagship Cellars is a way of engaging with customers, even when they are not travelling with us. It also gives them a taste of what you can enjoy in Flagship First or Flagship Business,” a spokesperson for the airline told CNN.