As a chef, I understand that cooking food to be served at high altitudes is probably more than just a challenging task. The difference in air pressure and humidity can affect the taste and texture of food, making it dry and bland.
To counteract this, airline food is often prepared with more salt and flavors to make it taste better.
However, this can be a double-edged sword as too much salt and spices can cause dehydration and bloating, leading to discomfort during the flight.
Read on to discover the science behind airline food when I interviewed a travel and airline expert.
In This Article
The Science Behind Airline Food Explained By Experts
According to travel expert Hans Mast from Golden Rule Travel, “good airline food is spiced more aggressively because our taste buds are less sensitive in the air due to pressure and humidity.”
A study conducted by German airline, Lufthansa, found that our taste buds’ sensitivity decreases by 30% when flying at high altitudes.
That even includes champagne, when you pop a bottle open at 30,000ft, it doesn’t taste like it does on the ground! Probably for the best it’s free if you’re flying business!
This means that the food needs to be prepared with stronger flavors to be noticed by our taste buds.
Additionally, “the dry air in the cabin can make our noses congested, making it harder to smell the food, further affecting the taste”, explains Hans.
The Most Popular Airlines For Great Flying Food
|Singapore Airlines||International gourmet meals||Hainanese Chicken Rice|
|Emirates||Multi-course fine dining experience||Lamb Biryani|
|Turkish Airlines||Turkish and international cuisine||Meze Platter|
|Qatar Airways||Award-winning meals and diverse menu||Grilled Salmon with Couscous|
|Cathay Pacific||Cantonese and international flavors||Dim Sum Sampler|
|Japan Airlines||Authentic Japanese cuisine||Sushi and Sashimi|
|Air France||French culinary delights||Coq au Vin|
|Etihad Airways||Global cuisine with Arabian influence||Chicken Machbous|
|Qantas||Australian flavors and wines||Barramundi with Quinoa Salad|
|Thai Airways||Traditional Thai dishes||Pad Thai|
|Swiss Airlines||Traditional Swiss cuisine||Veal Fillet|
The Evolution of Airline Food – How It Has Changed For The Better!
In the past, airline food was notoriously bad, with pre-packaged meals of questionable quality and taste.
However, in recent years, airlines have been stepping up their game, investing more in the quality and variety of in-flight meals.
For example, Emirates Airlines offers up to 20 meal choices for business and first-class passengers, including regionally-inspired dishes curated by top chefs.
JetBlue also partners with notable chefs for its Mint class passengers, offering farm-to-table meals with sustainable ingredients.
Why Does Airline Food Taste Different From Restaurant Food?
The cabin pressure and altitude in airplanes affect our taste buds’ sensitivity, and the dry air in the cabin affects our ability to smell the food, making it appear blander. As a result, airline food is often prepared with stronger flavors and spices.
Can Airplane Food Cause Discomfort During The Flight?
Yes. Airline food is often high in salt and spices, which can cause dehydration and bloating, leading to discomfort during the flight.
Has Airline Food Quality Improved In Recent Years?
Yes. Airlines are investing more in the quality and variety of in-flight meals, offering regionally-inspired dishes curated by top chefs and sustainable, farm-to-table options for premium passengers.
Airline food has come a long way from its pre-packaged, tasteless past. While the challenges of cooking for high altitudes remain, airlines are continuously improving the quality and variety of in-flight meals.
So, next time you fly, try the airline food with an open mind, and who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised.