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Canadian Man Sues Airline for not Serving Champagne

By Leeann Froese


A lack of knowledge in the wine world has landed Sunwing Airlines into some trouble. As reported in dozens of news outlets, and also in the Drinks Business, the airline is being sued by a man from Quebec who was served sparkling wine instead of champagne, which was promised in the promotional materials for the flight, that listed 'Champagne Service'.

At the time of this news share this lawsuit was not certified yet, so it'll be interesting to see where this goes. Aside from the litigious nature of this action that is creating a big reaction in the wine world and also all over the web, it made me think.

The heart of this issue is mainly about truthful advertising, but the use of the word Champagne in the airline’s marketing materials also could just be a copy writer’s mistake.

Anyone educated in wine knows that only wines produced in the Champagne region in France can be called Champagne just like only fortified wines made in Portugal can be called Port, and there are other examples that go on, including the capitalization and one-word writing of Icewine here in Canada. (As a marketing agency with a specialization in packaging & marketing wine, we know these things and would never let something like that get to print or into promotional materials.)

The word Champagne has become generic over time for any bubbly wine, just like Band-Aid for bandages or Kleenex for facial tissues, but what we need to remember is that these are all registered names for brands.

But how would a marketing person outside the wine industry know about the legality of Champagne? I guess the lesson here is if you're going to be talking about wine in relationship to your business, make sure that you know what wording to use.

This is creating a reputation hit to Sunwing, who now must defend itself in controversy, instead of promoting holiday vacation packages. Never fun for a PR team.

After the lawsuit was filed, Sunwing's website has been updated and now states that the passengers instead of 'Champagne service' will receive 'a welcome glass of sparkling wine'.