Michelle Bernstein in one of the more than 70 Delta kitchens worldwide. Photo courtesy of Delta.
Plane passengers actually lose 30 percent of their palate at 30,000 feet, so it's no wonder airline food has always gotten a bad rap for being bland. This culinary stigma is changing though thanks to Delta Air Lines, which has brought together James Beard award-winning foodies to serve bold flavors on its BusinessElite flights. Napa-based Food Network star Michael Chiarello just signed on to prepare quarterly seasonal menus for the JFK to LAX and SFO routes; Miami-based chef Michelle Bernstein handles the international BusinessElite flights (such as New York to London or Rome); and master sommelier Andrea Robinson, one of 17 female master sommeliers in the United States, tastes 900 wines on the ground annually and brings her top contenders into the air to make sure the vino taste as good at altitude as it does on the ground. (The sommelier's job is not to be undervalued: Delta serves a staggering 1.5 million bottles of wine in-flight per year. That's in comparison to the 120 million peanuts, 60 million pretzels and 3 million BusinessElite meals served annually.) To top it off, Delta just debuted a modern set of plates, linens and glassware. The effect? An airline meal worth writing home about.
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The waiting room. Photo courtesy of HBI.
In London, there are two kinds of travelers: those who arrive at Heathrow an hour early to shop, and those who zip straight to the gate. For the latter group, airport travel just got a lot more luxe. For the first time, the international hub will offer Heathrow By Invitation, a service formerly exclusive to kings, queens and heads of state. For a single fee, individuals or groups of up to six may get from ground to air without ever seeing another passenger, much less the paparazzi. Guests arrive at a private entrance and are escorted to a VIP lounge, where they can sit back in Eames chairs and sip refreshments. The typical airport rigmarole—check-in, luggage drop-off and security clearance—takes place in private. When it's time for takeoff, a limousine will drive the group to the aircraft for direct boarding. Upon arrival, VIP passengers will receive their luggage directly and may arrange onward travel by helicopter or limousine. It is, quite literally, the royal treatment. $2,370 plus tax per one-way journey for up to six passengers; heathrowbyinvitation.com.