Your Tastebuds, Not the Food, are to Blame for the Bad Taste of Airplane Meals

By Gerald Lynch on at

Airplane food tastes disgusting. Or does it? New research into food served at 35,000 feet suggests that it is changes in the way that our tastebuds work while flying, not the food itself, that's to blame for crummy-tasting meals.

A study carried out by German research organisation the Fraunhofer Institute found that food can taste very dull in a pressurised environment. Dry cabin air combined with the cabin's atmospheric pressure effectively numbs the tastebuds. High altitude also plays its part, with the sensation of a salty or sweet taste dulled at extreme heights. The final factor is decreased humidity within an aircraft cabin, which dulls olfactory senses -- pertinent considering smell is a major component of how our brains register tastes.

The research follows a previous study by the University of Manchester which found a link between aircraft noises and dulled taste sensations. Background noise similar to the hum of a plane in flight was played to test subjects, who then registered less salty or sweet tastes than when they ate in silence.

It seems some airlines are already using the research to cover their culinary tracks, with Grant Mickels, the executive chef for culinary development of Lufthansa's LSG Sky Chef citing the study. Here's hoping it doesn't become a 'Get out of Jail Free' card for airlines to serve up slop mid-flight. [Daily Mail]

Image Credit: An airplane chicken and potatoes meal from Shutterstock.com