Drink on planes
The best kind of beer
Feb 19th 2014, 15:45
by N.B. | Washington, D.C.
WHO said the golden age of air travel was dead?
Horizon Air, a regional sister airline to Alaska Airlines, serves the best kind of beer on its flights: free.
The carrier offers complimentary microbrews and wines on most of its flights, and recently announced that it would expand the programme to cover new routes between Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska.
There are logical business reasons for Horizon to serve free booze. For one, since it is a rare amenity on short-haul flights, it attracts press attention, which is "earned media", or free advertising to you and me.
People who hadn't heard about Horizon before reading today's post now have. Better still, they associate it with free drinks.
Moreover, partnering with local breweries and businesses in America's Pacific northwest helps build goodwill and identify the carrier as a "local" company with close ties to the communities it serves—an especially valuable asset for a regional airline.
And, local brewers are likely to cut Horizon a break on pricing in exchange for the opportunity to build a broader audience for their products.
People who might never try Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling's Old 55 Pale Ale in a bar may slaver at the chance to taste it for free on a plane. (Brewers should, however, take note that our taste buds work differently at high altitudes, causing food and drink to taste worse than it does on the ground.)
Those are all good business reasons to serve free drinks.
But airlines in general benefit from serving free alcohol in part because it is a depressant that, in reasonable amounts, combines with cabin air to sedate passengers.
That is one reason why free alcohol is especially common on long international flights—it makes them more likely to fall asleep.
The trick, of course, is not to overserve, since too much booze can make people rowdy or disruptive. That is why good flight attendants always pay attention to how much passengers have drunk. (You should pay attention too. A hangover on a plane is bad enough; being a business traveller who is banned from the friendly skies for being disruptive is unthinkable.)
If you absolutely must find an airline that, like Horizon, offers free drinks on short-haul flights, the folks at MapHappy put together a list a few years back.