The recent decision by Air NZ, our premier airline, to conclude an exclusive supply arrangement with Villa Maria wines for its Koru lounges, and in-flight economy and premium economy classes, rankles. The wine awards, for which they have held the naming rights for 28 years, known as the Air NZ Wine Awards, is considered the premier wine show in New Zealand. The awards were designed to showcase the diversity of New Zealand wines: having regard to varieties, regions, and producers. Prior to this latest announcement, Air NZ had already narrowed the playing field by restricting new submissions for wines for their in-flight Premier Business class service to only those wines entered in the latest Air NZ Wine Awards. This will effectively exclude a good number of smaller producers, who for their own reasons, choose not to enter the annual Air NZ Wine Awards.
This latest decision by Air NZ will no doubt be justified on ‘ commercial grounds ‘ – to the benefit of the airline. I see it as a classic example of a ‘sponsor’ calling all the shots. It is now totally inappropriate for Air NZ to continue to hold the naming rights for the awards – they should withdraw and a new sponsor secured in their place.