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You can check in a case of wine for free with this airline

In a major coup for wine tourism, one US airline is allowing its passengers departing from Sonoma, California to check in a case of wine free of charge.

A low-cost airline in the United States will begin trialling its “Wine Travels Free” programme this weekend.

From Saturday 25 May, passengers flying from Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (STS) with Avela Airlines can check a case of wine into the hold completely free of charge.

“We know that visiting vineyards and sampling Northern California’s world-famous wines is one of the most appealing reasons for visiting the Sonoma County region,” said Avelo’s CEO and founder Andrew Levy.

“It is our hope that Avelo’s new Wine Travels Free programme will make our customers’ trips to California Wine Country that much more enjoyable and memorable.”

Cases may contain up to 12 bottles of wine, and must be packed in a protective case. Passengers must be over 21 years old to partake of the offer.

Sonoma County is the closest airport to more than 400 vineyards, with producers including Buena Vista Winery, Ledson Winery & Vineyards, Fort Ross Vineyard & Tasting Room, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and Matanzas Creek all calling Sonoma home.

Last August, Duckhorn added luxury Chardonnay producer Sonoma-Cutrer to its premium portfolio, acquiring the wine estate from Brown-Forman in a deal worth US$400 million.

Meanwhile, in April 2024 db reported that a California winemaker had managed to buy back the two Sonoma wineries he listed publicly in 2013, with Truett Hurst and VML now back in the hands of its original owner.

Avela itself is a relatively new airline, having launched just three years ago. It has already flown 4.6 million passengers from destinations such as Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Portland and Boise.

New flights from Washington DC will start from July this year. If the Wine Travels Free Programme proves successful in Sonoma, there is a possibility it could be extended to airports in other US regions, including Washington, to help travellers take advantage of wines from all over America. Read our detailed report on the latest Washington wine trends here.

The new wine programme is likely to prove useful to travellers while international airports continue to wind down the 100ml liquid limitation rule in hand luggage. The restriction is in the process of being lifted worldwide, however has suffered from setbacks due to the weight of the new scanning machinery that must be installed to instigate the change. Several UK airports have revealed the scrapping of the rule will take at least another year as they are having to reinforce airport floors to withstand the weight of the new scanners.

Airlines are increasingly carving out USPs through their drinks offering, such as French airline La Compagnie launching an organic-only wine list this year.

Additionally, Alaska Airlines has brewed its own beer, available to buy only on its flights and in its lounges, and made to stand the taste test “at 30,000 feet in the air”.

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