In-Flight Tableware Is About to Get a Chic Designer Upgrade

Delta and Alessi partner on new serviceware for the airline's premium cabins.

Dedicated Delta customers who fly the airline's premium cabins will be getting a dining upgrade beginning this April. The carrier has teamed up with the luxury Italian homewares company to create 86 new in-flight tableware items which will debut next month in the Delta One, first class, and premium select cabins. 

Inspired by six of Alessi's legendary designers, the serviceware will include everything from barware to teapots, quirky silverware and the brand's signature oblong plates and bowls.

"The Alessi for Delta collection is part of our continued investment in delivering a world class, global culinary experience that will elevate our customer inflight dining to new heights," Delta SVP of in-flight service Allison Ausband said in a statement. "At Delta we know that every aspect and detail of the travel experience matters, and partnering with Alessi allows us to bring an uncompromising level of elegance and service to the onboard experience."

An added touch of designer flair at 35,000 feet is, for sure, a good thing. And Delta's dining program might see an unexpected boost from the project, as well. Scientific studies have shown that the perception of taste—and diners' enjoyment of food—is influenced by much more than the actual flavor of what's on the plate. 

"Research has demonstrated that factors external to the food source can influence consumers' perceptions of food," according to a 2013 study that appeared in the peer-reviewed open-access Flavour Journal. "Contextual factors including cutlery or tableware, the atmosphere, and packaging have all been shown to influence the perceptual experience."

One study, conducted by Dr. Peter Stewart at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, and his research partner Erica Goss, found that the correlation between certain colors, shapes, and flavors could be quite specific.

For example, "Sweetness and intensity ratings were increased by white round plates but so were ratings of quality and liking," Stewart told the BBC. "The familiar look of the white round plate may have led to higher ratings, but it is also possible that the ratings were influenced by our learned associations."

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