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Bland airplane food? Low air pressure, lack of humidity, and the background can be the culprit. As the plane gets higher, the air pressure drops while humidity levels in the cabin decrease. Our taste buds and sense of smell are the first things affected at 30,000 feet.

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Bland airplane food? Low air pressure, lack of humidity, and the background can be the culprit. As the plane gets higher, the air pressure drops while humidity levels in the cabin decrease. Our taste buds and sense of smell are the first things affected at 30,000 feet.

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  1. *background noise. (Well, maybe the person seated next to you can also affect your appetite and taste buds as well. lol)

    ​

    [https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20150112-why-in-flight-food-tastes-weird](https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20150112-why-in-flight-food-tastes-weird)

    Excerpt:

    When your taste buds are way above the clouds, your normal sense of taste goes right out of the aeroplane’s window. Katia Moskvitch investigates why this happens, and how airlines are trying to find ways to get our appetites back on track.

    If you think the food airline companies serve up is bland or unappetising, it’s not necessarily their fault. Essentially, you leave your normal sense of taste behind at the airport departure gate. Get on board a plane and cruise to a level of thousands of feet, and the flavour of everything from a pasta dish to a mouthful of wine becomes manipulated in a whole host of ways that we are only beginning to understand.

    Taste buds and sense of smell are the first things to go at 30,000 feet, says Russ Brown, director of In-flight Dining & Retail at American Airlines. “Flavour is a combination of both, and our perception of saltiness and sweetness drop when inside a pressurised cabin.”Everything that makes up the in-flight experience, it turns out, affects how your food tastes. “Food and drink really do taste different in the air compared to on the ground,” says Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University. “There are several reasons for this: lack of humidity, lower air pressure, and the background noise.”When you step on an aeroplane, the atmosphere inside the cabin affects your sense of smell first. Then, as the plane gets higher, the air pressure drops while humidity levels in the cabin plummet. At about 30,000 feet, humidity is less than 12% – drier than most deserts.

    The combination of dryness and low pressure reduces the sensitivity of your taste buds to sweet and salty foods by around 30%, according to a 2010 study conducted by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, commissioned by German airline Lufthansa. To investigate this the researchers used a special lab that reduced air pressure simulating cruising at 35,000 feet (10.6km) – as well as sucking moisture out of the air and simulating the engine noise. It even made seats vibrate in its attempts to mimic an in-flight meal experience.

    Interestingly, the study found that we take leave of our sweet and salty senses only. Sour, bitter and spicy flavours are almost unaffected.

    But it’s not just about our taste buds. Up to 80% of what people think is taste, is in fact smell. We need evaporating nasal mucus to smell, but in the parched cabin air our odour receptors do not work properly, and the effect is that this makes food taste twice as bland.

    So airlines have to give in-flight food an extra kick, by salting and spicing it much more than a restaurant on the ground ever would. “Proper seasoning is key to ensure food tastes good in the air,” says Brown at American Airlines. “Often, recipes are modified with additional salt or seasoning to account for the cabin dining atmosphere.”