No, I’m not talking about these amazing new 2013 stats from the Brewers Association (seen below). I’m talking about craft beer on airplanes.
That’s right. According to the USA Today, Southwest Airlines began selling cans of New Belgium Brewing’s Fat Tire on over 700 planes earlier this year. JetBlue started offering cans of Sam Adams over the summer, Alaska Airlines and their sister carrier, Horizon Air, offer craft beer from the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii, and last month, regional carrier, Sun Country, partnered with Minneapolis’ Surly Brewing Co. to sell craft beer on their planes.
This isn’t an entirely new thing. Some Delta shuttle flights have offered bottled Sam Adams for over 20 years, and Virgin America has been offering a selection from 21st Amendment Brewery for a few fears, but that was really it. Now, all of the airlines seem to be jumping on board.
So, what’s the reason for all of this? Well, a lot of it has to do with that infographic pictured at the top of this blog post. There’s more craft breweries, more craft beer, and more craft beer drinkers than ever before. And if people are drinking it on the ground, chances are, they’d like to drink it in the air as well.
In fact, airline customers have apparently been asking for it, according to Sonya Lacore, the senior director of base operations for Southwest Airlines. “We’re running out of Fat Tire right now. It’s clear that they are really going all out for it,” she told Michael Felberbaum from the Associated Press.
The general acceptance of canned craft beer has also helped the cause. For years, canned craft beer was seen as taboo by many drinkers. Of course, this perception has changed, and it’s great news for the airlines, as cans are lighter and easier to store on drink carts.
I personally don’t go for beer when I’m flying. I usually ask for a neat whiskey, or maybe a vodka with a splash of cranberry. But I do that for two reasons: first, I’m deathly afraid of flying, so I’m trying to tie on a buzz as quickly as I possibly can, but also, they don’t typically have a beer selection that I’m interested in.
I’m not alone in that. According to the USA Today article, “Passengers aboard six North American airlines spent more than $11.3 million on beer during a five-month period last year, according to GuestLogix, which processes about 90 percent of onboard credit card transactions for North American carriers. By comparison, liquor sales neared $38 million and wine sales topped $14 million during that same period.”
Price may play a large role in those stats, however. On Southwest, where all of the alcohol is priced equally, beer sales are neck-and-neck with liquor and wine.
Either way, it’s encouraging to see airlines making a concerted effort to cater to popular tastes. Jim Koch, co-founder of Boston Beer Co. said it best: “This is one more step for craft beer becoming a more widely accepted experience for people.”