Looking to have a drink or five while flying to your destination? These airlines are your best bet.
One of the only ways to cope with the purgatorial reality of sitting in a crowded, pressurized tube being hurled through the sky with all the force of humanity’s hubris is to get so loaded that you don’t think about the insanity of this undertaking. But drinking on airplanes can be a difficult act to manage, especially if you’re flying coach – if you’re flying first-class, of course, the flight attendants are equipped Super Soakers filled with scotch and they’re all crack sharpshooters. Here are the best airlines to fly if you want to have a drink or five, but please try your best not to wind up in the news.
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You think France, you think “fancy booze” right after “ennui, unfiltered cigarettes, and desserts that are cooler than me.” If you fly Air France on long-haul flights, not only can you get a complimentary cocktail without even having to sob and beg for it, but honest-to-God French champagne and other wines curated by renowned sommelier Paolo Basso. There are even studies on why wine tastes better at 30,000 feet, and there’s no better place to test out this theory than on an Air France flight.
If you’re like me, you’ve often thought to yourself “It’s past noon and I haven’t had any tequila, so I’m legally required to renew my church membership.” Aeroméxico has you covered, though – aside from the usual selections of wine and beer, passengers can sip Maestro Tequilero Tequila, which Aeroméxico makes available for flyers after 11 p.m. Maestro Tequilero won the Silver Medal at the 2008 Agave Spirits Challenge, and it’s absolutely divine when sipped slowly neat or on the rocks.
At $8 a pop, Hawaiian’s pre-bottled cocktails don’t come complimentary in economy class (it’s free in first- and business-class, though, because God knows you need a Mai Tai to cope with the horror of having too much legroom), but they’re well worth the price of admission. The carrier teamed up with drinkmaker On The Rocks to produce three premade cocktails – Li Hing Vodka Gimlet, Lychee Vodka Martini, and Mai Tai – that are absolutely delicious, especially when combined with Hawaiian’s excellent in-flight menu. To boot, they even offer a non-bottled Koloa Rum Mai Tai from Kaua’i to flyers over 21.
First of all, if you’re flying Emirates, congratulations on living the kind of jet-setting life that I imagine wildly successful DJs get to live, and secondly, welcome to one of the best booze experiences you’ll ever have while crammed into a flying metal can. If you’re in economy class on an Emirates flight, you get free booze (including beer, spirits, and wine), and if you’re in business and first class, you get access to a full bar staffed by a bartender, in a real airplane. There’s an actual lounge in an actual airplane. Not to sound like an absolute cornpone rube, but I feel like you’re obligated to announce “I AM THE GOLDEN GOD OF THE SKY” upon being made a cocktail in an airplane lounge.
Virgin is a company that tries very hard to look counterculture and mostly ends up looking like your dad with a new pair of leather pants, and all seating classes aboard Virgin Atlantic get enough complimentary booze to get slightly tipsy on international flights. If you’re flying first- and business-class, you and your presumably leather pants can pre-game at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at the airport before you even get on the purple-lighted flight.
It might not be as instantly recognizable as Emirates when it comes to ridiculously opulent lounge access, but Qatar Airways is neither chopped nor liver when it comes to fancy drinking on an airplane. You’ll still get your free alcoholic beverage if you’re flying in coach, but if you shell out for one of the upper classes, you’ll get to hang out in a lavishly appointed in-flight lounge that comes fully furnished with cocktails and even Krug Champagne.
Listen to me: I fly Southwest because I’m broke and I usually smuggle my own booze aboard flights, but I don’t actually need to – Southwest has a really good selection of in-flight drinks that don’t cost a lot of money. You won’t spend more than seven bucks on a drink, and they’ve got some lovely, simple cocktails like Mimosas and Rum & Coke made with name-brand liquors. And on Halloween, canonically the best holiday of the year, they give out free cocktails. They also come with those tiny plastic cocktail swords, which, I gotta tell you, is very important to me.
If you have a connecting flight in Canada during a long-haul international flight, you’re in luck – Air Canada’s got you covered with complimentary cocktails. An important thing to keep in mind is that you’re probably not likely to be showered with infinite booze by flight staff – if you’re looking to get warm and fuzzy on a long trek, you might have to go to the galley once or twice and ask very politely and Canadianly for more.
Japan Airlines has an outstanding collection of wines and sakes, and beginning in August of 2018, you’ll be able to get curated wines that resulted from a collaboration between Kenichi Ohashi (Master of Wine) and wine-taster Motohiro Okoshi, fittingly titled Double “O”. Until then, you can settle in on long flights with Yvon Mau’s red and white wines, and if you’re in the mood for something you might not have tried before, you can order some ume-shu, a sweet Japanese plum wine.
The embattled airline is good for a few things: high-profile public relations nightmares, profuse apologies for public relations nightmares, and free beer and wine if you’re flying coach on trans-Atlantic flights. Their beer selection varies from flight to flight, but if you’re flying domestically, you’re likely to get a good selection of IPAs and ales, and also Stella Artois, which I’m reliably informed is like the Pabst Blue Ribbon of Europe.