Why Airline Food Sucks

Airline food sucks. Mostly, it's the food. But it's also the altitute.

Good‘s Peter Smith has an interesting review of the history of airline food, which has never been good and is getting worse (when it’s available at all).   In the I Did Not Know That category:

But even under optimal conditions, cooked to the exact specifications of the latest celebrity chefs hired to reinvigorate flaccid airline fare, the taste of food changes when you’re inside a parched, hypobaric metal tube that’s vibrating and humming along at 550 miles per hour.

Recently, Germany’s Lufthansa Airlines conducted research inside a stationary Airbus A310 designed to replicate flying conditions. Deutche Welle reported that flyers said their taste buds felt dulled, requiring 20 percent more sugar and salt (explaining the particular appeal of V-8 or a Bloody Mary).

I haven’t noticed this effect when tasting commodity items that are directly comparable to outside fare, such as Pringles, peanuts, and the like. Also, thankfully, Dewars and Glenfiddich taste just as good — if not better — when I’m crammed into an airplane seat than sitting comfortably in front on my television at home.  Or perhaps they’re just more necessary.

via Andrew Sullivan

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steve Plunk says:

    I always thought it was because airlines are not restaurants.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Yeah, but that’s no excuse.  Shopping mall food courts manage to produce edible fare in very tight spaces. And the food’s prepared ahead of time, after all.

  3. RGardner says:

    In the USA, the lead company providing airline food is (Host) Marriott. They provide what the airlines request. In the mid to late 1990s I frequently flew on Midwest Express (hub of Milwaukee – roughly 70 miles north of O’hare (Chicago)) and the food was great, to include fresh baked cookies. The flights were always at least 80% full. The entire plane was configured as business class (4-across leather seating in a DC-9, when others did 5-across (2-3)). Unfortunately that type service ended post 9/11.