An airline sommelier is a wine professional that works either onboard the aircraft in first class or in the airline’s own VIP lounge at the airport. They are specialists in wine and wine service and are considered the ’in house’ expert on the best wines and food pairings in accordance with the airlines first class/VIP service.
1. Research the Profession of an Airline Sommelier
The main duties are:
- To provide high standards of wine service
- To offer advice to the guest on appreciation and pairing
- To enhance the guests first class or VIP experience
- To describe aromas and tastes
- To suggest complementary drinks
- To understand how flight effects the taste of wine and food
- To understand the effect of alcohol on a person at altitude
- To understand the correct storage of wine
- To know about trends in the food and wine world
- To co-ordinate with the Private Chef or Food and Beverage Manager/Executive Chef as appropriate
- To act as a Cabin Crew member in the event of any emergency (if aircraft based)
Some tasks that you will be required to do are:
- Attend a pre-flight or pre-shift briefing
- Check emergency equipment onboard the aircraft (if aircraft based)
- To provide an inventory and re-order wines/spirits
- Decant red wines as appropriate
- Have knowledge of types and regions of wine
- Have knowledge of alcoholic drinks
- To complete bar paperwork for customs
- To complete sommelier training
- To complete airline Cabin Crew training (if aircraft based)
- To meet the airlines policies, rules and regulations as well as those of the aviation authorities
Hours, Salary and Benefits:
As an airline sommelier you will work shifts of between 7 and 14 hours a day including weekends and holidays. Hours are split up over a month, so that you would average 1 or 2 days off per week although maybe not at the same time.
Salary is variable each month, if you are aircraft based it depends on the hours flown and destinations and is made up of basic salary, flight pay, allowances and commission - it is roughly $1400 – 1600 per month. But, if you are VIP lounge based you will earn a basic salary plus commission and overtime - this is approximately $1000 – 1200 per month.
Other benefits may include health and life insurance, uniform and laundry expenses as well as discounted travel after a qualifying period. In the Middle East, the salary is usually tax free and accommodation and transport are also provided.
2. Meet the Basic Requirements and Qualifications
You must have a high school education with a minimum of grade C in English and Maths. Customer service experience and/or hospitality experience of at least 2 years is essential and language skills are a bonus. You may already be a certified sommelier or you might be trained in-house and take the sommelier exam as part of first class training for Cabin Crew, depending on the airline and your experience. You can train at a culinary school or a specialist such as the Wines and Spirits Education Trust, and The Cape Wine Academy.
If you are planning on becoming a sommelier you need to be able to pass a medical examination, have good hearing and vision, be over 21 and be prepared to take on the role of Cabin Crew if based on aircrafts. You will be required to pass a reach test of 210-212 cm (to reach safety equipment onboard the aircraft) and be able to swim 25metres unaided. Visible tattoos are not acceptable and background and reference checks will also be necessary.
Good qualities you should have are:
- Energy and ambition
- Excellent team work and customer service skills
- Cultural awareness and flexibility
- Strong product knowledge
How to Apply
All applications should be made directly to the airline’s own career websites. Here you will find listed their requirements and details of the job itself. Sometimes, you can apply for an open day or assessment day as part of the application process.
3. Investigate Future Career Opportunities
There is an increasing demand for airline sommeliers along with Private Chefs as the demand for the premium flying experience continues in direct competition with the private jet sector. Once certified, you can apply to become a ground based Master Sommelier in a hotel or restaurant or become part of the airlines management and choose the wines that are selected each season.
You can also side step into a role as Cabin Crew /Purser or Onboard Food and Beverage Manager or become a Lounge Manager on the ground. A VIP Flight Attendant position on private jets is another possibility, along with working as a Yacht Steward/Stewardess on a privately owned yacht.
If you are a wine professional and love servicing people, then this could be an ideal career choice for you.