Why Does Your Food Taste ‘Different’ on Flights?

Have you ever wondered whether the white pasta you had on your flight tasted different from the one you had yesterday in your favorite restaurant? Or perhaps the soup tasted different when in flight? It should come as no surprise that the food you eat while sitting in the comfort of your home or at a restaurant tastes very different from the food you eat while flying in a plane. The fact that much of the food supplied on airplanes tastes bland and rarely has a flavor is also not surprising.

Understanding the atmospheric conditions throughout the flight is necessary to know why your taste buds don’t function as well as they should while you’re in the air. Air pressure and humidity quickly decrease when an airplane soars higher in the atmosphere.

science of airline food

At a height of roughly 30,000 feet, the humidity level becomes drier than in most deserts. According to a 2010 study commissioned by the German airline Lufthansa, such harsh conditions lower your taste buds’ sensitivity to sweet and salty foods by 30%. At the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics in Germany, where the investigation was conducted, engineers constructed an experimental room that replicated the flight’s atmospheric conditions.

Food that tasted good outside did not taste the same within the experimental space, according to scientists. For instance, within the lab, meals that were sweet and salty outside taste less sweet and salty. However, a more intriguing discovery was made. Not all flavors were diminished. In actuality, sour, bitter, and spicy flavors were remarkably similar, according to research.

Why does this happen?

The fact that altitude has an impact on our taste buds is one of the frequent causes of this. The altitudes are pretty high while flying. The majority of the aircraft operate between 33,000 and 42,000 feet in the air. Because of the odd way that our brain cells respond to taste buds at this altitude, the food tastes bland or awful. Altitude, however, is merely a typical explanation for why food tastes different while you are flying.

Pressure affects the senses

As blood oxygen levels fall due to pressure, a person’s sense of smell also decreases. It means that if the plane is travelling at 800-900 km/h, you are also moving at that speed, putting a lot of pressure on your body. The taste buds are among the senses that might be impacted by too much pressure.

Noise affects taste

According to a Cornell University study, noisy environments like airplanes have an effect on our sense of taste, particularly the sweet and umami flavors.

Mass-produced meals

The majority of meals prepared for plane travel are made in huge quantities, often at once for thousands of diners. We all know that eating this kind of food frequently entails sacrificing flavor, which accounts for the bland flavor of airplane meals.

Reheated foods

Food must be prepared on the ground because no food may be cooked at a high altitude in accordance with food safety regulations. It means that before it even reaches your plane, the food you get to eat on a flight has been prepared, packaged, and even refrigerated. There is no choice but to reheat it in a convection oven. The taste of your food might be greatly impacted by rewarming as it loses fresh juices and nutrients.

Dry air affects flavours

The cabins have dry air because you are in the air, which means the humidity in the aircraft is less than 12%, and that clearly affects our nostrils. The food may taste extremely different and bland by the time you actually eat it.

Over-salted food

Unfortunately, this is one of the main causes of the bland flavor of your food. The chefs who prepare the food for flights often add more salt to it so that it will taste great, but this has the opposite effect. Aside from that, eating too much salt causes dehydration, which makes everything taste even worse.


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