25 Facts About Airplane Food You Might Not Want to Know

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25 Facts About Airplane Food You Might Not Want to Know

What’s the deal with airplane food?

We’ve heard comedians tell hundreds of jokes about airline food. But what are these jokes based on? Why is what we eat while flying such a hot topic of discussion?

From complimentary peanuts to “chicken or fish,” our society certainly has a love/hate relationship with dining in the air.

It can’t be that airlines just don’t care about how their food tastes or that passengers are a captured audience. There’s more to the story of airline food than meets the eye.

We decided to do a little research to try and understand what makes airplane food so different than any other type of food. Here are 25 interesting facts about airplane food that will surprise you.

Your Sense of Taste Changes at High Altitude

Perhaps this is where airline food gets its bad rap. Your sense of taste actually changes when you reach higher altitudes.

We might not feel much different in a plane, but our bodies are actually changing to adapt to the pressures that come at high altitudes. This is according to a study in Germany from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics. Because of this adaptation, our tastes buds are affected and we lose about 30% of our taste that high up.

Dry Nose = Weak Taste Buds

Ever notice how dry your nose is when you’re flying? This dryness leads to a bad sense of smell which leads to a bad sense of taste. After all, your sense of smell is reportedly around 80% of what you taste!

So, as airline food gets all the blame, it might actually be us. Who knew?

Loud Noise Ruins Taste

Another bizarre fact is that loud noise can actually make things taste less delicious. All the engine noise, chatter, and children yelling can ruin what you taste. Maybe this is why quiet restaurants always seem to have the most rich tasting food?

Tomato Juice Tastes Sweeter

This brings us to our next airplane food fact. Tomato juice tastes better on a plane.

Do you ever notice how much you want a tomato juice or Bloody Mary up in the air? This isn’t because airlines use any sort of special brands.

The “earthy” flavors of tomato juice go away when you’re taste buds are affected by high altitude, leaving the sweeter and saltier notes to take over.

Perhaps it’s time to create a tomato juice that mirrors this taste so that we can have this yummy version of tomato juice on the ground. Hey V8, make it happen!

Cheap Wine Tastes Better

According numerous sources, including GQ, wine actually does paste better on a plane. This is because you’re unable to pick up the complex tastes through your usually sensitive palate. All the “icky” flavors you’d taste before mellow out, and you end up just feeling like you’re drinking an acceptable glass of wine. So, go ahead and order the cheapest wine on the in flight menu. No one has a right to judge up in the air!

Millions of Tons of Trash Are Produced Largely Due to Airline Food

Every year, millions of tons (that’s a hard one to imagine) of trash is produced by airlines and a big portion is from airline food packaging, trays, utensils, discarded food, etc. It’s been a cause for concern for environmentalists for years.

Emirates Makes 180,000 Airplane Food Meals a Day

You heard that right. According to CNN, Emirates makes 180,000 meals a day for their flights.

Emirates Also Offers 7,000 Different Menu Items Every Year

Emirates changes their menu every month, meaning 7,000 different menu items every year. There are 254 different soups in first class. It’s unimaginable!

American Airlines Once Saved $40,000 by Removing One Olive

In the 80’s, American Airlines wanted to save some money. Who could have guessed that it would have been from removing one olive from each of their in-flight salads?

Think of this fact when you’re noticing the pathetic amount of cheese on your next sandwich. Airlines save big by scrimping!

Meat is First Prepared Undercooked - and Then Finished by Convection Oven on the Plane

To get the meat safely prepared, the meals are cooked about 30 to 60% and then put into the refrigerator until the flight. Once the plane is up in the air and it’s time to serve, the meals are then heated in a convection oven to finish cooking.

If They Don’t Use a Convection Oven - They Sous-Vide the Food

This means, they vacuum seal the meal in a plastic pouch and cook it while it’s in the pouch in a hot water bath, then “blast chill” it to retain moisture.

