Airlines have found a way to take the edge off the stress of flying and make a few extra bucks along the way: fancy new cocktails, craft beers and elegant wines.
The drinks advertised in the back of in-flight magazines — or on sleek seatback touchscreens — are starting to resemble those at the hottest nightclubs.
• Virgin America offers “Grandma’s Coffee,” an iced cappuccino with Jack Daniels whiskey for $9. Its beer selection includes San Francisco-based 21st Amendment and Black Star from Whitefish, Mont. Both cost $7. A Bud Light is $6.
• US Airways has partnered with mixer company Stirrings to sell mojitos and cosmos for $8 each.
• Delta offers the “Sky Breeze,” which is vodka, Fresca and a splash of cranberry-apple juice over ice for $7. It also sells small batch bourbon from Woodford Reserve for $7.
Other airlines create drinks to get travelers into the mindset of their destination. United sells a “Trader Vic’s Mai Tai” for $9 on flights to and from Hawaii.
“It’s simply a matter of finding a way to get people to spend money,” says Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst with Hudson Crossing. “They see people spending $12, $14, $15 or more for fancy martinis, cosmopolitans or other beverages on the ground.”
Flying isn’t what it used to be. Long lines, ever-changing security rules and limited overhead bin space have all made traveling much more stressful. It’s no wonder many passengers look for a little escape.
Airlines — which created much of this anxiety — are happy to oblige.
“We wanted to do stuff to surprise people, be a little more different and have fun,” says Megan Mosier Ireland, who helps design Delta’s drink offerings.
Want to buy a drink for that lovely lady across the aisle? Virgin America will soon launch “send a drink.” . Passengers can use the plane’s seatback entertainment system to order for their neighbors.
The specialty drinks are part of a larger push to get passengers to pay for a little in-flight luxury. Fliers can now pay for more legroom, Internet access or even shorter security lines. Those perks and others — along with baggage fees — now account for nearly 7 percent of U.S. airlines’ revenue. That’s up from just 2 percent five years ago.