No, you are not crazy and you are not alone either. The apple juice that you ordered taste did taste different at 40000 ft. And it’s not only the tomato juice, every airplane food at that height tastes different and science is going to explain why.
If you blame those mass produced vacuum sealed food for this, you are definitely wrong.In fact, airline chefs have made leaps and bounds in how they combat tricky airplane cabin climates to keep passengers full and happy about their meal choices.
What causes the food to taste bad scientifically?
Remember the time when you visited that desert? Chances are that the airplane cabin you are in is drier than that. Humidity can measure in at less than 12%. In an environment like this, our taste and smell start to drift. The moment we step on an airplane, the scent starts to deteriorate and it gets even worse when the aircraft begins to climb. Sweet and salty food are the ones that suffer the most in flight.
According to a study from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, the atmosphere in an airline cabin reduces your ability to detect these tastes by about 30 percent — think of it as your taste buds going numb. The tests revealed that the cabin atmosphere—pressurized at 8,000 feet—combined with the cool, dry cabin air “makes your taste buds go numb, almost as if you had a cold.
But there is a silver lining after all. The good news is that all the delicious flavors you lost in flight can still make an appearance for you. So, What can you do when you are looking to make up for lost taste? Add more salt and you should do good and of course, this is what the airlines do.
This was all about food. But have you felt wine taste a bit weird too? At high altitudes, your body tastes wine — and other alcohol — differently as your body dries out, as well. Liquids tend to expand and contract as the environment changes and this is the reason why that glass of wine tasted so thin and acidic. There is one way you can avoid this. Have your glass of wine pretty early on the flight when you are less dehydrated.
It’s not just humidity, though!
A report by BBC also suggested that people eating while enduring an increase in noise reported food to be less salty and sweet than they do when eating in a more quiet setting. That being said, umami — the magical fifth taste that adds another dimension to “savory” — is said to be intensified in noisy areas. In fact, many airline chefs use this to their advantage by integrating umami foods into what would otherwise come out highly unsatisfying and tasteless. The folks at the Lufthansa have found that passengers guzzle as much tomato juice as beer (to the tune of about 425,000 gallons a year). Turns out, cabin pressure brings out the savory taste of the red stuff.
Another important thing you can use to your advantage is by ordering flavors like cardamom, curry or lemongrass since they taste more intense at high altitudes.
Enough said! Now, pass me that bottle of wine!