And it’s not just because of the smell for the other passengers. Because it’s easy for food to dry out on a plane, fish is not recommended. It’s very hard to keep the moisture in fish, so most airlines know to pass on underwater cuisine.

The First In Flight Meal was in 1919

In 2019, airlines can celebrate 100 years of airplane food. The first meal was served by Handley Page Transport Ltd., a now defunct airline company. The company ceased operations in 1924 after only serving passengers for 5 years, but it’ll go down in history at the first to do it!

Airplane Meals are Planned One Year in Advance

Airline companies like being prepared. This is why all the meals you see on the menu were planned an entire year ago.

Airplane Junk Food Makes Your Breath Worse than Regular Junk Food

Eating junk food in the air will make your breath worse than if you were to eat the same junk food on the ground. This is because your bodily functions are slowed down by the high elevation and pressure. You produce less saliva, so that means the junk food doesn’t process as quickly in your mouth, leaving your breath to smell terrible if you don’t brush your teeth after snacking.

Remedies include eating better, drinking a ton more water, and bringing a toothbrush and toothpaste along with you in your carry on bag.

Airplane Food Causes Constipation

Like most of these list items, we can’t take it as face value! While it’s technically true that airplane food causes constipation, it isn’t due to the quality or ingredients in the food.

High elevation is a key component here, as with many of these surprising airplane facts. Your metabolism is slowed down, leaving the digestion process to drag on and create bloating and constipation.

Try taking a fiber rich snack with you on your carry on to help ease digestion at high altitude. Fluids will also help but try to avoid alcohol.

The Stew is Overwhelmingly the Best Choice Overall

When it doubt, go with the stew. It is the easiest to keep safe from food poisoning and the taste is considered the best compared to other choices.

Gluten Free Meals For Passengers Are Increasing

Airlines try to cater to the individual needs of passengers which is why there is a rise in gluten free options on flights.

A Man Was Once Fed a Banana as His “Gluten Free Meal”

We still have a long way to go with gluten free options. In 2017, one man’s gluten free meal controversially consisted of only a banana accompanied by a knife.

Both Pilots Can’t Eat the Same Meal

Pilots can’t eat the same meal together. So if Bob wants chicken, Jerry must choose something other than what Bob is having.

This is because if one pilot gets food poisoning, there will still be a pilot that can steer the plane in good health. If both pilots got sick, who’d fly the plane?

Your Intestines Swell Which Changes Your Digestion Process

It’s not only your feet that swell up on a plane. Your intestines also swell up, resulting in sometimes uncomfortable food digestion.

This leads us to our next list item. If your digestive system is trying to process food while it’s filled with air, it’ll not only be difficult for your body to digest the food, but you’ll feel icky.

Foods like bananas or almonds are good sources of low-oxygen foods that will digest smoother while your intestines are temporarily enlarged.

Upset Stomach? Ask for Lemons

Lemon wedges can help ease stomach issues due to digestive issues or anxiety from flying. If possible, ask for hot water and squeeze the lemon juice in.

Flight Delays Mean Hundreds of Meals Thrown in the Garbage

If a flight is delayed up to a certain point, and the food is already loaded onto the plane, the meals will be thrown out. Airlines don’t want to risk sick passengers (and lawsuits), so they’d rather not take the chance in feeding their customers food that has been sitting out too long.

A Frequent Flyer Tried 400 Different Airline Meals

This man is a legend. Kevin English tried 400 different airline meals over the years of flying. As an AirlineMeals.net contributor, he’d take a photo of each one and document his experiences. His favorite was from Japan Airlines, a 9 course meal in first class.


Hopefully these interesting facts about airplane food not only entertained you, but helped you in your future flights. Dining in flight is a unique experience filled with potential hazards, but you don’t have to have a miserable time. Keep these surprising facts in your mind and enjoy your next flight!

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This guide was published on March 2, 2018, and last modified on March 2, 2018.

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