Trust me, I’ve had more wine on American Airlines than I care to admit. Little did I know that when I wrote about my awesome wine experience on a flight from Tokyo to LAX, that I would actually meet the man behind the wines.
Mission: Beverly Hills
The scene? A gorgeous restaurant in Beverly Hills called Il Cielo. I booked myself into the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, which happened to be right across the street. Having skipped lunch and after battling the 405, I figured a late afternoon appetizer and glass of wine wouldn’t hurt. I totally could have skipped the wine, because as you can see in the photo above we didn’t lack wine. There’s also nothing like a hotel decked out for Christmas to get you in a festive mood, wine aside.
I grabbed a coat and walked across the street to Il Cielo. We started the evening by sipping champagne while mingling in the bar area. At one point, not knowing what the rest of the evening had in store, I thought to myself, “This was worth the drive.” I met the social media team, other travel writers, American Airlines enthusiasts and would have eventually made the effort to introduce myself to Ken Chase, the American Airlines Wine Consultant. It a small group but buzzing with energy.
I also figured that a lecture-like announcement about the airline and its wine selection would be delivered at some point. Boy, was I wrong.
We were ushered into the restaurant area (the entire restaurant and bar were closed to the public due to this event) and I thanked my lucky stars for the posh accommodations across the street. Six full pours–three white wines and three red wines–were waiting on the table along with a platter of food to pair them with. I’d already enjoyed a fair amount of champagne. Have another look:
After receiving a warm welcome from the American Airlines social media team, Ken Chase was introduced. I’m not sure how to describe him–he has this rockstar aura about him, is funny as heck, knows how to explain wine to any level of connoisseur, and is that guy at a party you’d love to chat with. He’s certainly not your average wine guy.
How To Not Get Kicked Out Of A Bar
Instead of starting the evening with a Power Point-like presentation of what the airline is up to, Ken immediately told us we were all holding our glasses and drinking wine improperly. He told us the launched into his story of going to wine school in France, even switching to a faux-French accents when mimicking his instructor. He taught us how to hold a wine glass by the base, swish it around for aeration, and performed several hilarious re-enactments of us sloppily guzzling wine by holding the bowl of the glass.
Then, we had to get out of our seats and chant while rocking, “forward, backward, forward, backward,” shove the glass on our noses, inhale, tip the glass up and do that “wine slurp,” as I call it, in a manner that will not get you kicked out of the bar, but rather make you the guy or gal everyone wants to chat up. I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist. I tried to snap photos and take video, but it was hard while in motion.
To do the “wine slurp,” basically, you hold the wine in the front of your mouth, breathe in a little bit of air through your mouth, and exhale through your nose. It makes a funny bubbling noise and if you don’t do it properly, coughing ensues. The result is an explosion of flavor on your tongue that allows you to really sense if there’s oak, blackberry, vanilla or whatever in the wine. It’s awkward, but it works. We practiced it over and over again while tasting the six wines alone and with food. It sounds like this:
I hadn’t laughed that hard in the presence of strangers ever, probably.
What I Learned About American Airlines
I had a chance to chat with Ken after the presentation. There aren’t that many things I can say I’ve been consistently doing for decades, but flying American Airlines is one of them. I told him about my recent wine experience and my previous complaints about service. The new heavy-handed pours? His doing. In fact, the flight attendants are now being encouraged to make the flights a nice wine experience for passengers. On my last flight from Mexico City to Dallas, I was in first class, but I felt like the flight attendant had those wine bottles glued to her hands, constantly cruising the aisles with constant refills. I appreciate that, but also appreciate that the same level of service is tough to deliver in economy class. I can also vouch that it’s better there too, however.
I give the social media team a huge amount of credit. Have you seen their response time on Twitter? It’s fast, because there’s a team of people monitoring it. I recently made a huge gaffe on a reservation that they helped fix via Twitter Direct Message.
Honestly, I used to fly American Airlines out of necessity as we were so heavily reliant on Cathay Pacific, British Airways and other oneworld Alliance members. Now, it’s a pleasure.
Have You Heard About The New American?
I started to get into why I think this re-branding is brilliant but I’ll save it for another post. Truth, be told, I hate the logo at first, but it has since grown on me. More on this in a bit, but what do you think of the new American?
*Livery and graphic photo credits: American Airlines