British Airways is Using Music to Improve Meals

Courtesy of Nick Morrish via British Airways
Courtesy of Nick Morrish via British Airways

British Airways has designed a specific playlist to listen to during in-flight meals on lengthy trips. The dish and song pairings for their “Sound Bite” soundtrack were orchestrated using scientific research form Oxford University. The airline believes the calculated music choices will improve the overall taste of the food.

Scientific research has found that when you dine at upwards of 30,000 feet, your ability to taste is reduced by 30%. To combat this issue, British Airways has harnessed findings from Professor Charles Spence of Oxford University, who is an expert in the field of Experimental Psychology. In a trend he calls “Sonic Seasoning,” Spence found that certain kinds of music can make food taste up to 10% sweeter or saltier.

Starting in November, travelers will be able to sample food and music from the airline’s carefully-curated 13-track playlist. The selections span the genres, and every pairing is backed by psychological reasoning listed right on the menu. 

For the appetizers, Paolo Nutini’s “Scream (Funk My Life Up)” is matched with a Scottish salmon starter because “Scottish musicians can enhance the providence of Scottish foods.” The options for savory starters are either “Crazy in Love” by Anthony and the Johnsons or “Azalea” by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. These songs were chosen based on the findings that “Low tones complement savory starters.”

If you are hungry for a full English breakfast on your early morning flight, you will be treated to “New Town Velocity” by Johnny Marr, because “British music should be paired with British food.” For the same reason, “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay is paired with that particular flight’s classic British main meal. So is “Somewhere Only We Know” by Lily Allen; not only because she is British, but because “Piano notes can enhance the sensation of sweet and bitter tastes. For a main meal/roast dinner, you can expect to hear “Clair De Lune” by Debussy, based on the previous observation about piano notes, as well as their feeling that “Classical music is suitable for meals like Sunday lunch.”

When dessert comes around, your choices include “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt and “Ray of Light” by Madonna, based on the theory that “High tones boost sweet flavors.” With after-dinner chocolates, the low tones in Otis Redding’s “The Dock of the Bay” will “bring out the bitterness in chocolate.”

British Airways also notes that “Rock music can enhance depth of flavor, making red wine appear more heavy.” Therefore, the red wine is paired with “Back on the Chain Gang” by the Pretenders. White wine, however, is apparently better suited with “Romance from the Gatfly, Op. 97” by Shostakovich. As the menu states, “Classical music can enhance the overall experience and perceptions of quality when paired with wine.” As you wind down with an after-dinner coffee, Plácido Domingo’s “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot will set the mood, because “Tenors’ low tones are suited to the bitterness of coffee.”