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Why does airplane food taste different? The definitive answer

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Aircraft food is not exactly known for its quality. As a passenger, you're already happy when you're served something, but it's different when the food is, surprisingly, really good. Why is this? Aren't the same ingredients used for these meals? We will solve the mystery of the poor quality of aircraft food. Plus: which airlines do, in fact, offer good food?

What happens to airplane food when flying?

Well actually, nothing. You are the one who changes when you’re up in the sky. When we board the plane, our sense of smell suffers. Our nose, as well as all of its functions, are very important in the perception of taste. Too bad, but true! Our perception of saltiness and sweetness also seems to drop as soon as we enter a pressurised cabin. In summary, there are three aspects that influence our taste in the air:

1. The combination of dry air and low pressure: This is directly related to our taste. Due to the changes in these variables, our tasting capabilities are reduced by about 30 percentage points!

2. The higher up, the drier the air becomes. Our sense of smell suffers when the air is too dry. Have you ever noticed that?

3. Lots of background noise: Food seems to taste worse when there's a lot of background noise. So the running engine, but also the talking fellow passengers play a role. If you want to enjoy your meal on board the plane, it's best to bring earplugs!

There aren’t any proper kitchens in aircraft!

The lack of flavour is not only caused by the detriment of our senses. To start with, the product itself is of course not ideal. Price is a primordial factor for airlines, as every penny saved on the smallest of expenses can lead to large savings in the bigger picture. In addition, meals often have to be prepared a few days before consumption. These are then frozen and warmed up on the plane. Not all types of food are suitable for freezing, which limits the options considerably. In addition, certain types of food are excluded completely, such as food with bones. Finally, the taste of the food is limited by the fact that it will be consumed by people of all origins and ages. The flavours should not be offensive and passengers should consume them without offering much resistance. A lot of salt, pepper or spices are also out of the question. If we look at it this way there is indeed little left to work with!

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Which airline has the best meals on board?

At the 2017 Skytrax World Airline Awards, the aviation industry's Oscars, the following carriers were praised for their cuisine:

10. EVA Air: "Do you want a chocolate cake or perhaps some pie?" You can expect this question on board an EVA Air flight. Pastries from the traditional French bakery chain Paul are also sometimes served. What a luxury!

9. Lufthansa: You certainly won't go hungry when flying with the massive German company. In addition to a three-course meal with warm main courses, salads and a dessert, some international flights also serve occasional dishes that are typical of the destination you're flying to.

8. Cathay Pacific: They have plenty of choices for their passengers, whether you choose a local favourite or an international dish. As the main course you can choose from pulled pork, stewed chicken thighs or penne pasta, but there are also low-salt or vegetarian meals on offer.

7. Austrian Airlines: Whether you're travelling a short or long distance, on board an Austrian Airlines flight you'll be able to enjoy a fine choice of drinks and dishes. Would you like to have a typical Austrian beer? Also possible! The special a la carte menu can be booked in advance for €15 and it includes various delicacies such as schnitzels, sausages, tapas, mezze or Japanese dishes. There are options for the whole family.

6. Singapore Airlines: One of the most respected airlines in the world and their food is there to back that claim up. The company works with several world-famous chefs who construct the menus. You can choose from vegetarian Indian meals, fish dishes and low-fat options.

5. Japan Airlines: Their menu was compiled by six young chefs from RED U-35, Japan's largest cooking competition. The carrier also works with popular restaurants in Japan to keep the menus as up-to-date as possible. There is even a self-service snach corner for when you get hungry in between!

4. Qatar Airways: the meals are not only delicious but also presented in a beautiful and environmentally friendly way. All packaging is 99% recyclable. As a Qatar passenger, you'll be served delicious salads and regional dips such as hummus. A typical meal on board can be an Indian pakora or a Malaysian chicken curry.

3. Asiana Airlines: This carrier became 'Airline of the Year 2010' thanks to its excellent level of luxury, service and quality. During the flight, there is a wide choice of Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Western specialities. All this is freshly prepared on board. So the passengers have a wide choice: do you go for the tapas or prefer a heavier meal?

2. Turkish Airlines: A real treat! On short-haul flights, you are served delicious sandwiches, and on longer flights dishes from all over the world are presented, prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients. They have pinpointed the best method of preparing flavourful meals or snachs with all the limitations discussed in the first paragraph of this article. Kudos to Turkish Airlines!

1. Thai Airways: This award-winning airline, especially when it regards to foods, puts its competitors to shame. On board a Thai flight you will be offered meals prepared with seasonal ingredients. The airline also supports local Thai farmers. Besides the main course, you can also choose from a fresh salad and fruit, delicious bread and of course a delicious dessert! If you are flying to Thailand, the airline makes absolutely sure that your trip begins as soon as you board the plane, culinarily speaking at least.

It is without surprise that some of the airlines mentioned above also appear on the list of the top 10 most luxurious first-class cabins in the world. When it regards luxury, airlines will flex their muscles by competing to provide the best meal they can.

Great meals do not make up for flight delays and cancellations! Claim your compensation

At our mission is to help delayed passengers and ensure they are treated fairly by their airlines, even taking legal action when necessary. If you have been delayed within the last 6 years and would like to check to see if you are entitled to compensation, you can use our free flight checker to find out if you can file in a claim with us. We’ll claim your compensation under a no win no fee agreement and the best of all is that our 25% win fee covers all possible legal costs associated with claiming your compensation.

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