If you have ever wondered why some food and drink items taste different when you're on a plane, the reason is that air travel temporarily changes your body chemistry and alters your taste buds. As a result, refreshments can taste blander, but the good news is that some drinks, like Bloody Marys, are a great choice to counteract that.
As the plane rises to 30,000 feet, the air pressure drops while humidity levels in the cabin fall to less than 12%. According to a study conducted by Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, commissioned by airline Lufthansa, the combination of dryness and low pressure reduces the sensitivity of taste buds to sweet and salty foods by around 30%. Cabin air also decreases passengers' ability to smell, which adversely affects how we taste food and drink.
To counteract this, inflight culinary experts specifically select food and drink offerings based on the scientific changes the body undergoes during a flight. They often compensate for the reduction in people's ability to taste by using umami-rich ingredients, which is the fifth basic taste after sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness. This savoury flavour is characteristic of broths and cooked meats, and is found in ingredients such as mushrooms, tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce.
When it comes to wines, they can taste more acidic and tannic at 30,000 feet compared with ground level. Speaking on the Channel 5 documentary ‘First Class Vs Economy: Is It Worth It?', a British Airways chef explained that this is the reason that "Bloody Marys are so popular on board planes." The cocktails are generally made with umami-rich tomato juice, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, which is why they're so tasty when you're cruising along en route to your vacation.