Airplane food

A Closer Look at Airplane Food

Admin Airplanes, Flex Air News

It is not a carefully hidden fact that many people dislike airplane food. Famous chefs have renounced it, studies have delved into the science behind it, and others realize that there are not many ways around airlines having below par food because of the circumstances they are in.

Scientists have presented a surprising reason for why airline food is not scrumptious: noise. Specifically, the noise the airplane’s engine makes. Researchers at the University of Manchester said that having such noise in the background disrupts the senses, making people gain less enjoyment from their food.

A researcher Andy Wood said that while there are environmental factors at play such as the air pressure and dryness of the air, not to mention economical ones, noise can still impact how much a person enjoys their food. “If you can any way reduce the noise, you will make the whole experience better,” Wood said.

A study was conducted with 48 people who were blindfolded and tasted a variety of foods. While tasting foods such as biscuits, rice, crackers and cheddar cheese, they were wearing headphones that either canceled out noise or created different levels of noise. After performing a tasting, the subjects graded the intensity of the flavors and said what they liked and did not like.

According to Wood, the result was that higher noise levels results in sensing either salty or sweet flavors less. In addition, crunchiness in food varied as well.

Marcia Pelchat, psychologist at Monell Center who focuses on senses in food, said, “There are plenty of very successful restaurants that are very noisy. It depends on not just the presence of the noise but the context.” Pelchat did say that she did not look at the Manchester study. She added, “Their results are probably correct but there’s probably another piece to this story that we don’t understand.”

Woods also added that just because the noise levels affected people’s tastes, and intensity of flavor did not mean that they said the meal was bad.

Famous chefs such as Gordon Ramsay have denounced airplane cuisine. “I worked for airlines for 10 years, so I know where this food’s been and where it goes, and how long it took before it got on board,” Ramsay said.

Another chef, Daniel Boulud, agreed with Ramsay. “On an American flight, if it’s local, I try to avoid any sort of food,” Boulud said—formerly he worked with Air France to create meals.

Boulud said, “Sometimes there’s weird food combinations.”

Because of the high altitude and the amount of time between when the food is prepared and served, conditions are not ideal. Charles Spence, a psychology professor at the University of Oxford said that the air pressure in the cabin of airlines is equal to 6,000-8,000 above sea level. “Meals are prepared in advance, so they are shelf-stable for a number of hours” Spence said. “Then it’s reheated in less than ideal conditions, which contributes to it not tasting great.”

Guillaume de Syon, a professor at Albright College in Pennsylvania, pointed out that airlines have to serve hundreds of people at once without letting the food either dry out or get cold. “Airlines came to understand that by the time you have served 250-plus passengers, the food would either get cold or dry,” de Syon said. “The solution? Douse whatever you are serving in a fluid.”

De Syon pointed to other reasons passengers are disappointed with airline food. “Look at the conditions most of us endure to travel. We spend hours driving to the airport, waiting to check-in, being questioned by security, sitting uselessly on the tarmac or hightailing it between gates,” de Syon said. “Airline food might not be great, but it’s getting better, and we should give airlines a break. After all, the real reason we’re grumpy isn’t because of what we’re being served in the air. It’s what is being served on the ground.”