The World From Your Airplane Window

A science writer’s guide for the inquisitive air traveler

(Pierre Selim)

Food Not at Fault


If the tea disappoints, the chances are that the food will as well. This probably isn’t too much of a surprise. Unless you’re travelling in Business or First Class, airline food doesn’t have a good reputation. Yet this isn’t necessarily the fault of the airline. There are physical effects that can reduce the tastiness of the food. There could be some impact from low cabin pressure, the very dry air on board and the way meals are reheated, but one surprising cause is the level of background noise.

There’s a constant noise in flight, both from the engines and the air systems (not to mention fellow passengers). Research published in 2010 looked at the way noise influences our experience of food. Test subjects were blindfolded and asked to rate various foods as they were exposed to differing levels of background noise. When the noise was louder they tended to rate food as less sweet or salty, but more crunchy.


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