Airlines to Trick Your Palate at 30,000 Feet

June 21, 2018

Ever wondered why the meals on flight are seldom to your taste? In all likelihood, it’s your suppressed sense of taste at 30,000 feet, rather than the food supplier’s lack of culinary skills to blame. With this knowledge, airlines are gearing up to trick your taste buds into offering you a finer culinary experience on board. Take a closer look at the trend with UNIGLOBE experts.

A 2010 study indicates that sensitivity to sweet and salty food drops by 30% in the air, compared to when we’re on the ground. The background noise on the plane, the low pressure conditions, dry air and the plastic cutlery and cups, are responsible for the poor tasting food. At high altitudes, only umami – the pleasant savoury “fifth” taste is enhanced.  No wonder, tomato juice, which may not be your beverage of choice on solid ground, suddenly tastes nice mid-air.

Studies suggest, low humidity and low pressure affect the way and order in which molecules travel to our senses. At 30,000 feet, the cabin air is dry. This affects the way the brain interprets signals and impairs our sense of smell.

“Armed with this knowledge, airlines are attempting to plug the sensory gap. Some are experimenting with ‘sonic seasoning’, like playing tinkling music or offering plates and glasses that make that sound, as it brings out the sweetness in meals. Others are introducing beers with honey and dragon eye, especially brewed to taste good while airborne. Some are even ordering wines that fare better at high altitude, like the ones from Chile, where grapes are grown and blended at high altitudes,” adds a UNIGLOBE expert.

As more carriers across the world catch on the trend, your meals on board, only get more palatable from here. Bon appetit!