What ranges from 1-7/8 inches to more than 4 inches, is round, and used by airlines worldwide? The answer is simple: butter pats. Depending upon the manufacturer, they have different names: Butter, Butter Chip, Butter Dish-Coaster, Butter Pad, Butter Pot, Butter Tray, and Individual Butter. No matter what the name, they’re ALL butter pats.
However, butter pats can and are used for more than serving butter. They are also used for serving nuts or sauces in first and business classes on international flights. For this reason, some have a side wall that measures from 3/8” to 3/4” deep.
While some butter pats have only a front design, others are marked (back-stamped) with the manufacturer and airline name. While other forms of transportation have used butter pats, the airline variety is usually much lighter in weight and commonly made of bone china or fine porcelain.
A collector may ask, why does an airline bother to order butter pats from china companies? A butter pat adds a special touch to the meal service. For some airlines, particularly carriers that use a combination butter or nut dish, this ware permits multiple uses that provide cost savings.
Basically, there are three companies that supply butter pats to most of the world’s airlines. They are Royal Doulton and Wedgwood of England, and Noritake of Japan.
While it is not an absolute division of the market, it seems Royal Doulton has carved out its territory in Europe, Canada, the Middle East, some of the African continent, and New Zealand. Wedgwood caters to some of the smaller airlines of the world while Noritake has a foothold along the Pacific Rim, in South America, and in the United States.
Royal Doulton often features pinstripes and logos although it certainly has the capability of producing some very unique designs. Noritake often incorporates colorful floral designs which appeal to some of the Asian airlines. All three companies produce high-quality, fine bone china. Another strong contender for the airline china market is Hutschenreuther of Germany.
While COVID has altered airline travel and in-flight service, china is still being used.