Man sues airline over 'champagne' that was sparkling wine

Emma Woollacott

A Canadian man is suing an airline for serving sparkling wine rather than champagne on a flight to Cuba.

Daniel Macduff booked a holiday flying from Quebec to the Cuban island resort of Cayo Coco with Sunwing Airlines, which promised 'champagne service' on board.

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What arrived, though, was a glass of sparkling wine - and that was only on the flight out.

The case isn't really about the particular type of bubbly, Sebastien Paquette, Macduff's lawyer, tells Canada's National Post.

"You have to go beyond the pettiness of the (wine cost) per head," he says. "What's important is you're trying to lure consumers by marketing something, and you're not giving them that something... It's a dishonest practice."

About 1,600 other Sunwing passengers have come forward to join in a class action case. They are after the difference in price between sparkling wine and true champagne - a couple of quid per glass - as well as punitive damages.

Sunwing is trying to argue that 'champagne service' merely means excellent service, and doesn't mean passengers will actually get any. And its website does indeed promise only a 'welcome glass of sparkling wine'.

"Sunwing has always been proud to invest in experience-enhancing features for our customers," it says in a statement.

"We consider any legal action relating to the marketing of this service to be frivolous and without merit."

It has since dropped the 'champagne service' claim from its advertising.

However, Macduff, a retired civil servant, still believes he was misled, and that the 'couple of ounces' of cheap bubbly in a plastic glass didn't match up to what was advertised.

Legally, a bottle of sparkling wine can only be labelled 'champagne', if it has been made in the Champagne region of France and produced using the 'méthode champenoise'. If the wine is produced anywhere else, even with the same method, it must be given a different name.

Over the years, the champagne industry has fought hard to defend its brand, launching lawsuits of its own to stop other wine makers using the term.